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August 18, 2004
Voices In My Head

Maybe I'm obtuse, but I only now have noticed something. John Kerry seems to have almost entirely shed his Boston accent.

Having been a linguist, perhaps I have an ear for these things. Nonetheless, I never consciously noticed Kerry's near-accentlessness until today. Maybe it's because his other speaking habits are so ponderously annoying, or because what he says makes me want to tune him out completely. If you can bear to do so, listen to his voice recorded during his 1971 Senate testimony, and compare it to one of his speeches today. The difference is astonishing.

OK, granted, he's lived in Washington DC for nigh unto 20 years. But I can think of a whole roster of politicians (past and present) who spent decades in Washington yet never lost their regional accents. Jesse Helms, Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy, Phil Graham... the list goes on and on.

One is tempted to think that maybe Kerry has actively cultivated a neutral accent. Perhaps it's because he knows that "Boston liberal" is not an image of himself that he wants portrayed during his campaign.

Update, 8/19/04: Greyhawk noticed the same thing, and now has a link to a video of Kerry on the Dick Cavett show. Go. See.

Posted by Russ at 12:52 PM, August 18, 2004 in Politics

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I think his accent that was prominent back then was contrived to make him sound like JFK. I watched the CNN re-play of the debate with John O'Neill in 1971 on the Dick Cavett Show, and the more O'Neill got on his nerves, the less "Bostonian" Kerry sounded.

Just thinkin' out loud here.

Posted by: Jim at August 18, 2004 11:04 PM

Interesting. I suppose it's possible.

So either he was a phony back then, or a phony now.

Or both.

Posted by: Russ at August 18, 2004 11:29 PM

Took you a while to finally reach that final conclusion, there, Russ....

Posted by: Brian B at August 19, 2004 06:35 PM

And that is why there's a sign outside my house that reads "Slow Child at Play."

Posted by: Russ at August 19, 2004 10:38 PM

JFKerry(D) used to Irish too... until people found out he's not...

"For those of us who are fortunate to share an Irish ancestry, we take great pride in the contributions that Irish-Americans" Senate floor statement by John Kerry, 3/18/86

"(John Kerry) has never indicated to anyone that he was Irish and corrected people over the years who assumed he was" -- Kerry spokeswoman Kelly Benander said in Feb, 2003

Posted by: DANEgerus at August 20, 2004 05:13 PM

Kerry decided to have an accent before he decided against it.

It is no surprise to us that the man who does and doesn't own an SUV, who was and wasn't in Cambodia, who is and isn't a liberal, who did and didn't throw his medals, who does and doesn't support Michael Moore, who did and didn't vote for the 87 billion, may or may not have an accent!

Posted by: Beth and Terry at August 22, 2004 12:10 AM