Created By: Rainbow on August 29, 2011 Last Edited By: Rainbow on September 26, 2011

Smart People Speak the Queen's English

Intelligent characters speak with a Received Pronunciation accent, even if they're not English.

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At least in American media, especially cartoons, characters who are supposed to be intelligent often speak Received Pronunciation, even if they aren't explicitly supposed to be from England. This association of RP with smart people probably comes from the days where this was the accent associated with those who were wealthy enough to receive an education at all, and the more general idea that characters who speak RP are authority figures. Upper-Class Twit would be a subversion or inversion of this trope, especially if the twit is English, like in the trope namer. The examples should not include brainy RP-speaking characters who are in a setting where everyone is English unless it's obvious that only the smart characters speak with this accent and the others all have other English accents (ex. Cockney, Oop North, etc). I've divided my examples in two groups, one being characters who actually ARE stated to be from England within the story and characters who are not yet still have the Received Pronunciation accent.

Villainous examples are likely to be Wicked Cultured. However, while this can overlap with Evil Brit, it doesn't have to, as many examples include heroic smart characters. This isn't Fake Brit either (that's where the actor playing a British character isn't actually British him/herself) nor is it I Am Very British (that's where Received Pronunciation is the only English accent in American media, and the characters in that trope don't necessarily have to be smart).

Examples where the character IS English:

Examples where the character's origin is not stated/is stated as not being from England
  • Mr. Longface Caterpillar from Strawberry Shortcake
  • The Bookworm from the Huggabunch
  • Scar from The Lion King (also doubles as Evil Brit)
  • Actual Factual from The Berenstein Bears (is that the correct spelling of the series?)
  • Mr. Chips the computer from Schoolhouse Rock
  • In The Adventures Of Sonic The Hedgehog, when Grounder gets a genius chip, his usual Simpleton Voice changes to Received Pronunciation.
  • Arguably, the dub version of Sailor Mercury from Sailor Moon is given an accent that is at least slightly English. Luna also would fit in the dub since she's an intelligent Mentor Mascot who does a lot of strategy planning for the "Scouts" and is generally portrayed as more intelligent than Artemis.
Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • August 29, 2011
    Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica is a brilliant scientest, and the only living person with a british accent.
  • August 29, 2011
    I'd possibly add Giles Rupert from Buffy The Vampire Slayer since from what I've heard, he sounds like this trope (the actually from England type) but I could be wrong since I've never actually watched it.
  • August 29, 2011
    Wile E Coyote, in those rare few cartoons where he has a voice.
  • August 30, 2011
    Ferb in Phineas And Ferb is an American with a British accent, though he may have picked it up from his father, who IS British.
  • August 31, 2011
    Also frequently overlaps with Affably Evil.
  • September 1, 2011
    The three days limit is up, may I launch it or should it be edited some more?
  • September 1, 2011
    Wait for five hats (meaning five people think it's ready to launch). Three days is the absolute bare minimum, not the target. Needs More Examples, needs to mention related tropes, really should be sorted by medium like most tropes.

    Anyway, I think this may be redundant with I Am Very British. If not, it overlaps heavily. May also overlap with/be partially redundant to Fake Brit. Also see Evil Brit and The Queens Latin (both also Accent Tropes).

    If you launch this now, with this few examples, it's likely to languish as an unhealthy trope until somebody stumbles across it and drags it into the Trope Repair Shop. Better to take your time and do it right the first time. There's no rush.
  • September 1, 2011
    The difference with this one is that it's specifically about the character with that accent standing out as being the smart one or that the character isn't actually English but they were probably given the accent to make them sound smart by the writers.

    And I thought Fake Brit was where the actor isn't English but is playing someone who is? Not about a character who has an English accent who isn't really from there AND the character is not faking it. The characters in this trope aren't faking it (some of them actually are English) although someone who put on an English accent to sound smarter would be taking advantage of the trope. I also think it's separate from Evil Brit because many of the examples I've given are heroic characters, not villains, although it also can overlap with Evil Brit (like with Scar). I Am Very British is about RP being the only British/English accent represented in American media, not about it specifically being used to show how smart a character is.
  • September 1, 2011
    Then you should probably add some comparison of those other tropes to this one, to help make sure that people make the proper distinction, and help them find the trope they're looking for.

    More examples is the main thing I'd want though. Three may be enough for a really rare trope, but this one is pretty common, and should have a lot more examples out there. Unless your goal is simply to say "I launched a trope, yay me", I'd work harder to make this a good trope before launching. I'll see if I can find more examples (the one that leapt to mind is already listed).
  • September 1, 2011
    Arguably, Stewie from Family Guy. There's some controversy as to whether his accent is supposed to be British or Bostonian Brahmin (eg, Charles Emerson Winchester III from MASH, Thurston Howell III from Gilligans Island.)
  • September 11, 2011

    Possibly Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons and Obi wan Kenobi from Star Wars. In the case of the former, I'm not sure if his accent is actually supposed to be English or if it's something different. As for Obi wan, he is a mentor figure so that might count as brainy but not having watched Star Wars, I don't know how much he counts as an intellectual.
  • September 11, 2011
    Ignore this, I thought my post above didn't go through and so I rewrote it but it did show up anyway.
  • September 11, 2011
    Scooby Doo in Monsters Unleashed and Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. in Monsters vs. Aliens.
  • September 12, 2011
    Mentioned by Dave Barry, where he says a person with a British accent could be presenting Hawaii Five O and Americans would think them extremely enlightening.
  • September 13, 2011
    Notable subversion/playing around of this trope (as I understand it anyway) is Charlize Theron's character from Arrested Development. Her English accent is (according to the narrator) the reason that people don't figure out that she's mentally retarded. Of course, Theron isn't even English (she's South African, but is a naturalized American), which is of course lampshaded in the show.
  • September 13, 2011
    Would this also cover how, in literature, only poor people have phonetic accents? For instance, Wuthering Heights and Gone With The Wind give the servants thick Yorkshire/Georgia accents, while the masters speak perfectly normal-written English (as opposed to the thick dialect that even rich Yorkshire nobles/Southern gentry would have).
  • September 13, 2011
    Gaius Baltar is an interesting example, since in-universe it's established that he speaks with received pronunciation (presumably a Caprican accent, though most Capricans on the show sound like Canadians or North Americans, it's possible there are multiple Caprican accents) in order to disguise his actual, native Aerilon (Yorkshire-ish) accent, which is apparently perceived in much the same way as northeastern stereotype a southern drawl.

    Also, just because he's the only main character with such an accent doesn't mean he's the only human being in the show with one. We've heard plenty of received pronunciation in BSG, just not from major characters.
  • September 26, 2011
    @Tzintzuntzan: I think that sounds like a different trope entirely, like a sub-trope of Funetik Aksent. This one is specifically about brainy characters speaking RP, and your examples are more general and would be something like "Rich People Speak Standard English." Especially since I don't think anyone in Gone With The Wind (one of the examples you mentioned) would have spoken with English accents anyway (whether RP or other ones). However, there's also the stereotype of the butler who speaks RP too, as a contrasting trope.

    I'm probably going to launch this today.
  • September 26, 2011
    Subverted in Portal 2, where the British-accented Wheatley is ridiculously stupid, and much stupider than GLaDOS who speaks in an American-accented Auto Tune voice. The developers had him played by a British actor in order to trick players into thinking he was smart and complying more readily with his demands as your Exposition Fairy, until he leaves your party and his stupidity becomes far more apparent.