Mid-Atlantic English (sometimes called a Transatlantic accent) is a cultivated or acquired version of the English language once found in certain aristocratic elements of American society and taught for use in the American theatre. It is not a typical vernacular of any location, but rather blends American and British without being predominantly either. Mid-Atlantic speech patterns and vocabulary are also used by some Anglophone expatriates, many adopting certain features of the accent of their place of residence.
Mid-Atlantic English was popular in Hollywood films from the 1930s to the early 1960s, and continues to be associated with people such as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, William F. Buckley, Jr., Gore Vidal, George Plimpton, Roscoe Lee Browne, Norman Mailer, Maria Callas, Patrick McGoohan and John Houseman. The monologuist Ruth Draper's recorded "The Italian Lesson" gives an example of this East Coast American upper-class diction of the 1940s.
While international media tend to reduce the number of mutually unintelligible versions of English to some extent, Mid-Atlantic English uses no deliberate Briticisms nor Americanisms, so that it can be equally understandable and acceptable on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The term "mid-Atlantic" is sometimes used in Britain to refer, often critically, to British public figures who affect a quasi-American accent, such as fictional Radio Norwich DJ Dave Clifton from the BBC television comedy series I'm Alan Partridge.
Mid-Atlantic English was usually learned in one of three ways:
- Naturally, by spending extended time in various Anglophone communities, typically in North America and the United Kingdom.
- At a boarding school in America prior to the 1960s (after which it fell out of vogue).
- Intentionally practiced for stage or other use. A version codified by voice coach Edith Skinner is widely taught in acting schools as American Theater Standard.
Upper classes 
Mid-Atlantic English was cultivated by the upper classes in some areas of the Northeastern United States. Prior to World War II, certain of their institutions cultivated a norm influenced by the Received Pronunciation of Southern England as an international norm of English pronunciation. Recordings of New Jersey-born, Central New York-raised Grover Cleveland and Ohio-native William McKinley show their oratory reflected a Mid-Atlantic accent. Theodore Roosevelt, McKinley's successor and a native of New York, had a more natural non-rhotic, upper-class accent.
Recordings of U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt, who came from a privileged New York family and who was educated at Groton, a private Massachusetts preparatory school, had a number of characteristic patterns. Roosevelt's speech is non-rhotic; one of Roosevelt's most frequently heard speeches has a falling diphthong in the word fear, which distinguishes it from other forms of surviving non-rhotic speech in the United States. "Linking R" appears in Roosevelt's delivery of the words "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"; compare also Roosevelt's delivery of the words "naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."
According to William Labov, the teaching of this pronunciation declined sharply after the end of World War II. As a result, this American version of a "posh" accent has all but disappeared even among the American upper classes. The clipped English of George Plimpton and William F. Buckley, Jr. may also serve as vestigial examples.
In media 
Mid-Atlantic dialect was formerly used by American actors who adopted some features of British pronunciation until the mid-1960s. Orson Welles notably spoke in a mid-Atlantic accent in the 1941 film Citizen Kane, as did many of his co-stars, such as Joseph Cotten.
British expatriates Cary Grant and Anthony Hopkins, Americans Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Eleanor Parker, Grace Kelly, Jane Wyatt, Agnes Moorehead, Jonathan Harris, William Daniels, Vincent Price, and Richard Chamberlain, and Canadians Christopher Plummer and Lorne Greene have also exemplified the accent..
Use of this accent declined rapidly after World War II. Actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, and John Wayne portrayed serious roles in various dialects of American English speech, and the export of American cinema familiarized the rest of the world with its features.
A contemporary comedic example of a Boston Brahmin accent appears in the television sitcom Frasier used by "brothers" Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce, reminiscent of the aristocratic accent spoken by the Charles Emerson Winchester III character on M*A*S*H. As well as the character Stewart Gilligan "Stewie" Griffin from the animated television series Family Guy.
Further reading 
- Philip French's screen legends: Cary Grant | Film | The Observer. Guardian. Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
- Konigsberg, Eric (2008-02-29). "On TV, Buckley Led Urbane Debating Club". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-18.
- New York City Accents Changing with the Times. Gothamist (2008-02-25). Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
- [dead link]
- Lane, Hamlisch among Theater Hall of Fame inductees. Post-gazette.com (2009-01-28). Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
- With Mailer's death, U.S. loses a colorful writer and character – SFGate. Articles.sfgate.com (2007-11-11). Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
- "How could accent reduction change your life?". accentbootcamp.com. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland English Academy Ltd. Archived from the original on 2008-09-30.
- Robert MacNeil; William Cran; Robert McCrum (2005). Do you speak American?: a companion to the PBS television series. Random House Digital, Inc. pp. 50–. ISBN 978-0-385-51198-8. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- Pearl Harbor speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt (sound file)
- Chapter 7. The Restoration of Post-Vocalic /r/
- Tsai, Michelle (2008-02-28). "Why Did William F. Buckley Jr. talk like that?". Slate. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
- Early radio episodes of The Guiding Light featuring Mid-Atlantic English
- The Brian Lehrer Show: Puhfect Together