James Fallows' Announcer-Speak series


  1. Robot Therapist said,

    June 11, 2015 @ 3:32 am

    Fascinating! I hadn't thought about this as an American thing at all. It seems like an imitation of the UK "announcer style", often called "BBC English", itself based on "upper class" English. I was somewhat puzzled to see reference in the articles to a "UK" accent – there is no single UK accent – this is a very specific class-associated one. Parodied very effectively by Harry Enfield here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQWPR9TM0Gk

  2. Adrian Bailey said,

    June 11, 2015 @ 6:01 am

    What strikes me from reading the first two articles is that the magazine had the audacity to publish an article on a subject about which the author knew almost nothing and did no research.

  3. cameron said,

    June 11, 2015 @ 11:56 am

    I was also puzzled by why the Atlantic would want someone so obviously uninformed about matters linguistic to write about this topic. And "Announcer Speak" is a terrible term. He's conflating the mid-Atlantic accent with the hyper-precise vocalizations that arose from practices of oratory in the era before microphones and PA systems, as was adapted to the era of early microphones and radio.

    People speaking conversational English in a mid-Atlantic accent don't sound like radio Announcers. Rather, radio announcers tended to exaggerate the precision of their vowels and syllable boundaries so as to maximize their intelligibility across a noisy channel.

  4. J. W. Brewer said,

    June 11, 2015 @ 1:32 pm

    I assume Fallows' gig at the Atlantic lets him occasionally write on what he wants to, and he did start by confessing ignorance on what he thought was an interesting question and seeing if he could crowd-source an answer by appealing to those better-informed. So has appropriate epistemic humility. He may not have as good a job sorting what from chaff in the responses he got as an actual expert would, but he doesn't seem to obviously be drawn to crackpottish theories, and he is at least passing on (if not yet implementing) sensible suggestions like "if you could get Bill Labov to talk to you, he'd explain it all for you." Which is itself helpful because it lets Fallows' audience who might never heard of Labov have a name they can google if they find the topic interesting enough to want to find more serious scholarship.

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