It's now been over a year since Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle announced they were stepping away from their senior roles as working royals, in favour of a quieter life in California's sunnier climes. But has that major move impacted on the way the Duke of Sussex talks? Jennifer Dorman, an expert sociolinguist at leading language learning app Babbel, took a deep dive...
First up, it makes sense that we start with the couple's new podcast, Archewell Audio, named after their son Archie (who even made a cameo in their festive episode). So, any clues there that Harry's accent is changing? A few, says Dorman. "The expression ‘You guys’ comes up, an American phrase that Harry used to address listeners in both the podcast teaser and during the podcast," she explains.
"In the premiere episode, he even uses the typically American term ‘awesome’ – something which elicits a giggle from his American wife when used," Dorman also notes (see here for Meghan's comments on her husband's accent). Towards the end of the programme, Harry also uses a couple of phrases that us Brits wouldn't typically associate with the reserved royal stereotype. "Harry says things like ‘love always wins’ and ‘the power within us’: two very positive, uplifting phrases which many of us would associate with the optimistic attitude of our cousins over the pond," says Dorman.
And what exactly is the science behind Harry's newfound slang? "As humans, we've a built-in desire to make connections with the people around us. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is by changing the way we speak, using different words or pronouncing things in new ways - often without even realising it," Dorman reveals, adding that this can result in us speaking with an entirely different accent to the one we'd usually use, depending on who we’re socialising with (something also known as cultural frame switching).
"Studies show that engaging in this behaviour - mimicking the accent of others - increases comprehension and social connection with the people around us," Dorman adds. She also gives another example of a time that Harry favoured an American term; when he used the saying 'pop the hood' when describing a car bonnet during a Zoom interview, back in October.
"It’s a more casual way of speaking that defies the usual rules of grammar - which might suggest he’s developing a more laid back, American way of speaking," explains Dorman.
Dorman also refers to a video of Harry saying "pass the mic" and frequently using "parta" in the below video for the Diana Awards. "This almost sounds like the beginning of an accent, especially since it happens towards the end of his speech, where he might be feeling more relaxed."
However, rest assured there's a long way for Harry to go yet before we can officially say he's 'done a Joss Stone' and ditched his British accent entirely. "It could be that Prince Harry has started to borrow American phrases and words in order to fit in and be understood better by American press, and this could become so habitual that he uses these words when speaking to Brits and Americans alike," says Dorman. "Or he may just be mimicking his wife: interacting at a close level with someone all the time can cause us to pick up their speaking habits."
At this stage in his life, she adds, it’s unlikely that he will completely lose his British accent or change the way he speaks. "Think of the likes of Simon Cowell, Adele and Gordon Ramsay – they've spent significant amounts of time living and working in the United States, but have retained their accents and a largely British way of speaking and interacting with the world. It’s likely Harry will go down that path."
Et voila! Now, if you guys could just pass the mic that'd be, like, totally awesome?
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