How do you say “good aunt”?

Pearls Before Swine is one of my favorite comic strips, and this past Saturday’s strip got me thinking about the different ways and reasons we say “aunt.” (Take a moment to read the strip and then come back).

Sociolinguistic differences
The way we say the word “aunt” depends in large part on where we grow up. Many of us (and I’m talking about the United States, primarily) pronounce it like the insect “ant.” There are others who say it like “ahnt” to rhyme with the way many of us say the word “daunt.” Others say it in a way that sounds almost like the word “ain’t.”

I found a cool map showing regional differences of how we say the word “aunt” that those of you who are word geeks (like me) might enjoy seeing.

Of the women I interviewed (all of whom have at least some connection with the southern United States), here’s the break down of how they say the word:

  • 18% say the word like “ahnt”
  • 9% say the word like “ain’t”
  • 73% say the word like “ant”
  • All of them pronounced the word like “ant” at some point during our conversation, possibly a reflection of the way I was saying it.
  • One women also spoke of “aunties,” pronounced like “ahnties”

Fortunately, as Goat points out to Pig in the comic strip, we’re not all shooting each other over this difference in how we say “aunt.” Continue reading