“I was casually choking on a hot dog in the Costco parking lot when I was approached by a short king — a potential suitor,” the TikTok user @mr.mosebys_lefttit (or “Musings of a Crouton”) boldly declared in a video.
Her accent is fully dignified, vaguely British and entirely fake. It’s the kind of speaking voice that takes you back to Old Hollywood, or Moira Rose of Schitt’s Creek, or Frasier of the Cheers universe.
More and more American TikTokers have been adopting that manner of speaking lately, perhaps because it is now just as infectious as it was in the early 1900s.
What we formally call the mid-Atlantic accent first came about in the era of “talkies,” or the first movies to have sound, in the 1920s. Katharine Hepburn and other Old Hollywood stars like Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant popularized the so-called “movie accent,” which was then picked up in boarding schools and on the radio.
Experts from the language learning app Babbel told In The Know that it sounds like a cross between two accents from opposite sides of the ocean — British Received Pronunciation (BRP) and Standard American — so it’s named as if it hails directly from the middle of the Atlantic.
It fell out of style at the end of WWII, but it’s slowly becoming popular again, particularly on social media. Babbel’s language experts told In The Know that it’s commonly used to communicate wealth and education, so it’s possible Gen Z stars are trying to “tap into the status and power” of the accent, or maybe they’re just “looking to stand out with a distinctive sound in an increasingly saturated market.”
Trey Taylor of The Atlantic described the mid-Atlantic accent as being full of “grandeur and glamor” but ultimately a “sham.” Perhaps that’s the very reason why TikTok’s comedians enjoy it so much — they’re utilizing an over-the-top, high-society tone to purvey ridiculous information, making it clear that it’s a joke.
For @mr.mosebys_lefttit, the phrase “short king” is pretty inherently funny, but delivered under a thin coating of elegant mumbo-jumbo, it’s hilarious.
Comedian and TikTok user Hannah Jones (@hannahjonescool1) told In The Know that she arrived at the accent by combining the over-enunciation that a lifelong theater career gives you with the vibe of a “super confident feminine” character.
“I do a lot of different styles of comedy on my page, this is just the only one that always blows up, so most of my following definitely prefers that specific character style,” she said.
She said she thinks it appeals to her audience because for so long, men dominated the comedy world, and women had to make themselves more like men to be successful. So a “hyper-femme and theatrical voice feels fresh and current.”
Serena Shahidi, also known as @glamdemon2004, is so well known for her mid-Atlantic accent (as well as her “junior Kardashian” vocal fry) that other creators have been called out for copying her. She has repeatedly emphasized that she doesn’t claim ownership over her manner of speaking. It’s just working really well for her.
“I would describe my personal style as … when I look online, I can only ever find the accessories I want at Halloween stores,” Shahidi said in one post with a vintage trumpet sound playing in the background as she mused about her classy-but-spooky style.
She might not be joking, but who cares? The act implies she knows she’s being over-the-top and purposefully condescending, and she’s comfortable with that. The mid-Atlantic accent says, essentially, “I’m so glamorous and hilarious that even my accent transcends your understanding of the ways people can speak.”
It’s certainly possible that this is just a comedic bit that’s becoming a meme as more and more people do it for fun, but there’s no such thing as a coincidence in the age of social media manipulation.
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