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The dictionary states as follows:

[vol-uh-tl, -til or, esp. British, -tahyl]

Especially British? Hmm.

Don't kill me: I've never heard the following lyrics actually performed; I've only read them; they're from one of the (presumably many) English translations of the German original of the chorus in The Czardas Princess by Emmerich Kalman (who was Hungarian, but that's neither here nor there, I suppose):

How can the truth be learned
Where Woman is concerned?
You call us full of guile,
Capricious, volatile.
Oh, why was Woman born?
To drive us mad, mad, mad, mad,
Mad with
Her sweetness,
Her devilry and scorn.

"Guile" obviously rhymes with "volatile" here, from which one could safely assume that the translation is ... uh ... especially ... British.

My question is where and when did the shift happen? Did the Yankees begin to slur the vowel, or did the Brits resolve not to elide it anymore - and when?

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  • For what it's worth, most people where I live in Canada pronounce it in the...uh...especially British way.
    – Anonym
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 22:25
  • @Anonym: ))))))!!!
    – Ricky
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 22:28
  • 1
    Actually in the UK both ways of saying the word volatile are used.
    – rkchl
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 22:35
  • @rkchl: Which version would Onslow "Keeping up Appearances" use?
    – Ricky
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 22:39
  • 2
    Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary of the English Language (London, 1828) says that volatile and textile ended the same way as lentil. Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 2:00

1 Answer 1

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Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary of the English Language (London, 1828) says that volatile and textile end the same way as lentil.

The Student's English Dictionary (London, 1865), by Ogilvie, says that textile and volatile end the same way as file.

So it looks like the Brits stopped eliding it some time in the 19th century. (I'm sure that it happened quite gradually; you shouldn't take either of these dictionary's dates as endpoints of the process.)

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