What Were Mid-Atlantic Accents

By: RILEY PULT

You may have noticed that if you listen to movies from the 1950s or earlier, the actors and actresses have a strange accent. It has been thought of as a “high-class” or “posh” way of speaking; but it actually has a name. The Mid-Atlantic accent, otherwise known as the Transatlantic accent, is a sophisticated accent of the English language that blends together elements of American English and British English. 

It seems that the name “Mid-Atlantic” may appear to be the origins of the accent. But, if you think about it, no one lives in the Mid-Atlantic. So, why is it called Mid-Atlantic or Transatlantic? This is because it was a cross breed between how Britians and Americans spoke, and what separates us from each other is the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. This is how the name came to be, but there is more to it than just an ocean. 

This accent was frequently used in the entertainment industry during the filming process. The hybrid accent focuses on softening the sound of vowels and dropping the letter “r” when speaking and emphasizing the “t”. This odd accent was a hit in Hollywood and audiences devoured it. The sound reminded people of wealth and class; everything that the average joe wanted but couldn’t get. 

It is assumed that many acting schools taught the accent in the 1900s as a standard; it can be assumed this is why it started showing up 20 years later. The idea of this accent made a large appearance during the Golden Age of Hollywood, 1920-1960. During this time enormous amounts of money were being dumped into the glamorous and glittery silver screen. This helped give the accent a wealthy undertone. Two actors in particular helped the accent skyrocket, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. 

Katharine Hepburn began acting during the 1930s and her career lasted almost 6 decades, while Cary Grant began acting a little earlier in the 1920s and officially retired in 1966. Both persons put on the Mid-Atlantic accent when acting and it became a hit. Many big names adapted to this accent and began to use it for the only purpose of sounding fancy. While this accent was found mostly in the entertainment industry, it was not uncommon for other people in the public eye to use it. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a big figure that talked in this peculiar way.

Unfortunately, after World War II, the accent began to fade. This was mainly due to the fact that the middle-class became much more common and the glitz and glamour of show-biz was not idealized as much. It was no longer seen as fashionable to use. Another reason it went out of style was because it was a very unnatural way to speak. You had to be taught it. However, I think the posh accent should make a comeback. With all that’s been thrown at us this year, lets throw it back 80 years and start speaking like the old timers. 

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