Herb Stahlke hstahlke at GW.BSU.EDU
Fri Aug 24 16:57:36 UTC 2001

There's a Mazda ad on TV currently in which a formally dressed young boy says /zUmzUm/ as a Mazda goes zooming by.  In the background, a male vocal group that does not sound like an American dialect (a colleague thinks it's Ladysmith), sings "zoom zoom zoom" also using the lax vowel.  The first OED citation for "zoom" is 1898, and the only pronunciation I've found in several dictionaries (OED2, AHD3, LDOCE, etc.) has the tense vowel. Even William Espy's Words to Rhyme With gives no words in -/Um/.  /Um/ does occur in some English dialects in words like "broom" and "groom".  In my own SEMichigan speech "room" laxes if it's the second element of a compound ("bedroom, livingroom").  Since "zoom" is imitative and comes into the language long after the partial laxing of /u/ in Early Modern English, where is /zUm/ coming from?  How widespread is it?  Does it have a lax vowel in this ad because it's reduplicated?  Why did the producers choose the lax vowel consistently?

Herb Stahlke
Ball State University
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