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I have been listening to a podcast where the host pronounces the word solder as "sodder" or "sod-der", even "saw-der". Same thing happened when the lecturer of one of my EE classes pronounced the word solder. As for me I pronounce the word solder as "sole-der" with a distinct L and a longish O.

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/l/ and /r/ can both be so short before a stop consonant like /d/ that they practically disappear. If you asked your lecturer, you might well find that he isn't consciously not pronouncing the /l/. –  user1579 Apr 7 '11 at 22:26
It shouldn't be sawder unless the speaker's from Bawston. –  Peter Shor Apr 7 '11 at 22:33
I don't know about elsewhere, but in SouthEast UK many if not most 'Estuary English' speakers articulate the 'l' as a 'w'. Including myself, but sometimes I think it's just lazy speech. I can put the 'l' in if I want to, but it's awkward, so I don't bother. –  FumbleFingers Apr 7 '11 at 22:34
Does this have anything in common with Seam Solder? ;-) –  Ondra Žižka Apr 10 '11 at 23:18
Much more important than how you pronounce solder is this: use leaded solder and be happy. 60/40 Tin/Lead. Friends don't let friends use lead-free junk. :) –  Kaz Apr 28 '12 at 8:53
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10 Answers

Depends on if you are British or American. The British say sole-der. Americans say sod-der (for some reason).

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Never knew the Americans mispronounced that. ;-) Why drop/corrupt the L? –  Orbling Apr 8 '11 at 0:17
@Orbling: Yes, why would we just walk right in here and start talking about making a silent L? It's halfway to madness to imagine we could do such a thing. ;=P –  Robusto Apr 8 '11 at 0:40
@Robusto: It's at least three quarters! H, P, K, yes - silent L? ;-) –  Orbling Apr 8 '11 at 0:41
@Robusto: Well done. –  Dusty Apr 8 '11 at 1:08
If you look at the etymology, the term comes from the 14th C English word sawd which in term comes from old French soldure from Latin solidare. The British may have started pronouncing the L under the influence of the French or Latin, whereas the Americans may have kept the 14th C pronunciation; I wouldn't be surprised if that pronunciation was still around in some British dialects in the 17th C. This actually seems more likely than that the Americans suddenly decided to drop the L for no good reason. –  Peter Shor Apr 8 '11 at 12:59
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This doesn't come from a dictionary, but I had a relative who spent most of his free designing clever circuits (from the 1920s onwards).

He always told me that the correct British pronunciation was "sodder", but that over the years it had started to be pronounced "solder" - which he believed was to avoid the embarrassment of a word that could be misinterpreted as being related to sodomy when speaking to people who didn't have a background in electronics (or pipework!).

He was a very respectable man with a very good knowledge of the English language and how it had evolved during the 20th century - and at least one of his electronicly minded friends also pronounced it "sodder".

Depending on your opinion of natural language, and if you should stick to more traditional, or modern, pronunciations either could therefore be correct.

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Well the precursor OE soudure as pointed out by caxtontype certainly suggests your relative could actually have been correct. It is a very long time since the 'l' entered the standard form, but maybe in some dialects this never happened until much much later, so there could still be a 'folk memory' of the original. –  FumbleFingers Apr 8 '11 at 14:52
This is almost worth an upvote just for the nice story. –  John Y Nov 4 '11 at 20:24
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The OED gives two pronunciations: |ˈsɒldə(r)| and |ˈsəʊdə(r)|

On WordReference.com, the latter is given as U.S. pronunciation.

While on the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary they are both given as BrE, while for AmE we have a new one: |ˈsɑːdər|. Here you can check them all out personally, audio included.

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Nicely found. But they don't give my pronunciation! And to be honest I can barely even hear a difference between OALD's two British pronunciations, let alone reproduce them! –  FumbleFingers Apr 7 '11 at 22:40
So maybe your pronunciation is more dialectal? I'm really asking, I don't know how much your accent is spread, but you said "Southeast UK" so I take it as a local accent? You're a native speaker right? You can't notice any difference at all? Sorry for the question-bombarding, questions came by themselves :D –  Alenanno Apr 7 '11 at 22:43
Estuary English is a pretty common term round my neck of the woods. Obviously! Seriously, the stuff on Wikepedia looks right enough to me. There are millions of us, and we ain't all fick, like wot the tv sez. We just have cloth-ears for sounds we don't usually articulate ourselves. Don't most people? –  FumbleFingers Apr 7 '11 at 22:58
@Orbling: Glottal stop (ʔ) sorts out my central Ts, but like you I have no truck with those orrible leading aitches (too lazy to even put the ' in there!). –  FumbleFingers Apr 8 '11 at 1:12
@Alenanno, is there anyone who doesn't have a "local accent"? –  Peter Taylor Apr 8 '11 at 12:15
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Whether or not to vocalize the 'l' in 'solder' seems to be a geographical issue.

