Faulkner and accent softening

Daniel Lavelle, who writes on “on mental health, homelessness and social care” for The Guardian, describes his and other people’s efforts to “soften” their regional English accents:

I am in central London, attending an “accent softening taster session” with the London Speech Workshop…

I visit [Jamie] Chapman [“the Henry Higgins to my Eliza Doolittle”] because, since I moved from Manchester to London two years ago, I have been mocked about my accent, which made me think about softening some of my rougher edges.

The voice coach has Lavelle read an extract from William Faulkner’s Nobel acceptance speech (1950). Had they put on a recording of Faulkner’s delivery, the tutor and the student would have appreciated the irony in their joint effort. On YouTube, there are audios of Faulkner’s speaking in Stockholm and of his reading the speech in a studio, in better quality. Clearly, Faulkner spoke with a Southern accent – whether specifically Mississippian or more generic, I’m not sure, but coming from below the Mason-Dixon line, undoubtedly:

His acceptance speech was delivered rapidly, too softly for most to hear, and with a heavy Southern accent enhanced by the occasion.

But there was a time in Faulkner’s life when – according to his biographers – he did work on his accent, trying to sound British. That was in 1918, when he was rejected by the US army because of his small stature and decided to pass for an Englishman to join the RAF in Canada. It worked.

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