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When did Americans stop speaking with a British accent?

It’s easy to tell a person from the States from a person of the mother country as soon as they open their mouths (if not before), but when did the we lose that posh accent from overseas?

Obviously, there aren’t voice recordings dating from much of our nation’s history, so Mental-Floss‘ Matt Soniak did some digging and came up with an estimate. First, there’s the matter of simplifying the accents to “General American” (newscaster accent) and “Received Pronunciation” (BBC English).

After industrialization and the Civil War and well into the 20th century, political and economic power largely passed from the port cities and cotton regions to the manufacturing hubs of the Mid Atlantic and Midwest — New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, etc. The British elite had much less cultural and linguistic influence in these places, which were mostly populated by the Scots-Irish and other settlers from Northern Britain, and rhotic English was still spoken there. As industrialists in these cities became the self-made economic and political elites of the Industrial Era, Received Pronunciation lost its status and fizzled out in the U.S. The prevalent accent in the Rust Belt, though, got dubbed General American and spread across the states just as RP had in Britain.

So, flaunt that Midwestern nasal with pride today, folks.

Full story at Mental_Floss.

Abandoning the mother tongue.

Photo credit: Fotolia, Graphics credit: Canva

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2 Comments

  • Guy, from my research honks ago, apparently you folks speak like us Brits did in the Middle Ages. So you are all behind the rest of us. Come on, catch up ;-)

  • Ariane Holzhauer

    Yeah, apparently you folks (the British) sounded much more like Mid-western Americans during Elizabethan/Shakespearian times. So you all have gotten much more affected in your pronunciation. C’mon, relax ;-)

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