Locust Valley lockjaw
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Locust Valley Lockjaw (also Long Island Lockjaw) is the colloquial term for a brand of speech, widely recognized as the stereotypical upper class American accent and usually associated with the traditional elite of the New York metropolitan area, particularly those on the North Shore of Long Island. The accent takes its name from the hamlet of Locust Valley in Oyster Bay, whose exclusive country clubs (Piping Rock, Beaver Dam, Seawanhaka, and The Creek) often included speakers of the accent. The accent is typically non-rhotic and involves speaking while keeping the lips tight and jaw clenched and thrust forward.
Individuals who have been described as having a recognizable Lockjaw accent include Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whose "Lockjaw" intensified while at Miss Porter's School and affected it lifelong, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, actress Katharine Hepburn, political commentator William F. Buckley, Jr., publisher and What's My Line personality Bennett Cerf. It is used to pigeonhole the television characters of Jane Hathaway, the secretary on The Beverly Hillbillies; Thurston Howell III, the millionaire on the television series Gilligan's Island; and the Eloise character of Kay Thompson's fiction novels. An exaggerated example is semi-recurring Family Guy character James William Bottomtooth III who has such an extreme underbite he can hardly be understood.
In the 1958 film Auntie Mame, the accent is used to establish Gloria Upson (played by Joanna Barnes), the fiancee of Mame's nephew, as fiercely snobbish, self-centered and superficial. She stops the conversation cold as she recounts a "ghastly" mishap at a country-club ping-pong tournament against opponent Bunny Bixler, delivering the line, "And I stepped on the ping-pong ball!" The 1983 feature film Trading Places used this classic line as an homage to class distinction. In order to parody the elite social status of Louis Winthorp III's (Dan Aykroyd) friends, "Bunny Bixler" (played by Susan Fallender), delivers a version of the tag line from her point of view, using the identical accent.
In a scene from the 1986 John Hughes movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Alan Ruck uses this accent to imitate Sloane Petersen's father as part of an attempt to trick Dean Rooney into letting her leave school.
During the movie Agent for H.A.R.M. on the comedy show Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike Nelson and the 'bots use the accent to deliver comedic asides during scenes depicting the clean-cut, sweater-wearing villains.
- Salon.com Article on Cable TV
- "On Language", by William Safire, The New York Times, January 18, 1987
- Jacqueline Kennedy: First Lady of the New Frontier, Barbara A. Perry