route
Posted: 19 August 2019 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I have only heard one pronunciation when it is used for interstate highways (sounds like “root”), but it is pronounced with the sound of “out” (American pronunciation) in other usages, i.e. paper route. Just how and when did the two pronunciations take place in America?

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Posted: 19 August 2019 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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A number of the citations in the OED from the 18th and early-19th century have the word spelt rout, which leads me to suspect that the word was routinely pronounced to rhyme with out in Rightpondia during that period. Presumably in Britain the pronunciation was ‘corrected’ to conform with contemporary French during the Victorian period. This was a distinct trend; around that time venerable pronunciations of names and words such as ‘Eddard’, ‘Annis’ and ‘cowcumber’ were deemed sloppy and ignorant, and tidied up to reflect their spelling - Edward, Agnes and cucumber.

I don’t know how long the out pronunciation hung on in educated British English. In a set of lyrics for the regimental march of the Connaught Rangers written in 1890 by an officer of the regiment, route is made to rhyme with doubt; but that may just be for Irishism - it also has tea rhyming with way, leap with step, easy with crazy, etc. Also, it’s quite possible that the military could have retained the old pronunciation as a technical term long after it had been abandoned in general British use.

Meanwhile, presumably the Americans went on saying it as they always had done. The OED suggests that the use of ’Route [numeral]’ to designate a major highway was influenced by the numbered French Routes nationales, which would account for the adoption of the French pronunciation.

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Posted: 19 August 2019 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Here’s map of the different pronunciations in the US.

I, from southern New Jersey, pronounce it both ways interchangeably.

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Posted: 19 August 2019 08:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It’s curious how the root 66 pronunciation hasn’t spread to other transport related terms in the U.S.
I once did product development for routing software, with the out pronunciation.
Also, people in the shipper and carrier worlds often speak of routing (out) something, i.e., sending it by a pre-determined
path.

If I were to generalize, (1) I would automatically be wrong some of the time, and (2) I would suggest that the out
pronunciation is more common with verbal usages, while the root style is limited to nouns.

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