It's widely believed that Boston Brahmin deliberately kept up their British accents as a way of displaying their elite English pedigrees. That may be true, but research by University of Michigan scholar Richard Bailey suggests it was Bostonians who first started dropping the letter 'R' from words when they spoke, and only then did the practice actually spread back to England.
That's just one of the revelations in Bailey's new book "Speaking American: A History of English in the United States."
Sadly, Richard Bailey died last year before he could see his work published. But linguist Ben Zimmer examined Bailey's work closely and joined Radio Boston to discuss Bailey's findings.
- Ben Zimmer, language columnist, The Boston Globe
Reprinted from Speaking American: A History of English in the United States by Richard W. Bailey with permission from Oxford University Press, Inc. Copyright (c) 2011 by Richard W. Bailey.
This segment aired on February 27, 2012.