The Grammarphobia Blog

Dog daze

Q: Help! My wife thinks “dog” and “log” rhyme. Our astute children agree with me that they do not. I have a neutral American accent and say “dog” with more of an “awe” sound. I look forward to your input.

A: Most standard dictionaries give only two pronunciations for “dog”—the same ones, more or less, that you AND your wife use.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.) and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.), for example, say the vowel in “dog” sounds either like the one in “paw” or like the one in “pot.”

But, as with a great many words, the actual pronunciation of “dog” varies much more widely in different regions of the US.

A cursory look at some of the research shows that linguists have identified at least four different vowel sounds in “dog,” and that pronunciations can vary even within a state or part of a state. We’ve noticed this within our own experience too.

Pat, who’s from Iowa, pronounces “dog” much the way your wife does, with an open “o” that more or less rhymes with the one in “log.”

Stewart was born in New York City, and his pronunciation of the vowel is closer to “awe,” with a distinct diphthong or gliding sound.

A neighbor of ours is from Louisiana, and in her pronunciation of “dog” we can almost hear a long “o,” similar to the one in “toad.”

And finally, some friends in Chicago pronounce the word almost as if it were spelled “daag.”

The analogies we’ve given here aren’t exact, but are rough approximations. Don’t think that any of these are mispronunciations. They’re just local accents. It’s a big country, and regional variations help keep things interesting!

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