A Mid-Atlantic or Transatlantic accent is a unique way of speaking that emerged in the early 20th century as a blend of an American English Accent and a British English Accent.
It was a cultivated accent that combined the elements of both accents but didn’t belong to either one exclusively. Consequently, the accent became popularized among the upper class.
You can hear it used by English voice-over artists in various media, such as Hollywood films, radio broadcasts, and stage performances.
How did The Transatlantic Accent emerge?
We can trace the Transatlantic accent back to the late 19th century, when wealthy American families began sending their children to England for education.
These children would return home with a blend of American and British accents. This was seen as a sign of their cosmopolitan upbringing.
In the early 20th century, the Mid-Atlantic accent became more widely adopted, particularly in the film industry.
Historical Significance of this Cultivated Accent
During World War II, the use of the Transatlantic accent declined as British and American culture became more distinct (check the differences between the American and British English Accent).
The accent fell out of favor in the post-war era, with many people preferring to speak in English regional accents rather than adopt a cultivated way of speaking. Therefore, today, you won’t commonly hear the Transatlantic accent used in everyday speech.
However, it remains popular in certain circles, such as the entertainment industry and academia. We still see it as sounding sophisticated and refined, even though it may no longer signify social status. It can also be a valuable tool for actors, voice-over artists, and public speakers.
How was The Mid-Atlantic Accent Characterized?
Rhoticity: The Mid-Atlantic accent is a rhotic accent, which means that you pronounce the “r” sound at the end of words and before consonants. This is a feature shared with many American English accents.
Non-regional vowel sounds: The Mid-Atlantic accent uses vowel sounds that are not associated with any specific region. This means that the accent does not have the distinct vowel sounds found in some American or British English accents.
Precision in consonant sounds: The Mid-Atlantic accent places a strong emphasis on clear and precise pronunciation of consonants. This means that the accent often includes sharp “t” and “d” sounds, which are less common in other English accents.
Elevated pitch: The Mid-Atlantic accent often features a slightly higher pitch than other English accents. This can give the accent a more formal and polished sound.
Lack of colloquialisms: The Mid-Atlantic accent doesn’t typically use colloquialisms or regional slang, making it sound more formal and academic (check out our British Slang Guide).
How to Do a Mid-Atlantic Accent.
Achieving a Mid-Atlantic accent can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Here are some tips on how to practice this accent:
Practice your vowels: You can identify the Mid-Atlantic accent by its unique vowel sounds, which are a blend of American and British English. Practice your vowels by listening to native speakers of both accents and trying to mimic their sounds.
Work on your consonants: The Mid-Atlantic accent is also known for its crisp and precise consonant sounds. Practice your diction by working on your consonants and making sure each sound is distinct.
Listen to examples: Listen to examples of the Mid-Atlantic accent in films, TV shows, and voice overs. Try to identify the unique elements of this accent and practice replicating them.
Get feedback: Work with a coach or language expert to get feedback on your Mid-Atlantic accent. They can help you identify areas that need improvement and provide tips on achieving a more authentic accent.
What are the benefits of using a Mid-Atlantic accent?
This cultivated accent can be a valuable tool for voice-over artists looking to create a polished and refined image. Here are some of the benefits of using it in voice-overs:
1. Timelessness: The Mid-Atlantic accent has a classic quality to it that helps voice-overs sound timeless. It can make them more appealing to audiences across different time periods.
2. Clarity: Because the Mid-Atlantic accent has a clear and sharp tone, it brings the clearest utterance for its listeners.
3. Professionalism: The Mid-Atlantic accent is often associated with sophistication and professionalism, which can be useful in voice-overs for corporate or educational materials.
4. Versatility: The Mid-Atlantic accent can be used in a wide range of voice-over styles. From documentary narration to advertising to character voice-overs.
5. International appeal: Because this accent blends American and British English, it helps voice-over artists sound more internationally minded. This can therefore be useful for brands and businesses with a global audience.
Which popular movies used the Mid-Atlantic accent?
The Mid-Atlantic accent is a speaking style used by actors and voice-over artists rather than a style of artwork in itself. There are many examples of actors that have used the accent in their performances, such as:
The Great Gatsby (1974) – The film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel features several characters speaking in a Mid-Atlantic accent, including Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby.
Citizen Kane (1941) – Orson Welles, the writer, director, and star of Citizen Kane, spoke in a Mid-Atlantic accent for his character, Charles Foster Kane.
His Girl Friday (1940) – Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell both spoke in a Mid-Atlantic accent in this classic screwball comedy.
The Philadelphia Story (1940) – Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart all used the Mid-Atlantic accent in this romantic comedy.
You’ll love this post about the impact of the different English Accents on Pop Culture. Check it out!
On another note, have you noticed that the iconic movie villains have British Accents?
Mid Atlantic Accent Today
Transatlantic or Mid-Atlantic is a hybrid accent that brings American and British English together in the speech. Consequently, in the 19th century and into the early 20th, many famous political figures, writers, artists, actors, and even fashion designers adopted the accent, as it became a sign of prestige, upper class, and classiness.
For example, people such as William F Buckley Jr., H P Lovecraft, Franklin D, and Eleanor Roosevelt practiced the Transatlantic accent to seek the attention of the public and the audience. Today, voice-over artists in the entertainment sector still use the accent to bring the “old classy times” feeling to their work.
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