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Thursday News: English accents of the past, Metropolitan Museum photos now...

A Linguist Explains What Old-School British Accents Sounded Like – This is a great article that challenges the widely accepted assumption that English folks from, say, the 17th and 18th centuries spoke what we now think of as an English accent (also known as RP, aka Received Pronunciation) instead of using the rhotic pronunciation. Watch the videos, read the essay, and compare to how we “hear” British aristocrats speak in Historical Romance.

First, we need to talk about how it came to be that British and American accents are different in the first place. Most people assume that the British have always basically talked like that, and at some point after Shakespeare had died and while Ichabod Crane was asleep, the American colonists started speaking differently. That’s certainly what Sleepy Hollow assumes.

But it’s actually the opposite: at the time shortly post-Shakespeare and pre-Ichabod when the majority of British settlers arrived in North America, they actually spoke much more like current Americans than current Brits. One example is in the pronunciation of R after a vowel: at this time, everyone on both sides of the Atlantic was saying things like “paRk youR caR in HaRvaRd YaRd” (well, if cars had existed at the time, which they didn’t. Harvard Yard actually did exist, which, just…whatever, Harvard Yard). –The Toast

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Releases 400,000 Images Online for Non-Commercial Use – Thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 400,000 images are now available for download for non-commercial use. This is just incredible, and I hope it inspires other museums and libraries to release their collections in the same way. –Colossal

YA books on death: is young adult fiction becoming too dark? – A rebuttal to the Wall Street Journal article alleging that YA fiction has become too “dark” and death obsessed. Among other things, Sian Cain points out that fictional representations of death and other losses can provide an opportunity for young adults to work through issues and emotions.

In the post-Twilight era, the link between death and eternal love has become an alluring reinvention of the classic, gothic romance. In some cases, the colder and deader the beau, the better: before Isaac Marion’sWarm Bodies, who would have ever thought a zombie could be a romantic lead? Angels, in books such as Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Fallen by Lauren Kate and Halo by Alexandra Adornetto, are the divine, immortal alternative to Meyer’s brooding bloodsuckers. –The Guardian

TriggernometryNote: Souza continues to update and add to her post, and there is currently an image at the end (The Falling Man photo from 9/11) that you may find disturbing. I have no idea if she plans to add/alter it in any other ways. Okay, so in light of the ongoing conversations about trigger warnings in an academic environment, I think this piece discusses the issue(s) in somewhat unique ways. Valéria Souza, a lecturer at Washington University (the one in St. Louis, not in Washington), combines a lot of research, theory, and personal opinion in an essay that is provocative and controversial. Even if you don’t agree with her argument, I think it’s a worthwhile examination of some issues that have not yet been covered in the more mainstream discussions of the issue. In the end, she’s trying to shift the terms of the discussion altogether, and she draws out some pretty interesting research findings and observations along the way.

We are creating an environment where speaking, naming, or showing trauma is becoming more taboo than actually traumatizing another human being through an act of violence—and this is a problem, particularly for students from less-privileged socio-economic backgrounds who may leave our classrooms and encounter repeated, ongoing violence at home and in their communities. These students often cannot “choose to avoid” or even “prepare themselves beforehand” for repeated encounters with trauma, for it is happening all around them—to them—on a daily basis. We are coming dangerously close to fostering a culture of silence around trauma that threatens to perhaps “protect”—temporarily, for avoidance is not an effective long-term strategy for dealing with trauma—more privileged students while both failing to protect and silencing less privileged ones. Only if you are privileged enough to experience an end to your lived trauma do you have the time—the luxury, the choice—of insisting that literary and cultural objects reminiscent of your original trauma bear “warning labels.” Only if your lived trauma is not relentless does it even occur to you that you might be able to avoid confronting it (despite the fact that all evidence shows that failure to confront trauma is detrimental to recovery). –It’s Complicated.

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!


