It’s been said (at least in meme form, which we all know makes it true as far as the internet is concerned) that The Big Bang Theory is a show about intellectuals written for the average person, while Frasier was a show about intellectuals written for intellectuals. Kelsey Grammar played the role of Dr. Frasier Crane for two decades straight between Cheers and Frasier and, to a lot of people, it’s Grammar’s defining character.
Fans of the character know that the good doctor is intelligent, incredibly well educated, has a seriously interesting family life, and has a strange rivalry with a Jack Russell terrier named Eddie. But what fans don’t know, and keep asking, is what’s up with the way he speaks? Frasier and his brother Niles both sound kind of British, but not really? Their father doesn’t sound like that. Kelsey Grammar himself doesn’t sound like that, so what’s the deal with Frasier?
One Twitter sleuth decided it was time to solve this riddle once and for all.
Today’s the day I finally look into this. pic.twitter.com/54BdFlOZM6
— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) December 19, 2018
I woke up this morning and I felt ready!
— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) December 19, 2018
Josh wasn’t the only one who’s been wondering about this for years. What are we hearing? It’s not British, and it doesn’t sound American, either.
I’m so glad I’m not the only one who was confused about the origin of his accent?
— Miriam???? (@mellifluousbird) December 19, 2018
Plz report all findings. I’ve been too swamped with work to truly investigate this
— Valerie. (@valeriegauvain) December 19, 2018
Is it possible that he just over-enunciates? He doesn’t sound British -exactly-, just like, incredulous?
— sarah brin (@dinosaurrparty) December 19, 2018
Most accurate comment so far.
— spike9 (@5wO07) December 20, 2018
Happy to be of service!
— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) December 20, 2018
Josh Gondelman is out there doing the investigative journalism people really want, and what he found out really reinforces everything we know about Frasier and Niles as neurotic and hilarious siblings.
If you go back and re-watch shows, you learn some things about the boys — namely, that they both studied at prestigious boarding schools in the UK before moving on to Ivy league schools. Frasier is an alum of both Harvard and Oxford. The boys came from “humble” beginnings with their father working as a police officer, and so they tried hard to fit in with their “old money” peers at school. Frasier even took to smoking a pipe in his early teen years!
Kelsey Grammar put it best when he was asked to describe Frasier. He said the character was “flawed, silly, pompous, and full of himself, [yet] kind [and] vulnerable.” Show producers wrote Frasier to be brilliant, self-important, and incredibly insecure, i.e., a perfect storm. In short, the accent developed as a way for Frasier and Niles to sound … snootier.
Twitter nailed it!
The Frasier character (along with his brother Niles) are elitists and take on an accent to symbolize their perceived sophistication.
— JOMP (@musicandwork) December 20, 2018
I thought it was a snooty Ivy League thing… it always kind of reminded me of David Ogden Steirs’ accent in MASH ????????♀️ pic.twitter.com/ywFdiymDKC
— Deep State GG ???????????? (@GoldenGirl2270) December 20, 2018
This is just a super northeastern way of speaking. Look at older rich people from Connecticut and things like that. Super common on parts of Long island too, mostly with baby boomers who are not from the city .
— Jules KD (@la_belle_laide) December 20, 2018
I thought it was because he was from the Virgin Islands. He moved when he was very young, but maybe others in his family had accents. Then I saw this: he attended a private prep school…where from the age of 16, he began to smoke a pipe. Turns out, he's just pretentious.
— Jeff Steiner (@gwynn1984) December 19, 2018
I have thought about this a lot and after going on a Google/Frasier rabbit hole, I discovered that both Frasier and Niles studied in the UK, which explains why I always thought they were British cuz they do NOT sound like they're from Seattle
— Lisa Rough (@Skylit_Lisa) December 19, 2018
— Philly Byrne (@PhilipNByrne) December 19, 2018
There’s even a name for the not-British-not-American accent!
it’s the transatlantic accent! it was a way posh people and actors were trained to talk and it was intentionally made as a combination of British and American accents! https://t.co/UtCcV0SqhY
— patrick (@patricksbones) December 19, 2018
It's the Mid-Atlantic accent. It's also why Holland Taylor sounds like that. The Mid-Atlantic accent lost favor to the flat Midwestern based "Standard American" accent over the years. So, yeah.
— Affleck's Scorpio Moon (@karaisshort) December 20, 2018
I assumed he was trying to have one of those transatlantic accents, like 1950s newscasters.
— Knuck1es (@knck1es) December 20, 2018
It's a mid-Atlantic accent ( also known as transatlantic). An affectation. See old films, old radio hosts, old politicians, etc. Ex: Orson Welles, Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant,
— Caitlin (@ThereWillBStars) December 20, 2018
I don’t want the mid Atlantic accent die. I will start using it myself if I have to.
— so not a bot (@schwarzertuefel) December 20, 2018
The Transatlantic accent was designed to blend common speech of American and British English, but it didn’t really originate in any one location. According to voice and drama professor Dudley Knight, it’s an affected set of speech patterns whose “chief quality was that no Americans actually spoke it unless educated to do so.” The accent is, therefore, best associated with the American upper class, theater, and film industry of the 1930s and 1940s. Yeah, it’s an entire accent that people made up just to sound like they had more money than other people. Wikipedia even uses Frasier and Niles Crane as comedic examples of it.
The answer is pretty much this:
— T▲YLOR B (@brnwld) December 19, 2018
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