Filed under: Entertainment, TV | Tags: Audrey Hepburn, Bronx, John McWhorter, Madmen, New York, Peggy Olson, People, Robert McNamara
John McWhorter is right that Peggy Olson’s line “I’m in a good place right now” is probably anachronistic, though I’d be curious to hear more about beatnik lingo of the late ’50s and early ’60s. But McWhorter is wrong about this:
In Sunday’s Mad Men episode, therefore, when Jennifer Crane gets up and takes her husband over the Drapers’ table saying “I want to” see how they are, crisply pronouncing want separately from to, it’s false. That woman, even with her poise and aggressive social aspirations, would have said wanna just as we all do when we are not reading from text or laying down an answering mcahine message. The want to would have been all the more unlikely from someone who had had a drink or two (especially the stiff ones still ordinary on Mad Men as opposed to today’s Chardonnay).
The clear pronunciation of the final “t” and the separation of the two words are exactly the way my mother talks. She grew up in the Bronx in the ’50s and would have been 21 in 1963. I’ve subsequently met other women who grew up working-class Jewish in New York in the ’50s, like Jennifer Crane, and many of them have exactly this deliberately crisp elocution. That’s because they wanted to sound like Audrey Hepburn. It’s aspirational pronunciation, and it is exactly what one would have expected to hear from someone like Jennifer Crane trying to fit in at a country-club dinner in 1963. (My mother also tried to teach me to pronounce the “h” in “whale”, to enunciate the “t” in “forty” rather than letting it slide to a “d”, and so forth.)
On the show, Roger, Don, and the other men are less crisp and artificial in their pronunciation than the women. And that’s right on, too. Men, like JFK and Robert S. McNamara (in the example McWhorter uses), didn’t have to be quite so careful about how they talked. Women did.
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