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Suzer22  (Level: 165.6 - Posts: 1982)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 10:23 AM


Recently I have read (in several places, which is why it is annoying me) that the British folks pronounce 'Mary', 'marry' and 'merry' all differently.

In the great heap of my wisdom regarding british dialects I would think 'marry' is pronounced [meh'-ree] and 'merry' comes out with a clicked 'r' sound [med'-dee] with the 'e' in 'med' like 'medical'. Am I correct in my assumption here? Would this be the difference?

But I cannot for the life of me figure out how 'Mary' would be different from 'marry'. Any Brits out there who can help me??

And just for the record, in Standard American Speech they are all pronounced the same!

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 10:58 AM

I don't pronouce them all the same. They're all different, though it's subtle. Drives me nuts when Garrison Keillor pronounces Mary as marry. I always assumed it was regional. I know my mother's Tidewater, Virginia family pronounced the name as "Mayrie".

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 11:18 AM

Sorry. Hope it's okay if non-Brits respond.

Rowlanda  (Level: 70.0 - Posts: 2853)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 11:19 AM

The name pronounced the same as "marry" would be Marie.
Mary sounds like a female horse....Mare-y
Merry is pronounced like mer-it

Mary was merry when she married....
but not for long!!!!

Salzypat  (Level: 161.6 - Posts: 5414)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 11:32 AM

sounds all the same to me... "Outsiders" tell me that we in the Plains States (middle America) have a dialect all our own - but I can't hear it, of course. I do know that I say Mary, merry, marry the same.

A couple words I know we in the middle US say that are a little off the correct pronunciation is some of us say "warsh" when we plan to wash our clothes, and we catch fish in the crick while some of you might fish in the creek. (we also get cricks in our neck, which has nothing to do with creeks or fish!)

I have tried very hard to break myself of those pronunciations but every so often I catch myself slipping back to using them.

Suzer22  (Level: 165.6 - Posts: 1982)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 12:17 PM

So Rowlanda - in Canada you say Mary as [mare'-ee] - (and I am using the apostrophe to indicate which syllable is stressed). That is exactly how I would say it.

But if I read you correctly you say 'marry' the same as 'Marie': [muh-ree']? Is that right? Would you then say [muh-reed'] as in "Are you married?"? That doesn't sound right at all!

And BTW - to non-Brits - I am happy to have anyone else's input as dialects fascinate me, but at the moment I am trying to understand the British versions! And since I don't memorize where everyone is from, it would be helpful if any responses could start with a "here in _________ we say..."

Thanks all!

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 1:57 PM

I've lived all over the country and don't really have a distinctive regional accent, though I can fake them all pretty well. I don't sound like the people here in north Florida where I live now, and I don't sound like the people in southeastern Pennsylvania where I lived for 20 years. Neither do I sound like eastern Virginia where I was born. Maybe I sound like people in Baltimore, where I spent my "formative years". At any rate, I say marry to rhyme with Harry, merry to rhyme with very, and Mary lands somewhere between the two, the vowel not as broad as in marry but definitely not the same as merry.

I, too, am fascinated by accents, and can often guess the state for a southern accent. British accents interest me as well, and it amazes me how few Americans can hear the difference between Irish and Scottish, and each of those have many variations. Remember in "Angela's Ashes" how Angela's family made derogatory remarks about how her husband from the north talked "funny"? English accents alone could keep a linguist busy for a lifetime, what with regional as well as class differences.

Thanks for raising a very interesting topic, Suze!

Nelly  (Level: 180.2 - Posts: 1167)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 2:16 PM

Hi Suz, I live near Chester, North West U.K and I almost agree with Donna (Smoke). These are my pronunciations:
Marry rhymes with Harry, merry with very but Mary rhymes with hairy - I would say these were the BBC pronunciations. Obviously there are variations according to dialect. Hope this helps.

Larefamiliaris  (Level: 135.2 - Posts: 877)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 2:27 PM

Just to confuse...

In Scots 'Mary' is spelt 'Mhairi' and pronounced 'Vari' ('a' sound is same as in apple - except that many Scots pronounce that as 'aipple' )
But it's common in some places - Glasgow for example - to pronounce 'Mary' as 'merry':
"Hullo there Merry doll!"

But the above description - Harry/Marry etc - is pretty sound for most of the UK.

Bushyfox  (Level: 174.4 - Posts: 2403)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 4:00 PM

Now for the Aussie touch, hope I don't mess it up!

How to say these simple words in Ozzarian:

"Mary" has the "a" pronounced as a long vowel sound; it comes out as "Mare-y" when we say it..kinda longer sound than "Merry" or "Marry".

"Merry" has the "e" pronounced as a short vowel, same as the "e" in "egg".

"Marry" has the "a" pronounced as a short vowel, same as the "a" in "hat".

So there ya go........!


Suzer22  (Level: 165.6 - Posts: 1982)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 9:27 PM

Bev - thanks for giving me the breakdown.

But I still don't get the difference the rest of you are saying: Marry rhymes with Harry, merry, very, Mary and hairy! These are all exactly the same in my world! So your comparisons are not helping!! How far do you open your mouth to change the vowel sounds? How are the "r's" different?

I may never get a clear answer here unless we all learn the International Phonetic Alphabet! I was forced to use it in a college acting class while we studied dialects...or maybe it was a voice class where we were singing Italian art songs...but I really don't remember much except that it made things very clear.

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 10:52 PM

Great googamooga! Even if I could understand all that without a semester of classes, I don't have the font to express it! Saying the words and paying attention to what my mouth does differently is funny and strange, but there are distinct differences.

