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Someone recently posted a question about the pronunciation of Wednesday, which reminded me of a different question about pronouncing the days of the week I've had floating around in my head for a while.

In Standard American English, the word seems to be pronounced "Wensday" [wɛnzdeɪ]. However, I occasionally hear people say something like "Wensdee" [wɛnzdi], and in general the days of the week are Mondee, Tuesdee, Wensdee, Thursdee, etc.

What puzzles me about this is that I haven't been able to associate it with one particular dialect or region - I've hear people say it in (to give three examples) Arizona, Minnesota, and New York. My question is: What US dialects characteristically use this pronunciation - where does it come from? Also, I feel like I often hear older folks using it - could it have something to do with age?

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If it helps, this is also quite common in the UK and again seems more of a generational thing than a regional one. –  Waggers Dec 9 '11 at 22:59
I'm in South-East England, where it seems to me -dee is more common than -day for all age groups. And everybody knows "Solomon Grundy was born on a Mondee", not a Monday. –  FumbleFingers Dec 9 '11 at 23:17
I can't really answer the question but I did want to comment that I've lived a lot of places in the US and never heard this commonly. It might be an individual thing rather than a dialect, per se. –  Lynn Dec 10 '11 at 0:52
I think a lot of people say -dee in casual/rapid speech, but tend to switch to -day when speaking more carefully. For me personally, it's like glottal stops and dropped aitches. –  FumbleFingers Dec 10 '11 at 4:26
Stephen Fry says in "Moab is My Washpot" that it's an example of U vs non-U: "A gentleman does not pronounce Monday as Monday, but as Mundy". –  Mark Beadles Dec 30 '11 at 1:58

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The short answer can be found in these maps from Professor Bert Vaux's Dialect Survey:

the final vowel in "Monday," "Friday", etc.

The speech accent archive, suggests that the -dee ending is popular in the American Southeast, particularly in Louisville, Kentucky; Atlanta, Georgia; Belmont, Mississippi; Plantersville, Arkansas; Elmore, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida.

Additionally, I invite you to google mondee tuesdee or mondy tuesdy, or similar. The eponyomous search engine will return many thousands of hits. Depending on how many and which of them you investigate, you are likely to learn one or more of the following things:

  • The Mundee-Tuesdee people are a hardy lot. While a large group of them may be oldsters and on the way out, they are alive and well in many regions of the good ol' US of A. You'll find them in Baltimore, Phuldulphia, Pittsburgh, Utah, Misouri, Fort Worth, Houston--in fact, all of The Drawling South. I can't find a link to prove it, but Midwesterner and radio personality Garrison Keillor is a Mundee-Tuesdee person. And, I wouldn't link to her if I could, but guess how Alaska's Sarah Palin pronounces the days of the week.

  • The Mundee-Tuesdee people are often disdained for a perceived lack of intelligence. (As a native of Ballmer, Merlin myself, I bear the shame of Mundee-Tuesdee heritage, though I have renounced it.)

  • It's difficult to find online academic sources addressing this topic by googling mondee tuesdee or similar pronunciation approximations.

Most online dictionary entries, including Cambridge Dictionaries Online and Dictionary.com give both pronunciations, with the -day ending listed first.

A post by expert at usingenglish.com offers this partially contrary but more detailed entry from Longman Pronunciation Dictionary:

Although Received Pronunciation and General American are both traditionally considered to prefer di, most speakers in practice use both pronunciations for this suffix, often in a strong form—weak form relationship. The deɪ form is generally preferred in exposed positions, for example at the end of a sentence: I’ll do it on Monday ˈmʌn deɪ ; the di form is preferred in close-knit expressions such as Monday morning ˌmʌnd i ˈmɔːn ɪŋ ǁ -ˈmɔːrn-

Extensive investigation of the Google results for the related IPA symbols may yield a precise answer to the OP's query: What US dialects characteristically use this pronunciation, however, a nearly identical question is asked and not definitively answered at the Linguistics Stack Exchange site. Excerpts include:

There's lots of anecdotal information on this, like this English.Stackexchange question, which is interesting enough, but I'm curious if anyone knows of scholarly work on the subject. -Dec 24 '11 at 5:08 by Mark Beadles

I have found one scholarly work on the subject, K. Wheatley in American Speech, Vol 9 No 1, Feb 1934, pp 36-45, "Southern Standards". Author writes:

Yesterday, Monday, Tuesday, etc., always have [i] in the final syllable in Southern speech while [ei] is often heard in these words in the linguistic West.

