Pronunciation of 'ate'?

After watching a lot of British tv lately, in particular QI, I can’t help noticing the pronunciation of ‘ate’ tending to rhyme with ‘met’, rather than ‘mate’. So it sounds as “ett” or sometimes “att” but the long ay is gone. Is this a regional thing? :confused:

I think I use both forms, though probably “ett” more commonly. I wonder if there is some subtle rule for which to use when.

This article says that, according to the British Library, “et” is an “old-fashioned” pronunciation of “ate”.

I’m surprised by this. I had always thought that “et” was a slang word from Northern England.

It’s also the way we say it in the US south of the Mason Dixon line.

I’ve always thought of “ett” as the “proper” pronunciation, with “ate” being a “spelling pronunciation” that is growing in popularity (and which I admit I often use myself). My dictionary lists both pronunciations, with “ett” first. (British)

I use both forms; I think I normally use ‘et’ , and save ‘ate’ for when I emphasise the word.

“I ‘et’ chips earlier”; “I can’t believe you ‘ate’ a pigeon!”

In America if you pronounce ‘ate’ any other way than exactly the same as the number ‘eight’ you’ll sound like a hillbilly. :smiley:

Here’s a conversation perfectly intelligible to Texans:

Person A: y’et yet?

Person B: squeet!

I thought *et *was also supposed to be the posh pronunciation. Or was that ain’t?

Are these the same people who say “dimocratic sinators”?

(I don’t recall ever hearing “ett,” or perhaps not to the extent I’d notice it.)

Yup. ett is purty commun. Oddly if the word were actually ‘ett’ it might come out as ‘ay-ett’. They often turn the soft e into 2 syllables. Like my name Ed, it comes out as ‘Ay-ed’.

Is “ett” really standard throughout the American South, or more localized in certain parts of the the Appalachian South.

I was always taught that it rhymes with “eight”, and that’s how everone I know pronounces it. But I have an audiobook of Ian McKellan reading The Odyssey, and throught he pronounces it “et”. I don’t think he’s trying to be arcaic or regional – I suspect that’s the way he was brought up to pronounce it. It also sounds “Hillbilly”, and I’ve been told that a lot of those pronunciations retain the old English style in both wiord choice and pronunciation (like “vittles”).


I wonder if all these people who are insisting that they always say “eight” would find that they really do, if they actually listened to themselves talking when they are not thinking about it.

You can easily drive people insane with this sort of question, but I can pretty confidently say that most people I know do indeed pronounce it “eight”. McKellan’s pronunciation of “et” sounds weird to me precisely because it is so unusual. It stands out every time I hear it. I don’t notice it when I hear other people speaking. You might argue that I don’t really hear/notice my own pronunciation (which, I concede, has much truth in it). But if everyone around me was saying “et” instead of “eight”, I wouldn’t be bothered by and take notice of McKellan’s use of “et”.

I think it centers more around mid-west south like Arkansas. Appalachian too I suppose because it’s common hillbilly talk. The Ay-ed thing is real solid in Mississippi, but I’ve heard it all over the south. Sometimes it’s Ee-ed.

In northern Arkansas, at least, I mostly hear it in people a generation or two above me. And, even then, they know they’re not saying it “correctly,” the same way they know that sit and set aren’t “supposed” to be homophones.

Is this a joke that I’m not getting? As far as I’m aware, “dimocratic sinators” would be pronounced exactly the same as “democratic senators” in Americanese.

Most people wouldn’t say ‘git’ instead of ‘get’ except as some lazy speech. But in parts of the south they’d have trouble pronouncing it otherwise since it’s so ingrained. For some people it turns to ‘gee-it’.

Not in “General Americanese.” That is usually found in “Southern Americanese.”

See the Pen-Pin Merger.