In English as a Second Language, ESL, Learn English, Vocabulary

10 Words You’ll Pronounce Differently Around the U.S.

If you’re learning English as a second language, one of the first things you’ll probably notice is how weird it is. The grammar can be challenging, the vocabulary is pretty big, and pronunciation is often tricky. What makes the pronunciation even more difficult is that many words are pronounced differently depending on where the speaker lives or was raised. And if you want to get even crazier, regionally some words are just flat out different. So for a little fun this week, we’ve compiled a list of 10 words you’ll hear pronounced differently around the U.S.

The South Feels Like a Different World Sometimes

Since we are located in a southern state, let’s start with a few words that are near and dear to our hearts.

  1. Pecan – for those of you unfamiliar with this glorious tree nut, we suggest you try one as soon as possible, allergies permitting. They’re delightful in oh so many ways.
      • [pick-AHN] – usually heard in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and a few other nearby states
      • [pee-KAHN] – heard widely throughout the U.S.
      • [PEE-can] – heard in the northeast and some eastern coastal states
      • [PEE-kahn] – this one’s pretty limited to Michigan and Wisconsin, bless their hearts

     

  2. Group of people – sometimes when addressing a group of two or more people, you’ll hear a speaker use a different pronoun altogether. In Texas and other parts of the South, it will almost always be y’all.
      • Y’all [YAWL] – Texas and other southern states
      • You guys – most everyone else
      • You all – Kentucky…just Kentucky

     

  3. Crawfish/Crayfish/Crawdad – this one is partly about pronunciation and partly about regional word choice. Crawfish look like tiny little lobsters found in lakes or streams.
      • Crawfish [CRAH-fish] – southern states
      • Crayfish [CRAY-fish] – northern states
      • Crawdad [CRAW-dad] – midwest and Pacific NW

     

  4. Soft Drinks – we all know those fizzy, sugary drinks that are abundant across America as something different.
      • Soda [SO-duh] – this seems to be a coastal thing, found on both the east and west coasts and a few other spots in between
      • Pop [PAWP] – you’ll hear pop most often in the northern region of the U.S.
      • Coke [CŌK] – This is definitely a southern thing. If someone asks you if you want a Coke, be prepared to then be asked what kind of Coke you want. Acceptable answers can range from Dr. Pepper to Root Beer and anything in between.

     

  5. Syrup – this is one of those that you’ll find pronounced pretty much the same throughout the country, except for a few small areas up in the northeast.
      • [SUR-uhp] – most of the country
      • [SEER-uhp] – the northeast corridor

     

  6. Caramel – according to the Chicago Tribune, this is a word that has the nation split.
      • [KAR-uh-muhl] – 57% of the country pronounce it like this, generally found in the southern states
      • [KAR-muhl] – 43% pronounce it with only 2 syllables, mostly in the western and northern parts of the country

     

  7. Coupon – whether you clip them out of mailers or digitally save them to your device, most people can agree that coupons are a great way to save money on the basics. However, we can’t all seem to agree on how to pronounce the word. According to a poll by Coupons.com, most of the country uses the CUE-pon version.
      • [COO-pon] – heard in California, Nevada, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, Hawaii, and much of the NE other than Maine and NY
      • [CUE-pon] – the rest of us in the U.S.

     

  8. Mayonnaise – love it or hate it, this condiment is widely used throughout the U.S., and we have very different ideas about how to say it. Take a look at this map for a better idea of the divide.
      • [MAY-uh-naze] – it’s easier to just look at the map for this one, it’s all the areas in red
      • [MAN-aze] – you’ll hear this 2 syllable version most often in our area, but check out the blue areas of the map for the rest of the 2 syllab-ers

     

  9. Pajamas – now this is a fun word for the clothes we sleep in, but do you pronounce it with an “ah” like in father, or like the way the “a” sounds in “jam”?
      • [puh-JAH-muhs] – chances are you’re in the South or along the East coast if you pronounce it like this
      • [puh-JAM-uhs] – you’re more likely to hear this pronunciation in the northern and western states

     

  10. Water fountain – you know that thing you’ll find in public places, out of which you might drink some water straight from the spout? Well, depending on where you are, it might be called something different.
    • Water fountain – you’ll hear this across the southern and eastern states, along with a good chunk of the midwest
    • Drinking fountain – this is the term used most often in the western states, along with some areas around Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa
    • Bubbler – yeah, we know. This is a weird one, but you’ll hear bubbler in Wisconsin and Rhode Island. Why? We have absolutely no idea. We’ll stick with the water fountain around here.

Learning English Can Be Fun!

We hope you enjoyed our list of pronunciation oddities around the U.S. today! Learning English can be challenging, but it can also be a whole lot of fun. If you’d like to learn more about our programs, check out our English Classes and Test Prep courses. We’d love to hear from you with any questions!

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