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As far as I know, margarine is the only word in which a 'g' is pronounced as 'j' though it is not followed by 'e', 'i', or 'y'. What causes the unorthodox pronunciation?

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  • i suspect its to do with it's French origins
    – JoseK
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 12:21
  • 10
    French words with ga, including margarine, have a hard g. So, that's not the reason.
    – F'x
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 12:36
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    mortgage has French origins, and the agent noun form is mortgagor which is another soft 'g' example
    – JoseK
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 12:38
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    @David Halperin - isn't judgment itself a derivative of judge?
    – Waggers
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 13:44
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    the only one? I like the word "gaol" myself.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 14:17

2 Answers 2

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The OED says:

N.E.D. (1905 ) gives as the pronunciation only (mā·ɹgărīn), with /-g-/ ; this pronunciation, which became rare in the second half of the 20th cent., probably underlies the nickname Maggie Ann (see maggie n. 4). N.E.D. (1902 ), however, s.v. Oleomargarine, notes that the latter is ‘Often mispronounced (-mā·ɹdʒərīn), as if spelt -margerine’ (i.e. with /-dʒ-/ ). The latter pronunciation is recorded in 1913 (with subordinate status) by H. Michaelis & D. Jones Phonetic Dict. Eng. Lang.; the shortened form marge, in which -ge also implies pronunciation with /-dʒ-/ , is attested within ten years of this (see 1922 at marge n.2). The shift of stress, outside North American English, from the first to the final syllable is also first evidenced in the 1913 source.

I doubt if we will find any more definite answer than this.

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    this only hints that it was pronounced correct for some time and the current form was noted as mispronunciation... Or i got it all wrong. Anyway, the current pronunciation is extremely painful to anyone that sees the written word wout being exposed to the pronunciation first...
    – gcb
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 5:22
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    No, it says that one pronunciation was current for a while, and that another pronunciation (which at first was described as a mispronunciation) then took over.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 16:54
  • isn't that exactly what I said?
    – gcb
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 4:05
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    No because my comment does not contain the word "correct", which depending on its sense is either tautologous or tendentious.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 21:20
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Perhaps margarine is pronounced thus because it is said to have been invented by Hippolyte Mege-Mouries. As this gentleman was French, that would fix the soft-g pronunciation.

For more you could look here, or here.

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