Muffy, let's head to the country club....
December 19, 2007 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Where does the "stereotypical rich white guy" voice come from? I've been doing it for years, but have no idea how it originated. Here's a good example, someone doing an impression of Judge Whitey on Futurama.
posted by emptybowl to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Its a New England high society accent, think really upper class Boston and New York. I am related to these people, and yes they mostly sound like that in real life.
posted by BobbyDigital at 1:22 PM on December 19, 2007

I'm not sure that there really is one specific "stereotypical rich white guy" voice. Your example clip sounds like an old, fat, some-what southern sounding guy. I guess that's the stereotype because an old guy has had time to amass wealth, he's fat because he lives in excess, and southern-sounding to be reminiscent of a slave owner.
posted by Caper's Ghost at 1:23 PM on December 19, 2007

I've heard it called "Connecticut lockjaw"
posted by milkrate at 1:40 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

To me, that definitely did not sound like a Southern aristocrat. It evoked second or third houses in the Hamptons or weekends at "Martha's," not mint juleps and plantations. All of my east coast relatives are from "Bawstin," but I think BobbyDigital is right in that the "high society" folks from that region are the inspiration for this breed of caricature.
posted by Nelsormensch at 1:45 PM on December 19, 2007

Thurston Howell, III? Or, maybe he's just an example of it and not the source.
posted by sneakin at 1:45 PM on December 19, 2007

I've heard it called "Connecticut lockjaw"

That is the greatest thing I've ever heard.
posted by emptybowl at 1:47 PM on December 19, 2007

Connecticut Clench, is the phrase I've heard.
posted by electroboy at 1:49 PM on December 19, 2007

Don't forget Mr. BottomTooth!
posted by allelopath at 1:51 PM on December 19, 2007

It's not just about it being a rich white guy, it's about old money sound versus new money.

Since it is all about old money, its North Eastern WASP voice aka Connecticut Lockjaw etc...
posted by stratastar at 1:53 PM on December 19, 2007

It's definitely people emulating the "rich guy" character that Jim Backus played not just on "Gilligan's Island", but throughout his career. No doubt reinforced by the real-life speech patterns of people like George Plympton and William F. Buckley.
posted by briank at 1:54 PM on December 19, 2007

It sounds somewhat influenced by high society English accents (as in, real high society, not middle class wannabes).
posted by wackybrit at 1:54 PM on December 19, 2007

I've heard this called a "lockjaw accent," and a little Googling reveals "Locust Valley lockjaw," locating it in (drum roll) Connecticut. George Plimpton had it; William F. Buckley has some version of it.

I'd guess that there was probably a movie character in the 50s that popularized it, and was used as the basis for the Thurston Howell III character, but I couldn't say what character that might have been.
posted by adamrice at 1:56 PM on December 19, 2007

Locust Valley is located in Nassau County, NY. On Long Island.
posted by mlis at 2:14 PM on December 19, 2007

Thurston Howell's accent is an example of the so-called Boston Brahmin accent (previously on metafilter) - it's pretty strongly linked to Harvard before it began to diversify its applicants and acceptances during the '60s to include students who weren't from the Boston elite. It's apparently been on the decline since then, but it's still hella culturally pervasive.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 2:14 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Connecticut Clench, is the phrase I've heard.

Larchmont Lockjaw.
posted by oaf at 2:19 PM on December 19, 2007

I believe it originated in Connecticut, but I always think of the narrator of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
posted by phrontist at 2:24 PM on December 19, 2007

Paul Fussell describes variations on upper-class American accents in his out of print, slightly outdated, and hilarious Class(1983). He includes Locust Valley lockjaw. Locust Valley, by the way, is near the North Shore of Long Island, where Jay Gatsby was snubbed.
posted by doncoyote at 2:25 PM on December 19, 2007

Tony Curtis' millionaire character in Some Like It Hot had such an accent. I believe he claimed he was imitating Cary Grant.
posted by metric space at 2:31 PM on December 19, 2007

Sounds like aristocratic Englishman crossed with Yank.
posted by brautigan at 2:34 PM on December 19, 2007

yes, Larchmont Lockjaw.
posted by caddis at 2:40 PM on December 19, 2007

Larchmont Lockjaw.

Rare in Larchmont these days, but in the 80s we used to say the cause was having enough money to get servants to move your jaw for you. and then tiring of that.
posted by ioesf at 3:01 PM on December 19, 2007

It's old money Boston - or old money Connecticut suburbs of New York; people whose debuts and engagements would have appeared in the social register. I.e., ancestors had money as of 1890 or 1910. Possibly high-society Philadelphia too. Katharine Hepburn had a version of this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:22 PM on December 19, 2007

It's Connecticut. It can be traced to several CT prep schools: Choate, Hotchkiss, Miss Porter's and Taft-- and then of course Yale.
posted by wfc123 at 4:15 PM on December 19, 2007

you can hear a bit of it in John Kerry's accent.
posted by klanawa at 4:54 PM on December 19, 2007

What one hears today are the results of how John Kerry got rid of his MA accent (which I wish he'd kept). Emptybowl's link sounds like Foghorn Leghorn. Listen to clips of Franklin Roosevelt for typical rich white USAian.
posted by brujita at 11:10 PM on December 19, 2007

My grandmother, who was born into old money high society in Connecticut in the early 1900s, always called it "Larchmont Lockjaw."

I had not heard the phrase "Connecticut Lockjaw" until this thread.
posted by zippy at 1:27 AM on December 20, 2007

I met someone with a real lockjaw accent once! I didn't know at the time what it was called, but wow. I swear the guy claimed to be an IT guy from Colorado. He was basically a normal person. I couldn't figure out why he talked like he was some super rich cartoon dad.
posted by lampoil at 5:40 AM on December 20, 2007

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