Lionel Deimel has a nice article on words with silent 'l's.

Along with 'solder', he offers many other English words with silent 'l's, including:

  • walk
  • talk
  • half
  • calf
  • yolk
  • almond
  • folk
  • balk
  • balm
  • calm
  • palm
  • falcon
  • salmon
  • caulk
  • haulm (which is a variation of halm)

Some readers will argue that many of the words in Deimel's list have vocalized 'l's, but, like 'solder', this is probably related to geography.

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Of those words, I was taught to pronounce the 'l' in 'balm', 'calm', 'palm', and 'falcon'. Of those 4, the first 3 are much closer to being a separate sound made up of a blended 'lm' (and it feels that way in my mouth, too), whereas 'falcon' has a clearly articulated 'l' in the same way that 'light' has a clearly articulated 'l'. Edit: rural Saskatchewan, Canada. –  Ron Porter Apr 8 '11 at 19:10
The only words there that the 'L' is at all compressed in, in my experience, are the two -alf words, though only in certain localities. –  Orbling Apr 9 '11 at 2:08
falcon with a silent l ? Does it rhyme with bacon? I have pronounced the l in caulk ever since an unfortunate incident helping my sister-in-law tile a bathroom. –  Malvolio Jun 8 '11 at 1:59
Yea, I find that list a little liberal as well. –  Matt Montag Aug 12 '11 at 17:52
Heh, some of those are silent for me, some aren't. Some are intermediate - falcon has an 'l' somewhere between that in "ball" and "almond" for me. –  Marcin Oct 19 '11 at 11:17
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In my accent (inland Cascadian English, in the northwestern United States), we say [sɑɾɚ], as "saw-der," to rhyme with "water." It looks like it should be pronounced [sɔldɚ] or similar, as "sole-der," to rhyme with "colder," and it may be pronounced that way elsewhere.

And, yes, to make that perfectly clear: in my accent, solder rhymes with water. That seems so bizarre now that I really think about it.

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Merriam Webster dictionary gives:

Middle English soudure, from Anglo-French, from souder to solder, from Latin solidare to make solid, from solidus solid First Known Use: 14th century

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It's nice to see my dropping the 'l' has a long & noble history going back a millenium or more! I bet the Romans thought we were ignorant southerners because we couldn't or wouldn't pronounce it anything like them! –  FumbleFingers Apr 8 '11 at 1:20
@FumbleFingers - been trying to find a way to write the mid Scottish pronunciation, where the L is very strong! So much that the final er almost vanishes by comparison. –  Rory Alsop Apr 8 '11 at 8:18
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I have heard both soul-der and sol-der with a long and short 'o', sometimes the 'o' is so short you lose the 'l'

In BE the long 'o' is possibly more common

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Not one of these words has a truly silent 'l' in all cases the 'l' works as a modifier.

  • wak
  • tak
  • haf
  • caf
  • yok
  • amond
  • fok
  • bak
  • bam
  • cam
  • pam
  • facon
  • samon
  • cauk
  • haum

Now Consider Solder.

  • Soder

It is a unique case.

It seems that the 'l' is only silent in the US not in the rest of world.

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After living in the US for 25 years, I can't think of any word that is harder to get into my transatlantic brogue than "sodder". I actually do prefer the subtler sound of the American form — my ear appreciates it, but I hesitate to imitate it. I also sign on to the notion that it's one of the many, many words whose original meaning or pronunciation the wayward British have forgotten.

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"The rest of the world" of course consists solely of Great Britain itself, and countries which were once colonies of Great Britain. Of course, the U.S. was too; but we severed most of our ties with the mother country earlier than most of the others, at a time when the language was still very much in flux.

So to say "the rest of the world" when the rest of the world has been highly influenced by a single country, means very little. As a matter of mere numbers, most native English speakers are actually American in any case.

Now, if you want to say that American English has changed more in the last few hundred years than British English, I think you'd be hard pressed to prove that. For example, though we get made fun of for NOT pronouncing the "h" in "herb", according to the OED nobody did until the 19th century. In fact, the word was earlier (ME) spelled as "erb" or "erbe". It isn't that Americans stopped pronouncing an "h" that everyone else did, but that the British started pronouncing it.

In any case, pick up any of the works of Shakespeare, or a copy of the King James version of the Bible. You will find that English as spoken has changed quite a bit since then. (And you won't even actually be seeing the King James Bible in its 1611 form; it's been edited several times since then, but the edits didn't necessarily have much fanfare. Most KJVs actually follow a 19th century edit.)

The point is, the language has changed a lot in the last 400 years -- on both sides of the Atlantic. We didn't invent the pronunciation "sodder", even if we're not the only ones who still use it.

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Please understand that this is not a discussion forum. Please only answer the question. –  Matt Эллен Oct 23 '13 at 13:17
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