free variation in pronunciation

Tue Apr 3 02:55:34 UTC 2001

Snake and all:

> Personally, I always rhyme it with "bout" when I use it as a verb. Naming
a road
> (as Route 66), I always rhyme it with "boot." Using it as a common noun, I
> either way.
>   I come from Virginia, and it gives me the creeps when somebody pronunces
> "t" sound in often.
> Somebody else mentioned words which can begin with either e- or i-, and
> thus be pronounced dufferently, but couldn't think of any examples. I
> he/she was driving at words begiining with en- or in-, such as
> Hasn't that distinction in pronunciation been pretty much lost, at least
in the
> US? Does the "in-" variation in such words tend to be British, and the
> American? I tend to spell them en- and pronounce them In-.

This discussion touches me personally, as I've heard both variants of *all*
the words discussed.  I was born and raised in Seattle, and while I've lived
elsewhere for a time, my home is in, you guessed it, Seattle.  Of all the
words you mention, the only one that might be a "free" variant, around here
is "often".  Usually, it's pronounced without the "t" sound.  But I've heard
"off-ten" here, but nowhere else that I can recall.  As for the others, my
parents, also basically from the Pacific Northwest, started out with
"ee-ther/nee-ther" but switched their pronunciations when they went to a
"fancy" college back east.  I think when they were going to college, all
people west of the Mississippi were considered, well, "provincial", and to
be accepted, they thought they had to change their pronunciations.  I grew
up with eye-ther/ny'ther", but never adopted that pronunciation myself.  My
grandmother said "route" to rhyme with boot, but she came from upstate New
York, originally.
Anne Gilbert

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