6. Something has happened to the generic American male accent. Maybe it is urbanization; perhaps it is now an affectation to sound precise and caring with a patina of intellectual authority; perhaps it is the fashion culture of the metrosexual; maybe it is the influence of the gay community in arts and popular culture. Maybe the ubiquitous new intonation comes from the scarcity of salty old jobs in construction, farming, or fishing. But increasingly to meet a young American male about 25 is to hear a particular nasal stress, a much higher tone than one heard 40 years ago, and, to be frank, to listen to a precious voice often nearly indistinguishable from the female. How indeed could one make Westerns these days, when there simply is not anyone left who sounds like John Wayne, Richard Boone, Robert Duvall, or Gary Cooper much less a Struther Martin, Jack Palance, L.Q. Jones, or Ben Johnson? I watched the movie Twelve O’clock High the other day, and Gregory Peck and Dean Jagger sounded liked they were from another planet. I confess over the last year, I have been interviewed a half-dozen times on the phone, and had no idea at first whether a male or female was asking the questions. All this sounds absurd, but I think upon reflection readers my age (55) will attest they have had the same experience. In the old days, I remember only that I first heard a variant of this accent with the old Paul Lynde character actor in one of the Flubber movies; now young men sound closer to his camp than to a Jack Palance or Alan Ladd.
10. The K-12 public education system is essentially wrecked. No longer can any professor expect an incoming college freshman to know what
I found myself nodding this ol’ gray head north-south as I read the ten things that tick Mr. Hanson off. There’s an assumption in that last sentence, but I feel pretty safe in saying VDH doesn’t look upon any of the things he mentions as a “good,” with the sole exception of his proposal that we (re)introduce Latin as a compulsory subject in public school. Yes… Latin. I can see the wisdom in Mr. Hanson’s proposal, even though I never took Day One of Latin. I did, however, take seven years of French… and that’s reasonably close. I really, truly feel my love for the English language (and my competency, too… such as it is) is directly related to the fact I was once fluent in French. That and the fact I had competent teachers back in the day (see VDH Item Ten, above).
As far as VDH Item Six goes… yes, I have had similar experiences. But NOT since I moved to
Nonetheless… I agree with VDH, especially when it comes to really old movies. But here’s yet another thought: all the guys in those really old movies, particularly war movies, smoked. And we all know what smoking cigarettes does to your voice… or at least we should. Think on that for a moment, Gentle Reader (whilst shedding a metaphorical tear [if you’re male] for those smoky female voices of yesteryear… like Suzanne Pleshette or Tallulah Bankhead. If you’re female you have lotsa male voices to choose from — see above).
Mr. Hanson closes his essay with a simple statement: “Well, with that done—I feel much better.” I’m sure you will, too… if’n ya read the whole thing.
Signs o’ The Impending Apocalypse… (part of an on-going series)
God Save Us.