Why Do People In Old Movies Talk Weird?

Why Do People In Old Movies Talk Weird?


(calm classical music) – Listen, Walter. – Listen, I made great
reporter out of you, Hildy, but you won’t be half as
good on any other paper and you know it. We’re a team, that’s what we are. You need me, and I need you,
and the paper needs both of us! – Sold! American. – Oh, all right. – Listen Walter, please. – If you’ve ever heard
old movies or news reels from the 30’s or 40’s,
then you’ve probably heard that weird old-timey voice. This pronunciation is
called the Transatlantic or Mid-Atlantic accent, and it isn’t like most other accents. Instead of naturally evolving, the Transatlantic accent was acquired. Now this means that people
in the United States were taught to speak in this voice. Now historically, Transatlantic
speech was the hallmark of aristocratic America and theater. In upper-class boarding
schools across New England, students learned the Transatlantic accent as an international
norm for communication, similar to the way posh
British society used Received Pronunciation,
essentially the way the queen and aristocrats are taught to speak. It has several quasi-British elements, such as a lack of rhoticity. Now this means that Mid-Atlantic
speakers dropped their Rs at the ends of words like winaa or clea. They’ll also use softer British vowels, dahnce instead of dance, for instance. Another thing that stands
out is the emphasis on clipped, sharp Ts. Now, in American English,
we often pronounce the T in words like writer and water as Ds. But Transatlantic speakers will hit that T like it stole something. Writer. Water. But again, this speech pattern
isn’t completely British, nor completely American. Instead, it’s a form of
English that’s hard to place, and that’s part of why Hollywood loved it. There’s also a theory that
technological constraints helped Mid-Atlantic’s popularity. According to professor
J.L. Bareski, this nasally, clipped pronunciation is a vestige from the early days of radio. Receivers had very little
bass technology at the time, and it was very difficult,
if not impossible, to hear bass tones on your home device. So what happened to the
Transatlantic accent? Well, linguist William Labov
notes that Mid-Atlantic speech fell out of favor after World War Two, as fewer teachers continued
teaching the pronunciation to their students. That’s one of the
reasons the speech sounds so old-timey to us today. When people learn it,
they’re usually learning it for acting purposes rather
than for everyday use. However, we can still hear the effects of Mid-Atlantic speech
in recordings of everyone from Katharine Hepburn
to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and of course, countless films,
newsreels, and radio shows from the 30’s and 40’s. Now see here, Mr. Weathersby,
there’s no more money in dog racing. The future is radio, you hear me, radio! Listen here, copper. You lay those mitts on me and I’ll give you what for, I will. Say doll, what say we
go down the boulevard and catch the dirigible races? (old-timey radio music) (laughter) I just like the giggles
we’re gonna get at the end.

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  1. Do try to decide whether you mean mid-Atlantic (in the middle) or transatlantic (on the other side, which depends on which side you are on right now).

  2. That was quick and fun. No pun intended. I enjoy accents and like to find out where they’re from and why. Language is very mailable and comes in and out of favor. It’s the fastest changing thing in society. It used to be cool to sound English and then it fell out of fashion and Americans intentionally changed pronunciation to sound specifically American. Some accents are stiff and crisp, others are more relaxed and wilting. It’s all great fun and no real harm done. I love it.

  3. In the Golden Age of radio, voice was everything. They had more class back then. Today everyone sounds like Anderson Cooper.

  4. I love that Rod Serling accent, nowadays americans sound sqweeky and nasal, I can understand british english accent

  5. Why do people in the 21st century talk weird ?
    The Millenarians are gibberish-spewers.
    And gas is too good for ‘em !

  6. Another thing to ponder: why do so many millennials mumble, slur their words, not enunciate properly or otherwise speak in a lazy manner?

  7. I've had this question in the back of my mind for so long. I'm subscribing. So grateful to have an understanding of this now!

  8. Okay, but why do they casually hit women so much in old movies?
    Trans-Atlantic Accented Reporter: Turns out all the wife beaters descend from the "whack-a-hoe" tribe!