  1. Sunny
    May 22, 2014 @ 07:28:08

    The commenter Lirael really hits the nail with a hammer (and her comment is immediately sloughed off by the author, which is frustrating) — the idea that exposing people with PTSD to things that cause them trauma is not helping, no more than yelling at someone whose body you don’t like to lose weight. In my experience of PTSD treatment we DO approach the things that cause severe flashbacks or full-on panic attacks, but it’s in an incredibly safe setting with someone trained to do this, and they don’t just go “SURPRISE, MOVIE”. Everything is clearly spelled out, contracted, and mutually agreed upon and can involve rapid eye therapy as well as pre-emptory CBT work. It is part of the healing process, but I am always going to be hypervigilant about things that can derail my day so intensely.

    The complaint that you can’t account for all triggers, so we might not bother with any, is such a straw man as well. We can account for the ones that cause the most PTSD, and we already know what those are (CSA, rape, combat, car accidents, etc). I don’t expect people to know that the smell of a certain shaving cream can make me sick, but I would certainly hope someone would say “hey we are going to watch this movie and it has graphic rape scenes in it”. It’s just about warning, I’m an adult and can decide what to do with that information, but I can’t if I’m blindsided by it.

    This isn’t about being wrapped in bubble wrap, it’s about students being able to articulate something they couldn’t have dared ask for 20 years ago — and still a lot of people can’t ask for today. People think it’s funny to come up behind me and grab me (one of PTSD’s major symptoms is hypervigilance with inappropriate reactions, meaning I will scream and possibly cry afterwards) — this isn’t about me being weak, it’s about my brain constantly producing cortisol so my entire body is primed to fight or run at all times, even when I should be perfectly relaxed. My husband has to scrape me off the ceiling if he takes me by surprise or I wasn’t expecting him to be somewhere. I’ve had countless people tell me to “just get over it” or “it was a long time ago”, and if I had asked any of my teachers for a complete syllabus including any A/V stuff they would have laughed in my face, because A/V is a “treat”. It’s also much, much more intense than reading.

    Nowhere have I seen anyone say the things discussed should not be taught. Nowhere! People are just asking for a heads-up to prepare themselves in what is supposed to be a safe learning environment.

  2. Cat Russell
    May 22, 2014 @ 08:21:13

    Triggernometry: Take that yellow TW at the beginning seriously if 9/11 stuff triggers you. There’s a photograph at the end of the footnotes that may not even be from that event that got me. Now I need to get back to my coping stuff. Just didn’t want anyone else to get hit by that unaware.

  3. Angela
    May 22, 2014 @ 08:32:35

    Sunny, I agree completely.

    I think this discussion is definitely one worth having, but I have a strong problem when someone says they favor one form of dealing with it over another – if that works for you as an individual, great! It doesn’t work like that for everyone. We’re all individuals. We all respond differently. To me that reads like ‘I wouldn’t have an abortion, so no one needs to.’ And that frustrates me.

    I also can’t take an article (or author of said article) seriously when she says “the reasons for school shootings have … a lot to do with, basically, the availability of guns and our enshrinement of a culture of violence in the United States.”

    Sure, if there were NO guns in the world school shootings wouldn’t occur (because there are no guns to shoot), however, to correlate the two as guns causing shootings is ridiculous. There are, obviously, severe mental health issues going on in these tragedies and to boil them down to the culture of violence and availability of guns is absolutely absurd. (Sorry for the slight tangent, but this is a bit of a hot button for me.)

    My own triggers are much more easily dealt with than a lot of people I know, but that’s me personally. I don’t expect everyone else to be able to deal with theirs in the same way. Maybe it’s knowing and working with people with severe triggers but I don’t understand why it’s deemed coddling to warn people of potentially traumatizing events – especially in what’s supposed to be a safe learning environment. I think we all realize you’re not going to stop every triggered event, but does that mean we shouldn’t try to empathize with and help those that have them?

  4. Miranda Neville
    May 22, 2014 @ 09:14:45

    Good article on accents and no surprise to me. When people tell me I have an advantage in writing British-set historicals because I was born and brought up in England, I always tell them that England in 1800 was, in many ways, no more like present-day England than America is and that is certainly true of the language.

