- backroom boys and bedroom eyes
The Macmillan English Dictionary transcription of the first word in these phrases, has this sound with a matching audio sample, But, particularly when used adjectivally (as here) the word is often pronounced with an /ʊ/ sound. These phrases are not transcribed in the Macmillan English Dictionary, but the sound is clearly /ʊ/ .
- bathroom etc.Both the transcription and the audio sample in the Macmillan English Dictionary have this vowel sound but some speakers reduce the /u:/ to /ʊ/, as this dictionary gives for anteroom and many others. Students should use whichever comes naturally (which seems to be what native speakers do, reducing or not according to the phonetic and syntactic context).
The Macmillan English Dictionary gives two possible transcriptions for this (/u:/ and /ʊ/), but the audio samples both use /u:/. Use either.
This is the sole representative of the many '<noun>proof' words, of which there are dozens . The Macmillan English Dictionary lists 24, most of which are excluded according to the principle given here; the exception made for waterproof is explained in note 20. But the device is what linguists call 'a productive mechanism' so other cases are bound to occur in the course of everyday language use.
The Macmillan English Dictionary gives this as an alternative to bogeyman, but gives the same transcription for both, in the examples given for American speech. This suggests that the 'oo' spelling represents, in British English, an element of Americanism.
The device '<verb>er' throws up almost as many words as there are suitable verbs (performed by a human agent). But boozer is not excluded according to the principle given here, because a boozer is not a person who boozes.
The Macmillan English Dictionary has this transcription, but the audio sample has a hint of /ʊ/, giving an example of the variation discussed in notes 1-3.
The Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this /u:/ (reflecting the etymology – the watermark represented a fool's cap).
- footloose and footstool
The vowel sounds is, in the second syllable, /u:/. In the first it is /ʊ/.
- hoodoo and voodoo
Each syllable has the sound /u:/.
This is not listed in the published (paper) Macmillan English Dictionary. The link is to the American online version, and (as with American /u/ vowels generally) the stressed vowel is not long.
This is one of the few English words (see note 16 for others) that has the spelling '-ook-' representing the sound /u:k/. In this case, it distinguishes /ku:ki/ from /kʊki/
This is the sole representative of all the words that follow the 'school<noun>' pattern: schoolbook/master/girl... etc.
- cock a snook at, spook etc
There are very few English words that have the spelling '-ook' representing the sound /u:k/. Note 13 has mentioned one. The scriptwriter of Star Wars had no need to add a footnote to the script explaining that Wookie rhymed with cookie and hookie because nearly always (in RP) '-ook' represents the sound /ʊk/.
(The Macmillan English Dictionary lists snook as a headword. This is, for the student of current English, unnecessarily confusing. the 'word' exists only as a fossil, as part of the phrase cock a snook at.)
- soothe and soothsayer
Soothe, like smooth (note, no 'e') ends with the sound /u:ð/, whereas the first syllable in soothsayer (like the second in forsooth) ends with the sound /u:θ/ – as in truth (which is, by happy coincidence. a synonym of the archaic sooth). To quote that R. H. Barham poem again (mentioned in the note about turquoise): 'in sooth a goodly company...[attended] the Cardinal Lord Archbishop of Rheims'.
This is the sole representative of all the words that follow the 'tooth <noun>' pattern: toothbrush/paste... etc.
The Macmillan English Dictionary gives matching transcription and audio sample – an unequivocal /u:/. But in most cases when it is said in a group of two or more, only the last sound is /u:m/: /vrʊm vrʊm vru:m/.
This is not excluded according to the principle given here, because it may be used as a noun, as here: 'It looks like rain... you'd better take your waterproofs'.
The noun that means 'a jubilant or victorious cry' has the vowel sound /u:/; the interjection that accompanies a slip or error (which occurs only in the plural) has the vowel sound /ʊ/.
- whooping cough
This is listed in the American Macmillan English Dictionary in its online version, which is surprising since both the malady and its name are not unknown in the UK. In the published dictionary, though, there is no special reference to America.
- zoo, zoology, zoological etc
Zoology is the study not of zoos but of zoa. In living memory (for example, mine) there were people (for example, my grandfather) who insisted that the only 'correct' pronunciation of words usually seen – erroneously, in this view – as derivatives of zoo, should start with the diphthong /əʊ/.
Update 2013.09.09.09:58‡ – Almost imperceptible format fix, and updated footer. And added this PS:
PS A new ELTon submission looks more likely. I've started work on a hardcopy edition. But fear not – the Kindle version remains my main focus.
‡It's now later, but I didn't want to lose the '09.09.09'.
PPS Update 2013.09.24.12:35
STOP PRESSGoing through the final printout of V4.0, I've added this to note 15:
(The Macmillan English Dictionary lists snook as a headword. This is, for the student of current English, unnecessarily confusing, as the 'word' exists only as a fossil. A 'fossil' in this linguistic sense is a word whose present-day form attests to the existence at one time of a now-defunct word or form. The phrase 'cock a snook' is still used in current British English [especially journalese] to mean 'show contempt or defiance'; but the question 'What is a snook?' would draw a blank stare from most speakers, though students of phonesthesia, or more simply put 'sound symbolism', might guess that it was something to do with noses.)
Update 2012.10.15.14:40 – Footer updated
Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.1: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, IA-IU, OA-OU, and – new for V4.1 – UA-UE. If you buy it, contact @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
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Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**, and 4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)
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