  9. hm. This is not 100% correct… The mid-atlantic accent is the same as the american standard accent. They don't drop R's. that's incorrect. There's multiple books on the International Phonetic Alphabet which makes this more clear. The accent your doing is more of an american standard mixed with a newyork/boston dialect.

  10. And if you listen not so closely you’ll notice most news anchors have that nasal accent where they hang onto words longer than necessary at the eeeend …of a sentenccceee. Back to you Bob.

  11. Interesting. Another WWII reduction of deference and value of aristocrats as a model. The Brits call this The Golden Age of Consensus. High born and low born urban brits all huddling & suffering together in the same tube stations / bomb shelters during the Blitz.

  12. In the old days of movie watching in the theater, people would talk back at the screen. It would be hard to hear what the actors say sometimes if they spoke in everyday semi-monotone "accent". The mid-Atlantic accent is used to "talk over" the audience. Wonderful history of the cinema and history.

  13. I have a Southern accent. Am I Strange? 🙂
    in that era, movies were exploding for movie goe'rs Their original Country, that they left, to have freedom here, all have different accents. Proper English is what you hear in early movies, and further on. Also. I love the German accents…. think of Casablanca.

  14. But if everyone in America was taught the accent, or at least a good many of us, then how was the accent not naturally acquired by their children when their children learned to speak? The accent may have been created instead of naturally acquired, but that doesn't mean that it can't be the first accent you learn. So how did the children of the parents with transatlantic accents not have the accent?

  15. By the mid-50s, that manner of speech had become derisively viewed as characteristic of a high society archetype. Blue-blooded, entitled, and pretentious, often speaking without parting the teeth. A good example would be the character of Gloria Upson in AUNTIE MAME.

  16. Funny but I don't see it as artificial / un-natural pretentious. …that said im English – so maybe it doesn't hit me the same way as someone from America.
    It sounds grown up – a way an adult might talk , someone wearing a suit and hat …someone responsible , I suppose that's just something u associate it with when someone like cary grant uses it.

    can't see why anyone from the states would really ridicule it , it sounds great.

  17. Now I understand why (Mr. Feeny) William Daniels spoke like that. And he was probably one of the last people to speak like that on Modern television.

  18. Because you had a different Era different industry different cars different cultures & rare slangs from that specific timing. My grandma loves watching Andy Griffith show or watches the Victorian movies or shows on TV.

  19. Now it has sense! As a non native English speaker I always wondered about this when watching old movies.
    BTW you did great at the end! Hahaha.

  20. It's not just their accents. I'd say it's more their voices. Watching movies from the 30's-60's, it's as if they're shouting lol

  21. That first clip of Rosalind Russel in His Girl Friday❤️ she was such a brilliant actress. This scene reminds me so much of her witty performance in The Women.

  22. All true and a very interesting subject. Orson Welles had a classic trans Atlantic accent. As you say, it was a style of speaking that was pretty much peculiar to the early days of sound movies and American radio. I also read that, apparently, when the talkies arrived on the scene (if you will) that some of the studio dialogue coaches were British so that could also help to explain why American actors started to adopt this trans Atlantic sound. There again, there's a bit of a misconcpetion that all Engish people use the "long" "a" … as in ARFTER and LARST which isn't the case. As for the whole business of English born actors adopting the "short" "a" (AFTA and LASST) when they work in the States, I guess it was done for the sake of audience identification.

  23. I’ve always wanted to pinpoint the difference to others on how old Hollywood spoke vs now. But it was always so vague. Thanks for sharing

  24. "Well Isnt This A Fine Song And Dance!"

    "What're You Getting So Hot About?!"

    "Keep Your Shirt On!"

    "Where Do You Get Off Making Remarks Like That!?"

    "Suppose I Say Youre A Lunk Head!"

    "Well I Aint Much For Supposin'!"

    "Well Supposing You Were!"

    "Well Maybe Im Through Supposin' And Fixed To Start Figgerin'!"

    "Ahh Horse Radish!"

    "Well Arent You A Pocket Full Of Firecrackers!"

    "Ohh Yeah You Got Something To Say About It!!?"