  5. Fallen Professor
    May 22, 2014 @ 09:18:00

    A similar theory was presented recently regarding French in Quebec. It’s often been seen as a “bastardized” version of Continental French, the result of immigration and isolation. Now, the idea is more that it was actually the French spoken in certain regions of France at the time of migration, which makes sense.

  6. Sirius
    May 22, 2014 @ 09:25:34–blame-us-085916423.html

    Just saw this on Yahoo – something more to add to discussion about warnings in colleges.

  7. Ashlyn Macnamara
    May 22, 2014 @ 10:00:23

    @Fallen Professor: I have lived in Quebec for over 30 years, and I have always heard that the variant of French spoken here (and more specifically in the Lac St Jean region) was closer to old French than any other variety. I have a degree in French literature and some of the spelling in older French bears out the theory in that it mirrors the pronunciation you can hear at times in the older generation. Some of the older dialect stuff has been evening out, though. All anecdotal evidence, but this kind of thing fascinates me.

  8. Lynne Connolly
    May 22, 2014 @ 10:00:27

    “English” accents – the article is a bit superficial, but still a good read. I know it concentrates on RP, which is based on Southern England, especially in the area around London. Not that there aren’t a lot of different accents there as well (Cockney, South London, Essex, etc) but it’s a tad misleading to generalise on the British accent and assume it’s one thing. When people in the USA, particularly in the south, hear me speak, they think my North English accent means I’m Australian.
    The early Americans talked like people from the West Country, because that’s where the Founding Fathers came from. That’s where you get the rolled “r”. They still talk like that. Then the Irish and Scottish immigrants added their bit, not to mention the accents added by people who came in from other countries and learned English in order to fit in.
    The video featuring the late David Crystal was a delight. A god of linguistics, and much missed.

  9. Fallen Professor
    May 22, 2014 @ 10:09:43

    @Ashlyn Macnamara: It is fascinating, isn’t it? I live in Quebec as well, but had learned only standard Continental French before I came. Moving here was a bit of a shock language-wise; it took me months to develop an ear for the dialect. The article I read about language came out maybe a year or so ago, if I remember right.

  10. AMK
    May 22, 2014 @ 10:25:44

    @Lynne Connolly:

    Goodness, you just gave me a heart attack here. But David Crystal isn’t really dead, is he? I can’t find any info on it, and he’s recently updated his blog.

  11. Lynne Connolly
    May 22, 2014 @ 10:47:52

    OMG no! I got him mixed up with Richard Hoggart, whose death occurred earlier this year! I’m so sorry! But Hoggart was another huge influence on culture and language and I miss him just as much as I’d miss David Crystal.

  12. Ridley
    May 22, 2014 @ 10:58:34

    Just put a friggin note on your syllabus when you’re discussing violent material and stop acting like it’s the downfall of society. Christ.

  13. Cat Russell
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:35:34

    Done freaking out now.

    Accents: I spent a year in Wales in college, and another student there had a Southern (USA) drawl like mine, but we were frequently mistaken for Irish students. Just us, not the other American students. The Irish folks I met all spoke very quickly, no drawl, so that seemed really strange to me. Maybe in some parts of Ireland folks drawl?

    Triggers: My son (who graduated from college in Dec.) were talking about this last night. His take on it: put it on syllabi for required reading stuff, otherwise do NOT unless it is a voluntary thing on the professor’s part. For him challenge is a part of the learning process. YMMV.

    He also told me about a (voluntary attendance) poetry reading during which a female student was triggered and ran crying from the room. The poet, reading her own work, apologized for not giving a warning (she usually does but forgot). The most interesting thing to me is that the student who’d left crying came back in *voluntarily* a short while later. Avoidance, even when triggered, is not automatic.

  14. Cat Russell
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:37:48

    son *and I were :/

  15. Sunita
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:40:03

    @Cat Russell: That’s the “Falling Man” AP photo from 9/11. Definitely people should be aware of that. Having it there with no commentary or heads-up makes it worse, in my opinon. I understand why it’s there in terms of the larger point, but without context it feels like a shock-value placement.

