Q: I’m a new reader of your blog. I enjoy it very much, but I’m a little confused by your blog entry on “aunt.” You give two pronunciations: ANT and AHNT. Although I most often hear ANT, I never hear AHNT. I do, however, occasionally hear AWNT. (I’m from Wisconsin.)
A: All of my standard American English dictionaries (and I have lots of them) list only two pronunciations in their “aunt” entries: ANT (rhyming with “can’t”) and AHNT (rhyming with “font”).
However, The Dictionary of American Regional English gives several variations that are heard in some parts of the United States. One is indeed AWNT (rhyming with “haunt”)..
DARE says the ANT pronunciation is the one usually heard throughout the country. The AHNT version is most often heard in New England and eastern Virginia, but speakers there sometimes turn it into AWNT.
(The dictionary cites an 1847 usage manual that complains about the AWNT pronunciation, so it’s been around for quite some time.)
The regional dictionary doesn’t mention anything about the presence of the AWNT pronunciation in the Midwest. It’s interesting that you’ve heard it in Wisconsin. I’m from Iowa and don’t recall hearing it there.
DARE lists several other less common pronunciations, including AINT, which it says is sometimes heard in the lower Midwest and parts of the South.
I hope this helps, and I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog.