I'm writing a story is set in Massachusetts in 1947, one of the main characters is living there and has been for a decade but was educated in the UK. I'm trying to work out what his language is like as there needs to be a blend of English and American but I'm getting stuck on what type of slang terms or colloquialisms he would use.

The character is 32, male, educated at Cambridge and then an American college, living in a coastal town between Boston and Portland although I don't think the exact location matters as much as him using period appropriate language- the last thing I want is for him to use slang which didn't come out until the 50's although older terms are fine.

If anyone knows American slang for the time then I'd be glad of the help!

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    This reads like much more of a history/research question than a worldbuilding question. It's also particularly broad. Listing all the possible words that could be used, is a monumental task. That's even before you start examining what words your character would use. In Massachusetts there are many class signifiers that make their way into someone's accent.
    – sphennings
    Dec 20, 2021 at 16:46
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    I'm not going to challenge prior research since this was migrated from another stack that doesn't share that expectation. Can anyone point OP to examples of 1947 slang, or better yet sources for contemporary slang?
    – MCW
    Dec 20, 2021 at 19:22
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    Googling '1940s slang us' brings up a lot of hits about slang in the 1940s. Reading novels and watching movies from the immediate post-war era will likely bring up a number of options.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 20, 2021 at 20:57
  • Jon's suggestion above is spot on and implementing it sounds like a good question to bring to your local librarian. But I would be careful in picking the right book, you likely don't want to be channeling Philip Marlowe and not just because that's set in California. Dec 21, 2021 at 8:24
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    I particularly like John's suggestion on the practical grounds that the result should look natural to anyone used to watching movies and reading books from the era, which is likely to be a lot more people than those who are actual linguists specializing in it.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 21, 2021 at 21:37

1 Answer 1


It sounds like that person would be a good candidate for having a Mid-Atlantic accent, particularly if they are wealthy or highly-educated. It was sort of a pidgin accent used by upper-class Americans, entertainers, and/or those who spent a lot of time living in both the Northeast and the UK. It was actually the prestige American accent until that status was supplanted by American Midlands after WWII. Proponents at the time also tried to sell it as "World English".

Speakers that you can likely study clips of on Youtube are FDR, George Plimpton, Dick Cavet, and early John Kerry.

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