  16. MrsJoseph
    May 22, 2014 @ 12:04:33

    The entire trigger article sounded like bitching and moaning to me: “How dare you request I let you know about something that could traumatize you before I do so. That’s your problem, not mine!” Sorry if I would like to be prepared before being traumatized all over again. I need to check to see if she’s an author of commercially available books. She’s one to avoid.

    And the “poor students living in trauma” is a straw man – when you’re poor and live in a dangerous neighborhood – you KNOW this. The location itself is the trigger warning. You are PREPARED for the trauma that will happen because it’s part of that norm.

  17. Angela
    May 22, 2014 @ 12:18:47

    @Cat Russell: I’m really glad I stopped reading before I got to that picture.

    I agree with Sunita that it sounds like shock-value placement.

  18. jenna
    May 22, 2014 @ 12:29:46

    I was caught unaware by that photo and DID NOT appreciate it. Maybe I missed the fact it would be there but it set me off a bit.

    What really does get me is this constant disregard for individual experiences, emotional safety of human beings, and people who are speaking and writing outside of their respective area of expertise with such a holier-than-thou tone of authority. It really gets my goat. I am not a lawyer, I will not be giving a closing argument in front of a grand jury. I am not a heart surgeon, I will not be operating on your heart. If you are not a freaking PHD in psychology who has done a large quantitative research study on PTSD and warning labels, then I don’t want to see it. Because guess what?!? There are people out there who devote their entire lives to studying and working with individuals who have PTSD and anxiety and stress and they can tell you, showing a “rape video” in class so that you can have a festive discussion and class can “get messy” is NOT going to be a magical cure-all for PTSD and warning labels on your books in this world. BOOKS! Now granted, these individuals haven’t figured it all out, life is a work in progress, but as the previous commenter here stated “SURPRISE!MOVIE” is actually not that helpful.

    The issue regarding trauma avoidance in the classroom as a privilege sounds condescending and uninformed. I have worked extensively with this particular population (low SES and PTSD) and I have witnessed that this population is just as likely to be traumatized and triggered as the next. It is true that these individuals my not have the opportunity to opt out of daily traumas, but what is alarming is the way and limited options in which the individuals cope with these traumas. But that is another discussion, for another discussion board.

    I guess I’m not saying we need to go around as crazy censorship people, but maybe try a little compassion? Why spend the energy fighting to not tell someone there is a rape in your book? Save your money, because we all know you’ll just sue me if I get surprised and read it and give you a one-star review on-line for it anyway…

  19. Kate Pearce
    May 22, 2014 @ 13:36:27

    I agree with Lynne about the accent thing-there are so many variations in the UK that 5 miles might make a difference to how you speak so this is rather a generalization. But I have found that my MIL who had a strong Dublin accent was easier for my American friends to understand than I was because I think the Irish and Gaelic accents underpin the current American one.
    Fascinating stuff though. :)

  20. etv13
    May 22, 2014 @ 14:29:26

    @Miranda Neville: I have read Englishwomen on this very site (and Smart Bitches, too) complaining that American writers get Regency dialogue wrong because “We don’t say ‘fall,’ we say ‘autumn.'” To which I am wont to respond, “Tell that to Sir Walter Raleigh and Gerard Manley Hopkins.”

    I love your attitude, and your books. :)

  21. Lynne Connolly
    May 22, 2014 @ 14:36:48

    @etv13: Those two writers are four hundred years apart! With language, there are rarely any hard lines or “we never…” but there are some useful guidelines. concordances help, as do getting into the “rhythm” of the piece.
    and a good etymological dictionary that will give you first usage statistics.
    I bet you can’t find a Regency duke that says “okay”!

