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As far as I know, margarine is the only word in which a 'g' is pronounced as 'j' though it is not followed by 'e', 'i', or 'y'. What causes the unorthodox pronunciation?

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+1 I didn't know that, nice question. –  Alenanno Jul 29 '11 at 12:00
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French words with ga, including margarine, have a hard g. So, that's not the reason. –  F'x Jul 29 '11 at 12:36
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mortgage has French origins, and the agent noun form is mortgagor which is another soft 'g' example –  JoseK Jul 29 '11 at 12:38
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@David Halperin - isn't judgment itself a derivative of judge? –  Waggers Jul 29 '11 at 13:44
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the only one? I like the word "gaol" myself. –  GEdgar Jul 29 '11 at 14:17

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The OED says:

N.E.D. (1905 ) gives as the pronunciation only (mā·ɹgărīn), with /-g-/ ; this pronunciation, which became rare in the second half of the 20th cent., probably underlies the nickname Maggie Ann (see maggie n. 4). N.E.D. (1902 ), however, s.v. Oleomargarine, notes that the latter is ‘Often mispronounced (-mā·ɹdʒərīn), as if spelt -margerine’ (i.e. with /-dʒ-/ ). The latter pronunciation is recorded in 1913 (with subordinate status) by H. Michaelis & D. Jones Phonetic Dict. Eng. Lang.; the shortened form marge, in which -ge also implies pronunciation with /-dʒ-/ , is attested within ten years of this (see 1922 at marge n.2). The shift of stress, outside North American English, from the first to the final syllable is also first evidenced in the 1913 source.

I doubt if we will find any more definite answer than this.

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this only hints that it was pronounced correct for some time and the current form was noted as mispronunciation... Or i got it all wrong. Anyway, the current pronunciation is extremely painful to anyone that sees the written word wout being exposed to the pronunciation first... –  gcb Mar 6 '13 at 5:22
    
No, it says that one pronunciation was current for a while, and that another pronunciation (which at first was described as a mispronunciation) then took over. –  Colin Fine Mar 7 '13 at 16:54
    
isn't that exactly what I said? –  gcb Mar 10 '13 at 4:05
    
No because my comment does not contain the word "correct", which depending on its sense is either tautologous or tendentious. –  Colin Fine Mar 10 '13 at 21:20

Perhaps margarine is pronounced thus because it is said to have been invented by Hippolyte Mege-Mouries. As this gentleman was French, that would fix the soft-g pronunciation.

For more you could look here, or here.

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Margarine is French. In French, letters are not what they sound like in English, and the pronunciation changes depending on if it's at the beginning or middle of the word. For instance: here, it's a strong g as in get if it's at the front, but in the middle if it sounds like the French j.

The French j, no matter where it is, sounds like 'zh'. so the g in margarine sounds like 'zh'. The 'zh' sound is the s sound in 'treasure'. It's used a lot in Russian, you might know it.

Anyway margarine is supposed to be pronounced ma(gh)(zh)a(gh)een, but it's a loanword, and when anglicization gets involved, all sorts of crud happens. The reason the g sounds like a strong English j is really only because English speakers don't use soft sounds in the pronunciation, so the original pronunciation phased out. French is all about the soft nasal consonant stacking. It's the total opposite of English.

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Do you think you could please capitalize? –  simchona Dec 22 '11 at 3:56
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I am not voting down because of your capitalization, so don't attempt to call me out on that. However, this is NOT a forum. It is a site for people who care about English as a language, so capitalization and grammar are considered important. –  simchona Dec 22 '11 at 6:02
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This answer is wrong. The pronunciation of "g" in French depends on the following letter, not where it occurs in a word, and in "margarine" it is pronounced /g/, just as one would expect in English. If the French were pronounced /Ʒ/, it would indeed be likely that English would substitute /dƷ/, but the French isn't pronounced that way. I have no idea what you mean about "the soft nasal consonant stacking". –  Colin Fine Dec 22 '11 at 20:45

protected by RegDwigнt Dec 22 '11 at 14:52

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