PRONOUNCING “AUNT”. There is one word on the quiz which caused me to hesitate. Near Chicago, where I grew up, the vowel in the word “aunt” had been affected by the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. I posted here about how the Northern Cities Vowel Shift meant that the word “cat” was pronounced “kee-at” in both Syracuse, where Mary Jane grew up, and in Chicago. Mary Jane and I use the phrase “Aunt Alice” with a strong diphthongized “a” sound to refer to our shared accent.
There is an exception, however. “Aunt” is the one word for which I don’t use that nasal “a” sound. I pronounce the “a” like the “a” in “ah” or the “a” in “palm”. The reason I do is that my second grade teacher, Miss Downton, was insistent that we pronounce “aunt” that way. Her argument was: “You don’t want anyone to think that your uncle is married to an insect, do you?” None of us wanted anyone to think that.
In taking the quiz, the work “aunt” appeared. I knew what the quiz was getting at, but decided to confess to my one deviation from the Chicago “a” sound. It doesn’t seem to have affected my result.