On merry my mouth opens the least, and all the way across.
On Mary the middle of my lips open and purse more and the corners open less.
On marry it opens more than either of the others and all the way across.

Is that even close to what you mean?

Suzer22  (Level: 165.6 - Posts: 1982)
Sun, 18th Nov '07 11:35 PM

Hey Smoke - thanks for going through that exercise!

When I try to recreate your descriptions, I get MERRY almost like [mere'-ee]
and MARRY sounds very New York to me...with the vowel sound like "mad".

But this still doesn't tell me how BRITISH people say them!

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Mon, 19th Nov '07 12:58 AM

Point taken. I'll hush up now so the Brits can speak.

Bigbird  (Level: 249.3 - Posts: 3337)
Mon, 19th Nov '07 5:20 AM

Oh my gosh! Trying to get through this thread was really funny! I think I might be Aussie - Bev's description sounds about right to my mouth.

I'm in New York, and I definitely pronounce them all differently. I know that dialecticians have made maps that can pinpoint where you live by how you pronounce those three words.

Here are a couple of discussions for you - there are tons out there on the internet:


Oldcougar  (Level: 228.6 - Posts: 1935)
Mon, 19th Nov '07 5:26 AM

Rowlanda, might not be on for a few days, off to see her Mom, in Toronto. But she's a displaced Brit. We pronounce them all the same here in BC. My grandpa was from Montana & it tickles my fancy to hear someone say warsh

Surreyman  (Level: 272.5 - Posts: 2771)
Mon, 19th Nov '07 5:48 AM

Inconceivable to me how they can all be pronounced the same!
Nelly has it spot on for me, despite her Northern accent!
I'm in the Deep South - Surrey.
But in the UK that's probably the accent closest to 'BBC'.
And I've even been told my accent is like Prince Charles', Gawd forbid! - Better ask Allena, he's the only Sploofus Yank who's heard me!

Baggiob  (Level: 143.2 - Posts: 888)
Mon, 19th Nov '07 6:06 AM

I say it like this,
Mary rhymes with hairy
Marry rhymes with Harry
Merry rhymes with ferry

Nelly  (Level: 180.2 - Posts: 1167)
Mon, 19th Nov '07 8:19 AM

Excuse me! Alan, just because I live north of Watford doesn't mean I have a northern accent ..... neither does the Duke of Westminster who lives down the road!! This is Cheshire!

Suzer22  (Level: 165.6 - Posts: 1982)
Mon, 19th Nov '07 8:34 AM

Baggiob - that doesn't help at all, as those words ALL rhyme exactly for me! Along with Larry, Jerry, Perry, fairy, dairy, wary, berry, bury and Barry!

You need to give me some phonetics or some idea of how your mouth changes on each. Does the "r" roll or click or get ignored?

(Thanks for the websites, Alice!)

Nelly  (Level: 180.2 - Posts: 1167)
Mon, 19th Nov '07 8:49 AM

Try this website. You can look up a word and then click on 'show phonetics'. I suppose we've all missed the point, in that if you pronounce one word differently, then probably the same goes for the rhyming words!
Hope it helps. Karen.

Baggiob  (Level: 143.2 - Posts: 888)
Mon, 19th Nov '07 8:56 AM

Hope this helps

Mary would be pronounced (May - Re)
Marry would be pronounced (Ma - Ray)
Merry would be pronounced (Mer - Re)

Surreyman  (Level: 272.5 - Posts: 2771)
Mon, 19th Nov '07 9:48 AM

Or, in an English accent! ...............

No 'Rs' clicked, rolled or nuffink.


The 'a' is broad as in air, hair, bear, bare, care, dare, fair, lair, mare, pear, stair, stare, or any of those that all sound vaguely the same in your lingo!


The 'e' is short, as in bed, dead, fed, head, led, ned, said, ted, etc.


The 'a' is short, as in Barry, carry, Harry, Larry.

Ow's that?

Suzer22  (Level: 165.6 - Posts: 1982)
Mon, 19th Nov '07 10:22 PM

Thanks guys, this is much more clear!

When I think "Harry" like Hermione says it in the Harry Potter movies, I hear a distinct difference, so I see what you Brits are talking about. But Harry, Barry and Larry really do have the same 'a' sound for me as air, hair, bare, care, etc.

What a great thread! Thanks all!!

Surreyman  (Level: 272.5 - Posts: 2771)
Tue, 20th Nov '07 5:08 AM

You call Prince Harry hairy?
Wot language wos it you speaked?

Allena  (Level: 266.4 - Posts: 1409)
Tue, 20th Nov '07 8:26 AM

I had a chance to hear Surreyman - Here's the definitive anssah!

Mary was quite contrary and that is how the Brits learnt it.

Marry is what a girl says about marriage ... the guy says penitentary.

Merry requires you to have a pint or two. In fact, one does not get merry unless he is seeing a fairy and pink elephants ... then all hell breaks wary, unless of course one is wishing a Merry Christmas then you can do it with just a little nog.

I hope this clears it up.

Mandy226  (Level: 77.2 - Posts: 128)
Mon, 26th Nov '07 2:59 AM

PM me your telephone number and you'll be able to hear for yourself

Phitzy1  (Level: 66.4 - Posts: 873)
Wed, 5th Dec '07 8:54 AM

I am totally bewildered!

Can't we just say that Mary was Merry to be Married and have it all cleared up?

Machiabelly  (Level: 136.2 - Posts: 190)
Wed, 5th Dec '07 5:55 PM

Mary Mac's mothers making Mary Mac Marry Me.
My mother's making me marry Mary Mac
Well I'm gonna marry Mary
so my Mary will take care of me
We'll all be feeling merry when I marry Mary Mac.

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