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Why EVERYONE is now speaking with ‘affected, theatrical drawl that’s half-English, half-American’ 

If you’ve started to notice that everyone on TikTok seems to sound the same, then you’re not wrong, after Gen Z brought back the Mid Atlantic accent popularised by old Hollywood before it started to dwindle in the 1960s. 

Linguists and voice coaches have explained how the ‘TikTalk’ or ‘TikTok voice’ is really the mid-Atlantic accent which ‘denoted class, status and education during the era of ‘talkies’ (sound films) in the 1920s’.

Thanks to stars like Katharine Hepburn, the half-English and half-American drawl ‘became known as the ‘movie accent’ due to its prominence in Hollywood films, and has seen a resurgence in recent years among stars such as Harry Styles, Millie Bobby Brown and Gillian Anderson.

And it has now picked up steam on the social media app, with TikTok user @It’sMeJadeB recently posting a video which has since gained over 1.7 million views in which she commentsed ‘Who decided this is how we were going to talk on TikTok?’ 

Other users were quick to agree with her observation, with one declaring that they looked back on all their old videos only to discover they’d been imitating the accent all along. 

Speaking to FEMAIL, linguists and voice coaches revealed how TikTok voice, aka TikTalk’ has become a specific register commonly used to narrate storytelling videos.  

Speaking about the ‘TikTok voice’, expert linguists from the app Babbel said the voice became popular in the 1920s with Hollywood stars like Katharine Hepburn 

'Since when was he American?': Harry Styles left fans baffled at the BRIT Awards 2021 on Tuesday night as viewers questioned why he had suddenly developed an 'American accent'

‘Since when was he American?’: Harry Styles left fans baffled at the BRIT Awards 2021 on Tuesday night as viewers questioned why he had suddenly developed an ‘American accent’

It's a similar story for Stranger Things star Millie Bobbie Brown who grew up in Dorset, England and has adopted an American twang

It’s a similar story for Stranger Things star Millie Bobbie Brown who grew up in Dorset, England and has adopted an American twang 

Speaking about the ‘TikTok voice’, expert linguists from the app Babbel commented: ‘The ‘TikTok voice’ is really the mid-Atlantic accent (also known as the trans-Altantic, American Theater Standard or American stage speech accent) was very popular in the northeastern United States, and was named for the middle of the Atlantic ocean, rather than the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.’ 

‘The accent is so named because it’s supposed to sound like a cross between two accents from opposite sides of the Atlantic: British Received Pronunciation (BRP) and Standard American.’

‘Historically, the mid-Atlantic accent denoted class, status and education during the era of ‘talkies’ (sound films) in the 1920s, and became known as the ‘movie accent’ due to its prominence in Hollywood films. 

‘Back then, this accent was a consciously taught, and learned, blend of BRP and the Standard American accent, and it became popular on the radio, in cinemas and theater: everyone from newsreel narrators to Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn are famous to this day for using this accent. 

How a Canadian elocution ‘expert’ from the 1930s crafted the Mid-Atlantic accent used by Katharine Hepburn and other Hollywood stars 

In the Golden Era of Hollywood, actors such as Cary Grant and Hepburn spoke with a strange form of English that placed them somewhere between America and Great Britain. 

The so-called Mid-Atlantic accent actually wasn’t an accent at all, but an affectation concocted by a Canadian elocutionist.

Edith Skinner, from New Brunswick, Canada, studied speech at Columbia University at the end of the silent film era, and afterwards she got into the business teaching drama at Carnegie Mellon and Juilliard and assisting leading stage-speech consultant Margaret Prendergast McLean.

By the the mid 1910s, Skinner moved to Los Angeles and by the 1930s she was the go-to advisor for speech in Hollywood.

Her 1942 book ‘Speak with Distinction’ laid out her idea of ‘Good Speech’ – an accent that is ‘free from regional characteristics,’ ‘effortlessly articulated and easily understood in the last rows of the theater’.

The point of Good Speech was to eliminate regionalized accents, to create one a neutral American sound.

The accent was thought to be in response to silent film stars like Clara Bow whose Brooklyn accent was jarring when talkies came about.

‘Your voice expresses you,’ Skinner explained in an interview with The Milwaukee Journal. ‘You don’t want to lose that individual voice God gave you. What I try to do is get rid of the most obvious regionalisms, the accent that says, ‘you’re from here and I’m from there,’ the kind of speech that tells you what street you grew up on.’

But in reality, her Mid-Atlantic accent sounded like a mix of an upper-class New England accent with a general British accent.

Most Americans today will recognize the accent as the ones old Hollywood stars like Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

Some typical characteristics of the accent are the dropping of r’s from speech, and the soft pronunciation of vowel sounds.

