That Weird Accent Actors Had in the 30s and 40s? There’s a Name For It

Ever watch anything from the 1930’s or 40’s? You might have noticed the strange accent that some of the people in those films used. There’s a name for, the Transatlantic accent. Contrary to other accents this one was developed, it was never formally spoken by anyone until it became a learned thing. It came mostly from the theater, as a means of acting and distinguishing oneself as an aristocrat. Typically those that spoke in this way would drop their r’s at the end of certain words and would practice precise enunciation on other letters that typical American English wouldn’t bother with.

The Transatlantic accent fell out of favor after WWII, and as a result of no longer being taught or used extensively it kind of went away. There are still actors that will use it in period pieces from time to time but for the most part it bit the dust not long after the war was over. Some might say good riddance because it was deemed kind of an uppity way to talk, but others would claim that it was an interesting phenomenon in the world of linguistics. In fact you could almost say that the reason it sounds old-timey is simply because we haven’t seen fit to use it in anything but parodies or as a bit of fun from time to time. In many ways it’s just one more aspect of life from back in those days that we’ve almost let go of and is a relic of an era that has long since come and gone.

Thankfully it’s still preserved within the movies and radio newscasts from that time period that have been kept and restored, preserving it as a part of our history no matter if people like it or not. In all honesty no one has to like it, but simply scrapping it because it was of no more use to anyone in any real capacity isn’t the greatest idea. Taking apart our history is akin to stating that we’re trying to start over and hope like hell that we won’t make the same mistakes again. It might seem melodramatic to make such a claim in regards to an accent but if you get rid of one thing you might be tempted to get rid of another and then another until the past that was remembered is so full of holes that only those who were alive back then could possibly fill in the gaps.

While the accent isn’t worth much now it’s still a part of the past that a lot of people tend to enjoy when it comes to movies. A good number of actors in the older movies talk like this and as a result it tends to make the movie feel a little more authentic. If you watch a movie from the 40’s and one from the 50’s you might be able to notice the difference in accents, though for a while the same accent was still used. By the late 50’s and onward it was pretty well gone though.


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