saying "ah" for "awe"

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OHIO.EDU
Sat Sep 30 17:05:16 UTC 2006

No, I'm sure he means 'ah' substituted for 'awe'--now widespread in the
mid-region of the East and virtually everywhere west of the
Mississippi.  And the North is not uniform anymore either: Minnesota is
mainly ah-pronouncing now (admittedly west of the Mississippi, but
'awe'-pronouncing under Northeast influence until 20-30 years ago).  For
merger people, the phoneme represented by 'awe' simply no longer exists;
Jon's students and mine mean it when they say they can't hear it!  So
there's no "phonic form consistency"; and consider to/too/two,
there/their/they're, etc. etc. when you object to the creation of "words
that sound alike but are spelled differently."  And no, it's not a fad;
mergers (almost never) unmerge.

(Jonathan, I know you were funning with Tom on the 'substitution'
issue--but don't confuse a newcomer!  And I see you've already clarified
your joke, but I'll send this anyway, just to add a bit more to what Ron said.)


At 12:52 PM 9/30/2006, you wrote:
>I think you mean "awe" substituted for "ah." (See earlier discussion,
>though in the light of that there's no way to know what you mean !)
>   In the North, "cot" and "caught" seem always to have been
> differentiated.  In the barbaric rest of the country, they fell together
> in the quite distant past.
>   Many "aw"-sayers profess an inability to hear the difference between
> "cot" and "caught" even when I go out of my way to demonstrate.  And they
> mean it, because they're getting graded on phonemic ID.
>   I grew up saying "Ahregahn."  There's a character in Dos Passos's
> _Three Soldiers_ (1921) who talks about the "Oregon Forest" meaning the
> "Argonne Forest."  I had to switch when a girl from Ahregahn took great
> exception and made me say "Awregin" like she did.
>   JL
>Tom Zurinskas <truespel at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
>   ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
>Sender: American Dialect Society
>Poster: Tom Zurinskas
>Subject: saying "ah" for "awe"
>I'm hearing the phoneme "ah" substituted for "awe" all the time now. What's
>going on. Is it a fad or what? Not good. It gets away from phonic form
>consistency and creates words that sound alike but are spelled differently,
>mean different things, and initially were meant to be spoken differently,
>like "cot" and "caught", "tock" and "talk".
>How is it in your neck of the woods?
>Tom Z
>See and the 4 truespel books at
>The American Dialect Society -
>Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. Make PC-to-Phone Calls to the US (and 30+
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