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It seems whenever orange is spoken, it is spoken as one syllable. But it appears to be two.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary transcribes the pronunciation of orange as follows:

\ˈär-inj, ˈär(-ə)nj; chiefly Northern & Midland ˈȯr-inj, ˈȯr(-ə)nj\

So, does this mean it could it be either? If so, I am interested in knowing if any regional varieties of English have been established to pronounce orange one way or the other, and if so which regions and how do they pronounce it.

Being from central Alabama and having family in central Illinois, I almost exclusively hear "arnj" (IL) and "ornj" (AL). I have heard some people in AL pronounce it "orenj", but they say it quickly so it comes off as "ornj".

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    Did you check a dictionary first? Do you want me to check one for you? – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 22:09
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    (BTW, I didn't downvote you. Not that I wouldn't, I just didn't. I think your question could be rescued by asking specifically if any regional varieties of English have been established to pronounce it one way or the other, and if so which. Make it more broader and more interesting to a linguistic audience.) – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 22:12
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    or-ange - two syllables where I speak it. – Simon B Mar 1 '16 at 22:23
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    It is difficult for a word containing as many distinct sounds as "orange" to be considered a single syllable. What you're sensing is the lack of distinct "breaks" in the word (usually sensed as fairly noticeable tongue movements), but such breaks are not the only determiner of syllable boundaries. – Hot Licks Mar 1 '16 at 22:56
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    This whole forum is about the vagaries and variations of language; it is the last place you should make assumptions about intuition (which is another way of asking others to read your mind). Even when I can guess, I often ask for clarification because I don't want to impose my context and assumptions (and I am a native English speaker) – Richard Haven Mar 1 '16 at 23:02
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To judge from the dialect that Andy Griffith uses when he says "big orange drink" (at roughly 0:35, 0:48, 3:03 of the video) in his comedy piece "What It Was Was Football," at least some people in rural northwestern North Carolina pronounce orange as a single drawled syllable that resembles "arnj." Griffith was from Mount Airy, North Carolina, close to the border with Virginia.

In southeast Texas and central California, I've heard some people pronounce orange as if it were spelled "ornj." But I've also heard many people in both places pronounce the word as two syllables ("orenj")and in Maryland and New York I've heard a different two-syllable pronunciation (akin to "arenj"). The upshot of all this is that pronunciations of orange vary considerably in the United States. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, for example, lists four principal pronunciations:

or·ange \ˈär-inj, ˈär(-ə)nj; chiefly Northern & Midland ˈȯr-inj, ˈȯr(-ə)nj\

If you've never heard the two-syllable ˈȯr(-ə)nj pronunciation in the wild, you can click the audio button on that page to hear it loud and clear.

  • In parts of New York, I've heard something akin to "ointch." – Rob_Ster Mar 2 '16 at 1:06
  • @Rob-Ster: I lived in Staten Island for a couple of years, so I was exposed to the Big-Apple-by-way-of-Jersey-Shore pronunciation. But orange is such an oddball word anyway that I would not be surprised to learn that there are a dozen or more local and regional pronunciations in the U.S. alone. Even so, "ointch" is truly an impressive way to say it. – Sven Yargs Mar 2 '16 at 3:01
  • @SvenYargs: I edited the original post to add a dictionary entry, without realizing that you had already cited it here. I'm sorry if it makes it look like you're repeating things! – sumelic Mar 4 '16 at 16:12
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    Of course, it must be noted that Andy Griffith spent a lifetime perfecting and embellishing his Smokey Mountain accent. It's really a potpourri of real and invented pronunciations only vaguely representative of a specific region. – Hot Licks Mar 4 '16 at 19:47
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Say it. Does your jaw open twice, or does it open once? When I say it, even pronouncing it or-ange, my jaw lowers once while my mouth widens to pronounce the last part of the word. Almost as if I were mimicking a fish. Say orange, then say button. Button hits twice, orange once. The separation helps with initial pronunciation, but after that it feels like it would be one. I'd ask about the definition of 'jerk', but I think some of these answers have already covered that.

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    "Hilly" (2 syllables) doesn't even 'hit' once, if I understand your heuristic correctly. – Lawrence May 4 '18 at 9:23

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