It is not clear what dialects she means by "Southern" and "Western" other than that these are American dialects.

Mark Beadles, the author of the excerpts has provided this information in his answer here as well.

As I know from personal experience, and as I've demonstrated with the evidence (albeit anecdotal) at the links above, the distribution of these pronunciations is far more complicated than this Southern vs Western dialectical dichotomy can easily account for. I can vouch for a strong preference for the -dee ending in a certain group of native Philadelphia area and Baltimore area English speakers.

I also believe that the following linguistics.stackexchange comment, especially regarding the influence of socioeconomic factors, is accurate.

@MarkBeadles -- It may well not be a dialectal matter. Individuals vary a lot in how their final vowels get reduced in rapid speech, even from hour to hour, or mood to mood. Not to mention that socioeconomic factors like class, income, education, race, and status are more often correlated than geographical location. Except of course where there's cross-correlations already. – jlawler Dec 24 '11 at 19:27

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Arguably the reason googling mondee tuesdee might give you the impression it's difficult to find online academic sources addressing this topic is simply because academic sources aren't likely to write those two spellings consecutively in the first place. They'd probably use IPA notation anyway, or just write mundy. In short, googling those two "words" is bound to pick up more drivel on Facebook than anything serious. –  FumbleFingers Dec 29 '11 at 23:50
@FumbleFingers Actually, only a tiny percentage of the hits returned on the mondee tuesdee search were from Facebook--drivel or otherwise. Most of the results do provide information relevant to the question at hand, though certainly none individually provides an answer. As I note in my revised answer, using IPA notation in the search didn't lead me, or the experts at linguistics.stackexchange.com, to an answer either. I think I've exhausted any skills I have that might lead to one, but I'm still hoping someone, here or there, will be able to provide an answer. –  sarah Jan 1 '12 at 16:43
@FumbleFingers Two things on the Fry: 1. He doesn't himself say that. The quotation attributed to him is actually him quoting someone else in Moab is My Washpot. I haven't yet determined if he is agreeing with that quoted sentiment or not. –  sarah Jan 2 '12 at 5:42
@FumbleFingers 2. The quote from Moab is referring to British dialects. I can assure you that this does not strictly translate to American English dialects. Please note the OP's apparent focus on American dialects. The Philadelphia and Baltimore "accents", which feature the ˈmʌn dɪ pronunciation, are definitely not "upper class." (As noted above, I am talking about my friends and relatives here, so I don't say that disparagingly. They'd tell you the same themselves.) In fact, I'd expect the opposite to be proven, though I obviously don't have the academic prowess or credentials to prove it. –  sarah Jan 2 '12 at 5:51
John Lawler obviously knows a thing or two about this subject. And no doubt using both pronunciations in the way you do is not uncommon. However, I can't ignore my personal knowledge and supporting evidence, some of which I've submitted above, indicating there are also certain dialects in which one or the other is used invariably. That is, if I understand what a dialect is, which I can't say for sure I do. I know some learn to switch, but I'd bet my Baltimore relatives and certain Philly friends do not know they say mʌndi as opposed to mʌndei, and would never say mʌnd ei. –  sarah Jan 3 '12 at 7:56

The OED gives the terminal vowel of Monday (and presumably the other days of the week, but I haven’t checked) as either /eɪ/ or /ɪ/ in both British and American English.

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The only academic source I could find on this topic was from 1934. K. Wheatley in American Speech, Vol 9 No 1, Feb 1934, pp 36-45, "Southern Standards". In a discussion of vowel reduction, the author writes:

Yesterday, Monday, Tuesday, etc., always have [i] in the final syllable in Southern speech while [ei] is often heard in these words in the linguistic West.

She attributes this to the tendency for Southern dialects to reduce unstressed vowels to [i] vs. the Western tendency to maintain the vowel value in unstressed position. It is not clear what dialects she means by "Southern" and "Western" other than that these are American dialects in 1934.

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I'm from Central Virginia and in my area its more common to say "dee" for the days of the week- as in Mon-dee , Fri-dee, etc. The emphasis gets place also on the first syllable of the word so its MON-dee Fri (frah)- dee. I believe this is a Southern manner of speech popular from Virginia on down.

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