Elmer Fudd, the bald-headed, baggy pants Looney Tunes character who hated and incessantly hunted Bugs Bunny, always pronounced the letters “v” and “r” as “w.” His trademark style of speaking has been imitated by show business giants like Robin Williams and was the model for one of the recurring characters in the Big Bang Theory television show, with Barry Kripke who talks like Elmer. In a disparaging way, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh likened candidate Mitt Romney to Elmer Fudd during a 2012 campaign broadcast.
However, the way Elmer Fudd speaks– with so many w’s in his sentences — was entirely understandable, funny to most ears, and he was cast in dozens of notable cartoons. A key point to consider is that Elmer was undaunted by how he sounded to others. His focus was entirely on where the “wabbit” was in his tireless pursuit of Bugs Bunny, his sworn enemy.
In Miami, where I’ve lived since I was 17, we say everyone has an accent. From the Northeast U.S., we hear the word talk pronounced as “tawk.” From the Midwest, the broad a’s become ChiCAHHHHgo. There are the clipped sounds of Caribbean, and the fast-paced pronunciation of the Latin Americans, and sounds of tourists from every other continent.
As a speaking coach, I’ve found that both executives for whom English is a second language and native born English speakers are sometimes fearful and uncomfortable as public speakers because they believe their accent is interfering with understandability or their credibility as an expert. If it is, I advise them to get professional accent reduction help.
For most, however, I encourage you to accept and embrace your distinctive way of saying the things that are important to you. Think of Elmer Fudd’s self-confidence and don’t allow how you sound to yourself to get in the way of your being a memorable speaker.
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