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I have always pronounced lorry as "lur-ee" (as if to rhyme with worry), for as long as I can remember. Everyone else I know pronounces it as "lor-ee" (as if to rhyme with sorry).

Which one is correct, and why would the pronunciation of the vowel differ between sorry and worry when their spellings differ only in a consonant?

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2  
Since "sorry" is pronounced three different ways in the U.S., in the U.K., and in Canada. I've added the "british-english" tag. –  Peter Shor Oct 26 '12 at 10:47
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Different UK regions pronounce things differently too. This could well be a Manchester thing (for example; I've never lived there). –  Andrew Leach Oct 26 '12 at 12:15
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@AndrewLeach - I am, in fact, from Manchester, so you could be very much correct –  rickyduck Oct 26 '12 at 12:22
    
@rickyduck: As a Southerner, I hear the Manchester lorry/sorry as quite close to both marry/parry and worry/hurry. The fact that you've got away with your [incorrect] pronunciation for so long suggests even your fellow Mancunians don't perceive/enunciate those differences as strongly as some other speakers. –  FumbleFingers Oct 26 '12 at 12:47
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@rickyduck I confess, I looked at your profile. –  Andrew Leach Oct 26 '12 at 13:15

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I don't do "correct", but I've never heard anybody pronounce "lorry" to rhyme with "worry".

I believe that the difference is because of the lip-rounding of the /w/. Many words starting with "w", "wh", "sw", "qu" or "squ" have different vowel sounds from similar words with a different consonant.

Eg

  • watch, what vs patch, thatch, pat, that
  • war, warm, swarm vs far, farm
  • worth, worm vs forth, form

(There are exceptions to this rule).

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Adequate answer to my question. Sort of like wan should sound like man, but instead makes a won sound (wanted)... except in other cases such as a widely used swearword with the same first three letters (can't think of any other examples). My argument for using "lurry" has always been worry is the same spelling yet different sound... I guess this eliminates that defense. –  rickyduck Oct 26 '12 at 12:25
    
I'm not sure "lip-rounding of the /w/" makes much difference. Most people wouldn't confuse hot and hut, which seem to me to be the same vowels as lorry/hurry. –  FumbleFingers Oct 26 '12 at 12:49
    
@FumbleFingers For me, hot, hut, lorry, hurry have four different vowels. –  tchrist Oct 26 '12 at 14:14
    
@tchrist: That's probably the American in you, being affected by the "r" that many of us Brits barely enunciate. –  FumbleFingers Oct 26 '12 at 14:37
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“It don't do "correct"” must be idiomatic –  jwpat7 Oct 26 '12 at 19:54

I grew up in NW UK saying lurry (for lorry) but my more 'northern' boyfriend and his family insisted it was lorry so I changed my pronunciation.

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Are you saying you rhymed lorry with worry and hury instead of with sorry and Tory? –  tchrist Mar 6 '13 at 14:45
    
yes, lorry-worry-hurry as a child, now worry-hurry rhyme together as do lorry-sorry but Tory is different again with an 'ore' rather than 'o' or a 'u' sound. I can't think of a rhyme for Tory. . . –  Ruth Mar 6 '13 at 15:09
    
How about Story? –  Carl Smith Mar 6 '13 at 15:26
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@rickyduck, I doubt that CarlSmith rhymes with anything. –  jwpat7 Mar 7 '13 at 17:36
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@jwpat7 Unless you start getting a bit blasphemous and describe the aging Emperor Palpatine as a gnarled sith. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 11 at 11:01

There is a case that "lurry" is the original pronounciation.

The Online Etymological Dictionary gives this origin: "a truck; a long, flat wagon," 1838, British railroad word, probably from verb lurry "to pull, tug"(1570s), of uncertain origin. Meaning "large motor vehicle for carrying goods" is first attested 1911."

According to Wikipedia, meanwhile, before the railway "lorry" is attested in 1838 there was a horse-drawn "lorry", a low flat trailer for transporting other vehicles. Both of these were also referred to as "lurries" in the early period and this pronounciation seems to have been preserved in English dialect.

"Lurry" is certainly used here in Stockport by older and more conservative locals, but I first heard "lurry" from my grandmother (b. 1907 Cockfield, County Durham) referring to the horse drawn vehicle used to take her on a Sunday school picnic as a girl. She distinguished between that and the motorised "lorry".

I must point out though that the "u" of "lurry" as pronounced in the Teedale dialect of that generation is not the same as in Greater Manchester now; it is not as rounded as Yorks-Lancs /ʊ/ but not as open as the Southern English /ʌ/ I'd guess, but I am not a phonetician. I do know, however, that at the time the horse-drawn lorry was being transformed into the steam drawn lorry the English "u" was in a state of flux. My guess is that the spelling of "lorry" first recorded as a railway term in 1838 was originally an approximation to a dialectal pronounciation. The pronunciation "as spelled" has since become the norm.

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Brilliant and articulate answer. Thank you for this! And only a score of 21! –  rickyduck Dec 5 at 0:42

Pronunciations practically always differ regionally. I don't say lor-ee and sor-ee. I say lah-ree and sah-ree with a really low in the throat o like the doctor makes you say when he says, "go awh". But it still rhymes with sorry and not worry for me.

Why do they not rhyme with worry? Well, English has lots of word pairs with identical vowels and different pronunciations. Like bead/head, have/save, blow/wow, watch/hatch to name only a few.

Etymology or word origins can be a big influence. Sorry evolved from Old English sarig and worry evolved out of wyrgan, so they didn't always have the same vowels.

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http://www.rhymezone.com/r/rhyme.cgi?&typeofrhyme=perfect&loc=moreideas&Word=sorry

They should ryme due to the spelling but don't because the sound that the words make differs slightly. They, almost rhyme

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Nothing in the English language “should r[h]yme due to the spelling”. Spelling does not dictate how anything is pronounced in English, and rhymes are completely orthogonal to spellings. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 11 at 10:59

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