  22. Valéria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 15:43:23

    @MrsJoseph: Hi — I just wanted to thank everyone in this thread for your spirited engagement with my blog post. It doesn’t matter whether or not we agree; I’m just happy to have stimulated some discussion. Best, Valéria M. Souza

  23. Valéria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 15:47:10

    To Janet, who briefly reviewed my work in this post—-thank you for sharing my work. Best, Valéria

  24. Valéria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 16:17:02

    @Sunita: Hi — The image actually was not placed there for “shock value.” If you’re curious about why I did place it there, I’d be more than happy to talk to you. Best, Valéria

  25. Valéria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 16:18:30

    @Sunny: I noticed you’re looking for my more engaged response to Lirael. Sorry I couldn’t get it posted quickly enough for your taste; it has been a busy week and I was mostly on mobile, which makes composing substantive comments challenging. Here is a direct link to my more thorough reply to that particular commentator:

  26. Valéria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 16:21:15

    @MrsJoseph: Hi Again — You’ll be pleased to know that I do not have any “commercially available” books. I co-edited one volume on an obscure Portuguese novel that you likely do not care about, and none of the profit garnered from that volume will go to me. It will go to my co-editor, who is in no way responsible for my personal views on “trigger warnings.” Best, Valéria

  27. Ridley
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:00:26

    @Valéria M. Souza: I’ve read your blog post and your comments and I’m glad this disabled woman will never be anywhere near your classes to experience your incredibly patronizing understanding of disability and “reasonable accommodation.” Lord save us all from people who feel they understand what we need better than we do.

  28. coribo25
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:05:07

    @Cat Russell: The falling man is from 9/11. The sad thing about that picture is that the jumpers were all but ignored after the event. Too horrible to contemplate so we pretend it never happened. That’s why I think that picture was included in the discussion.

  29. Valeria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:22:23

    @Ridley: Hi — I’m not really sure who this “we” is and why you are positing it as a group which does not include me. It’s disappointing to see the assumptions made about me as a human being based on one argument I made on one controversial topic. Best, VMS

  30. Ridley
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:24:25

    @Valeria M. Souza: Are you disabled? Do you have PTSD? Do you have panic attacks triggered by traumatic material?

  31. Valeria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:26:02

    @coribo25: That’s one of the reasons, yes. The other deals with Part II of my post, in which I discuss the cultural impact of, among other things, 9/11 and all the events that followed it. When I say things like: “We, as a culture, seem to struggle with conversations about trauma,” this is exactly what I am referring to. Thank you for getting it.

  32. Valeria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:26:50

    @Ridley: The answer to all three of your questions is: “Yes.”

  33. Shiloh Walker
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:27:39

    We are creating an environment where speaking, naming, or showing trauma is becoming more taboo than actually traumatizing another human being through an act of violence

    Interesting ideas… maybe, but I call bullshit.

    I came from a less than privileged background and I don’t need some lecturer dictating time limits to me…does anybody else? Granted, I lived with rough shit and I dealt with it and I’m fine, but I did it on MY terms…nobody else’s, thank you very much.

    If I have ugliness shown at me without warning, I can, have and will continue to deal with it.

    However, people who tell rape victims that their trauma is something they should have relive over and over and over without the simple act of including a line as simple as… , then I call bullshit. This isn’t about silencing those who would speak, name or show trauma and it’s not about helping others, either-that help with include a little bit more understanding…and offering those who suffered whatever a choice.

    That’s what this boils down to…showing empathy to those who have lived through it…and giving them the choice of whether or not they want to read/see whatever is being presented.

    Since nobody, and I mean nobody can speak for another’s experiences, even if they had the exact same experience–and nobody CAN…all experiences are unique unto the individual–then we should all let people decide for themselves whether or not they should have it shoved in their faces.

  34. Ridley
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:33:24

    @Valeria M. Souza: So, why do you discount those who say trigger warnings or content notes help them? Do you like people telling you how you should handle your disability?

  35. Valeria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:34:02

    @Shiloh Walker: Hi — I am not “some lecturer.” I am a human being. I’ve got no problem with people disagreeing with me, but I don’t appreciate the ad hominem attacks or depreciative comments about my character. Nor do I appreciate the assumptions people are making about who I am as a person and what my experiences in life have or have not been.

