[Ads-l] Is There a Scow in Moscow?

Fri Dec 30 12:43:44 EST 2016

I heard someone on NPR this morning pronounce the name of the Russian capital with the final vowel sound heard in scow, cow, and brow.  I usually pronounce it with the final vowel sound heard in low, snow, and tow.  Resorting to the native pronunciation is no use, since Muscovites use the name Москва́, typically transliterated and pronounced as "Moskva."

There seems to be a diversity of opinion on the issue.  I looked at some of the dictionaries and other sources linked by Onelook.com.  The following favor the "cow" pronunciation (* means that the "oh" pronunciation is also given as an alternative):  Oxford (North American English)*; American Heritage*; Wiktionary (U.S.)*; Webster's New World; Free Dictionary*.

However, the following favor the "oh" pronunciation (with * meaning that "cow" is given as an alternative):  Merriam-Webster*; Oxford (British & World English); Collins; Wiktionary (received pronunciation); Wordsmyth*; Infoplease*; Dictionary.com*; Wikipedia*; Rhymezone; thefreedictionary.com.

This seems to suggest that I can get away with using either pronunciation in the U.S., although I had better use "oh" when traveling abroad, but I still would be interested in others' thoughts on this.

John Baker

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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