A Guide to Pronouncing Easy Words for Those Who Can't

I can’t figure out out to pronounce “Mary,” “marry” and “merry” differently from each other.
“Murray” and “moray” are different, sure, but the first three are pronounced the same here in the Mid-Atlantic.
Yeah, I’m sitting here mumbling “Mary - marry - merry” over and over to myself. The kids think I’m nuts. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ll try to explain, but it’s not easy on a keyboard… and, as I say, I think certain vowel sounds just don’t exist in some areas.

Mary has a long vowel sound like ai in “air”.

Marry has a short vowel sound like a in “mat”

Merry has a short vowel sound like e in “met”

I meant to address this one, too. You’d hate it here in Baltimore, Colophon. Or, rather, Bawl’mer. There are so many mis-pronounced words around here (that are just Baltimorisms), you’d be tearing your hair out within five minutes.

That wet stuff that comes out of the tap? Woo-der.
The place where the tap is? The zink.
What you do in the zink? Warsh the dishes.
Where kids sit in school? A dest.
The thing that sticks up out of your roof? A chimmbley.
That veggie that’s good mashed? Buh-tatah.
That stuff in your car that needs to be changed every 3,000 miles? Awl.
What you cut the grass with? A paramour (power mower).
Where you go for vacation? Downey ay-shun (Down to the ocean).

So the first syllable in both those words sound the same? Or is the one in “nuclear” held just a little bit longer to represent the fourth “o”?


Rural: roor’ schwa-l, where “oo” is the same as the “oo” in “took,” and I’m sure you know what the schwa is. That’s according to the American Heritage part of dictionary.com. The Webster part gives us Ru"ral. I split the difference: roor’rschwa-l. You have it beginning with “rue” as in “rue the day,” which neither source seems to approve of.

Nuclear: n-oo- and ny-oo-, where “-oo-” is the same as the vowel sound in “boot,” are acceptable to both sources. Not “know-clear,” as you seem to be suggesting.

But that’s not why I’m here. Since we’re giving pronounciation advice, how the hell does one properly pronounce “tâtonnement”?

Most people in the New England states say AHNT, not ANT. I’m not sure if there are parts of the south where it’s common to pronounce it AHNT, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were.

It’s a good way to tell if someone is from New England, since many of us don’t have obvious tell-tale accents, but I think you’ll find precious few New Englanders saying ANT for aunt. Can’t vouch for those folks close to New York, though. They’re probably not ***real ** * New Englanders anyway…

I find it difficult to work up any kind of vitriol over regional (mis)pronunctiations.
I think part of the beauty and poetry of the English language is in the variety. I find it absolutely fascinating that some people say “aks” for “ask,” “nucular” for “neclear”, “warsh” for “wash,” “sumfin” for “something,” etc… (beit “et cetera,” “et setra” or" exetra.")

Anyhow, a little bit of Chicagonics for youse guys:

Also, contrary to my in-laws, it’s not pronounced jew-ry.

My mother, bless her soul, could not say the word ‘wash’ to save her life. Somehow she managed to insert an invisible ‘r’, saying it ‘warsh’. We teased her so relentlessly that she finally substituted the world ‘launder’, even where it was laughably inappropriate (as in laundering the dishes).

She also had the bad taste to mispronounce ‘forty’, as in ‘Highway 40’, one of the main highways/freeways running through the city, as ‘farty.’ Never could break her of that one.

And my lovely step-mother pronounces the word ‘five’ as ‘fie’, as in “Fee, Fie, Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman.” She, however, does not like to be teased about it.

Those wacky Midwesterners. :wink:

Neither could I, at first. I sat here for about a minute chanting the words to myself and wondering what the hell Colophon was on about. Then I remembered that he’s in the UK. So, I re-read his post with a (mental) British accent. Bingo! If his explanation above doesn’t seal it for you, put on your best Patrick Stewart impression and repeat the words again. That ought to do it.

I guess I gotta fall into the “who the fuck cares?” camp. If you can understand the speaker, who the fuck cares? Correcting someone’s pronounciation, except in cases where meaning is actually unclear, is just silly pedantry.

Peecan, peecawn, p’can, p’cawn. It’s all the same damned nut.


Yes, I over-emphasized the rural pronunciation. The -roooo isn’t extended that much at all.

Oh! I can’t believe I forgot to mention the one that drives me nuts more than any other pronunciation. More than aks even!


WTF is melk??? Or how about MELKshakes?

Dear god people, either STFU or learn how to pronounce your "I"s. The word is mIlk. m - ILK. m I LK.

Yeah, but these are the same people who buy a “chester draws” for the bedroom. I even saw them advertised as such when I lived out there.

I’ve always said “warter.”

And while I say “cleer” for clear - I say “New-clee-are” for Nuclear.

Oh and I say “Jew-el-er-ee” for Jewelry.

You may “wash” in “Washington” but please don’t “warsh” in “Warshington.”

You may slide down a steep hill going “hee, hee, hee!” and then become ill but that doesn’t make it a “hee-ill.”

Furniture may be fun but that doesn’t make it “funiture.”

Changing a dirty diaper may make you want to die but that doesn’t make it a “die-ah-per.”

“Bat-trees” are what grow on Bruce Wayne’s stately grounds. They don’t make flashlights work.

This is me. Try as I might, I cannot hear a difference between “pin” and “pen”. I pronounce them the exact same way. I’m sure I do the same thing to all short “i” and short “e” words.

BTW, I’m Southern which might have something to do with it.

I don’t mind when poeple have accents that make them use strange versions of the vowels, or even things like “warsh.” But pronunciations like nukular drive me nuts. Another one that’s very common and not mentioned so far is masonary. Really, there’s no such word. It’s MASONRY.

The one that really bother me is how a friend pronounced “pseudo.” He made it sound like some sort of leather product, as in blue pseudo shoes.

I’ve long figured that the insistence of some Americans on pronouncing ev-e-ry sin-gle syl-lab-le of a word comes from our our melting pot past. Instead of learning to speak “posh” to rise in social standing, as a lower-class English person might, a person who wanted to be understood outside his own ethnic ghetto would learn to enunciate clearly while flattening the rest of his pronounciation to the local norm. Areas that had long been settled by a single ethnic group, like the South and far Northeast, would have a norm closer to the pronounciation of the original settlers while the areas in the middle of the country, settled later and with no one group predominating, would have a flatter, clearer enunciation so the Germans, Italians, and Irish could all understand each other. Where isolated single-nationality pockets existed well into the twentieth century you get stronger accents but those accents flatten as each generation strives to fit in with the rest of the American population and those people tend to look down on people who are not making the same effort they are.

In other words, Trigonal Planar is a “climber.” evil grin

:smiley: It’d be fun if it was: There’s urban, and then there is roooooraaalllllllll! Yeee-haw! ::fire’s six shooter into the air::

Actually, I don’t care all that much about pronunciation myself, but as someone who grew up in western PA, I’ve never forgotten the friend who, while trying to explain why he didn’t care to date women from the region any more, once said, “At first they seem all right, but then they open their mouths and you’uns you to death.”

Also, while I’m thinking about it, while watching some baseball-related thing on ESPN the other night, I was inexplicably driven half-mad by John Kruk repeatedly announcing how “ath-a-letic” he thought one player or another was.