    If you disagree with what I wrote, then you disagree with what I wrote. Don’t make it a personal attack because that’s just not cool.

    As for the rest of your comment, I pretty much addressed everything you have to say in my original post and I see no point in reiterating it here.

  36. Valeria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:34:53

    @Ridley: I pretty much answered that question in my original post.

  37. Ridley
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:37:38

    @Valeria M. Souza: Haha, ok, thanks for playing. It’s been fun.

  38. Valeria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:39:38

    @Ridley: Thank you for the discussion here.

  39. Ridley
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:43:37

    @Valeria M. Souza: What discussion? You dodged everything, claimed ad hominem, then told us to go read your post. That’s not a discussion.

  40. Valeria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:50:03

    @Ridley: Here’s the thing: I see no point in engaging in a circular discussion where you continue to reiterate your views on “trigger warnings” and I continue to reiterate mine. It seems fairly obvious that we are not going to see eye to eye on the issue. Given that that is the case, I highly doubt a prolonged heated conversation in which we both continue to reiterate our respective arguments is going to be particularly productive. I’ve responded to comments that were genuinely either ad hominems or that seemed to be made by people with broad (and incorrect) assumptions about who I am as a person and what my life experiences have or have not been. Beyond that, if it seemed like this conversation were at all productive—productive in the sense of not just tending towards everyone reiterating the same arguments over and over—I’d be interested in engaging further on a deeper level (as I did with Lireal on my blog, I might add).

  41. Ridley
    May 22, 2014 @ 18:58:59

    @Valeria M. Souza: Then WTF were you thanking us for?

  42. Valeria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 19:01:38

    @Ridley: For engaging with my ideas.

    Thank you again. :-)

  43. Shiloh Walker
    May 22, 2014 @ 19:51:06

    Sure you’re a human being. Apologies if calling you a lecturer made that seem less clear, or came off as perhaps….dismissive.

    Although really, I am being dismissive, because you see, this topic has been done and redone and overdone. Do you have a different slant? Yes.

    But these discussions still dismiss, as I was dismissive of you, that one crucial detail…as we cannot speak to anybody’s experiences of our own, then perhaps, erring on the side of empathy isn’t a bad thing. Let people choose what and how much of their own traumas they choose to face, because they are the best judges of what they can, and are ready to face.

  44. Valeria M. Souza
    May 22, 2014 @ 19:56:38

    @Shiloh Walker: ….I don’t disagree with you, which is why in my blog I advocate not for TWs, but for reasonably accommodating PTSD as a disability.

  45. Sunny
    May 22, 2014 @ 20:40:20


    Bless your heart.

  46. SAO
    May 23, 2014 @ 00:54:19

    I thought American English would have changed more, given that by 1900, the majority of Americans didn’t have their ancestral origins in England. I think at the beginning of 1900s, the largest group was of German origin.

    It would be interesting to see the interaction between written and oral language. As a kid, I certainly made AA Milne rhyme: What is the matter with Mary Jen? She hasn’t an ache and she hasn’t a pen, and it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again.

  47. Anonymously
    May 25, 2014 @ 08:06:47

    This comment comes with an “I know this applies only to me” caveat

    While reading these comments, I pinpointed why trigger warnings are triggering. To me.

    Instead of seeing a new image or depiction of an event and experiencing that in specific, the trigger warning forces me to review the past, traumatising experience instead.

    For me, there HAS to be an easy way to avoid seeing the words in the warning labels. Since it’s far too easy to read any words in set front of me, the text NEEDS to be clearly separated. For example, the boldface 9/11 trigger warning in the post above was unavoidable. I wasn’t yet quite sure what I was reading about before the warning was “in my eyes.” To be fair, it’s because I didn’t parse the word “Triggernometry” quickly enough, which, combined with a sentence in boldface afterward, might have added up to enough to give me a clue that I’d need to avoid the next sentence.

    All I’d ask is that trigger warnings and labels be easily avoidable–and just as easily located for those who appreciate having them. That would be a start to covering various needs.

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