    "Ill Say Plenty!" Fisticuffs

  25. in addition to the mid-atlantic dialect each studio had their own dialect coach, and if you listen to films from the same studio the people all sound very similar, but if you watch from different studios, there were subtle differences. It was considered proper diction, mostly because going from silents to talkies, the studios feared, that they would lose the majority of their stars, so they each hired a dialect/vocal speech coach, and even with that some did not make the grade, during the 1930, during the 1940s, you begin to hear a transition between the early and later 1940s where movie stars speaking were closer to who they really were, which helped them stand out even more. And at some point during the 1950s with the decline of the studios, being ethnic speaking (so to speak, as opposed to sounding like Ted Baxter, from the Mary Tyler Moore show) started to creep in, which helped make the 1960s movies have a much more diverse sound. now mind you I am only 35 seconds into this man explanation, and offering all of this. Now I am going to listen to the rest, and see if we are similar in our POVs, or if he stays mid-atlantic for the whole video

  26. he is actually branching off historically more than the film industry, and he is correct that the boarding/upper class schools did all teach this ages ago, but what he fells to mention, is that a majority of the original 13 colonies were Brittish. I have a theory, that as American moved into different regions, (because in the 17/1800s when we began to add on new states, and people settled in them, hearing a another state or regions area was not very common) they began to develope different forms of the American dialect (please note that we do not have any official form of an accent in America, only dialects, and the closest thing to an overall American accent that we kind of have is the newsman/Ted Baxter sound, so to speak.

  27. going to assume that the South, nor the Midwest had people speaking Mid-Atlantic (for various reasons), and this was a very NorthEast thing (and yes, I can be wrong, I have been before), the question of when the Northeast went from a Brittish to a Mid-Atlantic dialect, I do not believe that anyone has tried to tackle this question (however the idea of Americas moving to various parts of the country during the 1800s, and from lack of communication, various regionalisms began to spring up, has been written about.

  28. question to people on the know, this gentleman brings up radio as a possibility for the beginning of transatlantic English, because there was no bass in the early days of radio, my question is does that explain the "How Now Brown Cow" form of speech actors were taught to keep the voice in the lower tones, so they could be better registered and recorded by the early microphones. And yes "how now brown cow" was taught, I happen to have gone to college during the mid 1980s, and had a speech teacher (who was already in her 70s), who in many ways was magnificent, but other ways so out dated, and she did teach us things like that in class.

  29. my GF just informed me that Tabitha St. Germain learned this speech for her voice acting role as Rarity in my little pony whose character is based on Audrey Hepburn [edit: she still believes this to be true even tho its Katharine is known for the style]

  30. I'm sorry but its not called trans Atlantic. It is known as Mid Atlantic because it is an accent that is halfway between North American and British hence the term mid Atlantic.

  31. Thank you for this lesson. I grew up listening to olde tyme radio. You spoke of not being able hear the bass on our olde, tinny radios. It's only since late 50s or so when hi-fi really became commercial–I was born in 1943–did I realize that some of the old Glenn Miller's, Benny Goodman's, and other big bands' recordings actually had a guitar in them. And I realize now that you couldn't always hear the upright bass in the arrangement. It took hi-fi to be able to hear some of those things. In the 1930s and 40s, saying "I play guitar in a band" meant something entirely different than it does today.

  32. I'm 62 and have talked 'that way' all my life. I've been asked more times than I can remember, why I speak so formally. I've lived in many states, both coasts, north and south and I'm told the same thing no matter where I've been. I was raised and educated in the mid-west and looking back, all my teachers spoke the same way.

  33. It's funny cause I was wondering the same thing, but at least 20 years ago. I had presumed it was supposed to be British but it just seemed off..

  34. My own accent is extremely close to a transatlantic/midatlantic one! I tend to use more American pronunciation in my words though, so its more leaned towards a typical American accent. Its more or less the tone of voice I have, I've been told its a mixture of Irish, American, and British.

    Its not as dead as you think! 😀

  35. People always ask me why I talk weird and over enunciate my words. I used to say it's because of show biz and opera. Now I can say it's because of my Transatlantic/Mid-Atlantic 1950s accent.. Though I am far from being a baby boomer..

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