Did we speak more properly 50 years ago?

Not in America, anyway, says the Dialect Blog. But TV may have been an exception.

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The Dialect Blog poses the question, except that it puts “properly” in quotes, to make clear that all is relative in the shape-shifting realm of language and usage.

The author, Ben Trawick-Smith puzzles over the show “Mad Men,” where he discerns hardly any New York accents, just a fanciful array of period dialects.

It turns out he isn’t the first to notice. He quotes a New Republic article by John McWhorter that likewise considers the curious speech habits of the series.

McWhorter says the TV writers “seem to have an idea that in the early sixties, people spoke more ‘properly’ than they do now. And they did, in formal and public settings. Until the late sixties, there was a sense that language was to be cossetted and dressed up in public in the same way that one wore deodorant.”

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