‘In Good Speech, ALL vowel sounds are oral sounds, to be made with the soft palate raised. Thus the breath flows out through the mouth only, rather than through the mouth and nose,’ Skinner wrote in her book. ‘Each vowel sound is called a PURE SOUND, and the slightest movement or change in any of the organs of speech during the formation of a vowel will mar its purity, resulting in DIPHTHONGIZATION.’

‘T’ sounds are also enunciated so that a word like ‘butter’ does not sound ‘budder,’ as most Americans today would pronounce it.

Words beginning with ‘Wh’ are also given a strange gutteral hacking noise so that a word like ‘what’ sounds more like ‘cccwhat’.

Glottal stops are also banned, which is awkward in practice for the English language.

While Good Speech was the golden standard during the Golden Era of cinema, it became a thing of the past in the 1960s with the rise of the New Hollywood movement, in which directors like Francis Ford Coppola and John Cassavetes sought to portray average Americans in their more realist films.

However, the Mid-Atlantic speech up until recently still continued to be taught in some drama schools.  

‘While it hasn’t been taught for decades (the ‘movie accent’ quickly fell out of style following the end of WWII), many people have picked up the accent in recent years – especially when producing content on social media and in particular Tik Tok.

‘Accents and dialects provide cultural shorthands to tap directly into popular stereotypes, and falling into a specific accent can help convey a common character type. 

‘Because of its prominent role in American history and media, the mid-Atlantic accent can still be used to communicate wealth and education.’

Meanwhile they continued: ‘Whilst it can’t be said exactly why Gen Z are so eager to bring back the accent, we can theorize that they may be trying to tap into the status and power that come hand-in-hand with sounding mid-Atlantic.

‘Outside of this, it may just be that influencers are looking to stand out with a distinctive sound in an increasingly saturated market – or that they just find the accent fun to use!’

Experts how revealed why TikTok users have adopted an 'affected, theatrical drawn which is half-English and half-American' when making videos on the app

Experts how revealed why TikTok users have adopted an ‘affected, theatrical drawn which is half-English and half-American’ when making videos on the app

The accent was popularised by some of TikTok most popular users including Audrey Peters

The accent was popularised by some of TikTok most popular users including Audrey Peters (left) and @glamdemon2004 (right)

The accent was popularised by some of TikTok most popular users including Audrey Peters (left) and @glamdemon2004 (right) 

The accent was popularised by some of TikTok most popular users including @glamdemon2004, Audrey Peters and Sara Nahusenay.

And it’s not just American accounts adopting the accent, with London based @MaybeTasniu also adopting the twang. 

Professor Nicole Holliday, sociolinguist at the University of Pennsylvania and co-host of the Spectacular Vernacular podcast, told Refinery29: ‘What they have in common is that they’re doing various strategies for attention/floor-holding, which is particularly important for influencers given how easy it is to skip past TikTok videos.

She outlined some common features including ‘moving your voice up and down more, atypical voice qualities such as breathiness and falsetto, open vowels and rhoticity, the pronunciation of the consonant ‘r’.’

And it's not just American accounts adopting the accent, with London based @MaybeTasniu also adopting the twang.

And it’s not just American accounts adopting the accent, with London based @MaybeTasniu also adopting the twang.

The expert described TikTalk as ‘a way of signalling that ‘I’m a certain type of person, I’m an influencer’. 

She said the accent in particular is one ‘associated with aspiration and influence’, adding: ‘the people that created the [influencer] mould are white women. So everybody is incentivised to sound like that.’  

Kate Lee, a professional voice coach with 20 years’ experience training presenters for TV and radio, explained TikTokers ‘play with intonation, vary pace, lift key words, hang on vowel sounds’.

She added: ‘The way you speak is how you fit in, how you become part of the crowd. ‘And nowadays, of course, we’re part of the crowd anywhere in the world.’

Celebrities including Harry Styles and Gillian Anderson have left fans baffled with their Mid-Atlantic accents over the last few years. 

At the BRIT Awards 2021, many viewers questioned why the One Direction star had suddenly developed an ‘American accent’.

Harry scooped up the Best British Single gong for his hit track Watermelon Sugar. Yet during his acceptance speech, the singer, who grew up in Cheshire, left fans distracted with his accent as they claimed he suddenly sounded American.

Fans were quick to take to Twitter after Harry’s acceptance speech as they questioned why he was talking in an ‘American accent’, while others pointed out that the star has just finished filming his movie Don’t Worry Darling in America – explaining the twang. 

Meanwhile Gillian, who was born in Chicago but has lived in London since 2002 after growing up there from ages 2-11, has also been criticised for her accent.

She previously said: ‘I grew up between two countries and so depending on who is in my ear is which direction my accent goes. So I’m so used to it that it’s kind of old news for me.’

It’s a similar story for Stranger Things star Millie Bobbie Brown who grew up in Dorset, England.

The actress has adopted an American twang, having settled with her family to pursue her acting career aged eight, and previously said she struggled to do an English accent for roles. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk