Linguists Examine Southern Accent Kevin Spacey Uses as Frank Underwood on ‘House of Cards’

In the Vox video “Why Kevin Spacey’s accent in House of Cards sounds off” and accompanying article “What linguists say about Kevin Spacey’s bizarre Southern accent on House of Cards,” linguists analyze the southern accent that actor Kevin Spacey affects as South Carolina native Frank Underwood in the political drama House of Cards and why it’s an accent from a bygone era.

There are a couple of distinct features that make Underwood “sound” Southern to some people. One of these traits is his “R-lessness,” which an expert would call his “non-rhoticity. …This is when r at the ends of syllables is pronounced like a vowel or deleted, so that car and cars sound like cah and cahs. …You can hear it in the way Underwood says words like “uninformed” and “careless.” …[Dr. Erik] Thomas explained that the people who use this feature are older, and that Underwood would have to be born before WWII in order for this accent to make sense. Underwood, of course, is supposed to be around 55 years old.