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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
    
@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
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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 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
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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
    
@CarlSmith still doesn't rhyme with lorry –  rickyduck Mar 6 '13 at 15:38
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@rickyduck, I doubt that CarlSmith rhymes with anything. –  jwpat7 Mar 7 '13 at 17:36
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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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