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My father, was an educated, scholarly American gentleman raised in Colorado. He spoke, read and wrote in English and German, and could read and write in Greek, Latin and Hebrew. He always pronounced the word knowledge as now-ledge. He said he grew up pronouncing it that way.

Has anyone else ever heard this? Does anyone know where it comes from?

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    by "now", do you mean "ow" as in cow, or "ow" as in crow? – herisson May 24 '17 at 3:58
  • I do have a vague recollection of reading that 'know-ledge' was an old-fashioned way to pronounce the word, but I can't remember where. – Kate Bunting May 25 '17 at 8:34
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The Oxford English Dictionary says this about the pronunciation of knowledge with the "long o" sound of the corresponding verb know:

The now standard pronunciation with short stem vowel has developed from a form with Middle English reduction of the diphthong ou to short ŏ (see E. J. Dobson Eng. Pronunc. 1500–1700 (ed. 2, 1968) II. §14). An alternative pronunciation reflecting the usual development of Middle English ou to long open ō is recorded by the 16th-cent. orthoepist John Hart, and persisted into the 20th cent. (no doubt influenced by the pronunciation of know v.); thus N.E.D. (1901) records an occasional pronunciation (nōu·lėdʒ) /ˈnəʊlɪdʒ/, as do various editions of Webster (from 1911 onwards; labelled as ‘sometimes, especially in British usage’), and D. Jones Eng. Pronunc. Dict. up to ed. 13 (1969; labelled as ‘rare’).

  • I've never heard "knowledge" pronounced "now-ledge"; it's always been "nah-ledge" to me, rhyming with "college". Benjamin Jowett, a 19th-century Master of Balliol College, Oxford, had this little rhyme written about him: First come I. My name is Jowett. / There's no knowledge but I know it. / I am Master of this College, / What I don't know isn't knowledge. – tautophile May 25 '18 at 0:08
  • @tautophile: yes, the "nolledge" pronunciation seems to be pretty old, since the OED says it developed from a Middle English form. The "now-ledge" pronunciation might be considered an analogical or spelling-based restoration, like the shift that supposedly occurred from pronouncing "forehead" as "forrid" to pronouncing it as "fore-hed". – herisson May 25 '18 at 0:11
  • I never pronounce "forehead" as "fore-head"; I always say "forred". – tautophile May 25 '18 at 0:12

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