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Ask a linguist - Message details

Subject: Pronunciation of Aaron vs. Erin
My sister named her son Aaron. She is adamant that his name is pronounced with the ''a'' sound as in ''apple'' rather than with the ''eh'' sound which she says is exclusively for the girl's name ''Erin.'' From my research it seems that England and Australia as well as parts of New York, New Jersey and New England support pronouncing these names differently, while in the rest of the U.S. (particularly the Midwest) these names are pronounced exactly alike. Is there a ''correct'' pronuncation and does that correct pronunciation call for them to be pronounced the same way?

As Prof Gupta says, there are standardized pronunciations, but no "correct"
pronunciations for names. After all we have both Bette "Betty" Davis and Bette "Bett"
Midler, so we all know it happens.

I think your sister has the right to insist on a distinction. On the other hand, a lot of
people come from "merging" dialects, so there will be a lot of correction in the future.
Your sister should know that some people may genuinely be unable to hear the

As far as US dialects go - your best chance at a distinction is in New England.

In New England - "merry, marry, Mary" are generally all distinct
In my dialect (Mid Atlantic) - I have merged "merry/Mary" /mɛri/ but
keep "marry" /mæri/distinct.
However, I rarely hear Aaron as /œrɨn/, but rather as /ɛrɨn/ (like "Erin)

Some other dialects may merge "marry, merry" but distinguish "Mary"
I think the Midwest and West have merged all three.

Reply From: Elizabeth J Pyatt     click here to access email
Date: Mar-09-2007
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Pronunciation of Aaron vs. Erin   Herbert Frederic Stahlke    (Mar-08-2007)
  2. Re: Pronunciation of Aaron vs. Erin   James L Fidelholtz    (Mar-09-2007)
  3. Re: Pronunciation of Aaron vs. Erin   Anthea Fraser Gupta    (Mar-08-2007)

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