When I was a child, I used to pronounce mushy as 'mah-shee' but somewhere along the way I've heard it being pronounced as 'mooshee' and have been using that ever since. Recently my mom argued with me saying the former was the right pronunciation but I begged to differ. So I googled and only found the former pronunciation but I'm still not convinced. Is there really no 'mooshee' pronunciation for mushy? Or is it little known?

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  • Here's a dictionary entry with the -ah- pronunciation. Since the word is derived from the word mush, it stands to reason that their pronunciations are also similar. However, meanings and pronunciations do sometimes drift, and I've come across the -oo- pronunciation as well. There's probably at least a touch of onomatopoeia involved in the shift. – Lawrence Sep 7 '17 at 5:47
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    I pronounce the ’u’ like push or sometimes like must not like whoosh. – Jim Sep 7 '17 at 6:37
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    If you're British, it depends what part of the country you live in! – Kate Bunting Sep 7 '17 at 7:02
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    @Jim: Me too. I think I tend to say M ʊ SHY PEAS (as per book) because that's more characteristic of Northern speech (and takeaway eating habits! :), but in other contexts I might say something like the ground is all M ʌ SHY (as per but) because that's how we poofy Southerners usually talk (and it's evocative of muddy). But it's never a long vowel like boom. – FumbleFingers Sep 8 '17 at 18:06

I take the question to be asking about the pronunciation of "mushy" as /mʌʃi/ (sometimes written /məʃi/, rhyming with "rushy") vs. /mʊʃi/ (rhyming with "pushy").

It seems that /mʊʃi/ exists, but is relatively rare. Merriam-Webster lists it: "\ˈmə-shē, especially in sense 2 also ˈmu̇-\". (Sense 2 is the "excessively emotional" sense.) The American Heritage Dictionary also lists it, after the pronunciation with /ʌ/.

The Oxford English Dictionary only lists /mʌʃi/, but interestingly enough, the entry for "mush" does show the variant pronunciation /mʊʃ/. It is marked as "U.S." in particular. However, the OED also lists some variant spellings that suggest that this pronunciation may exist regionally in British English: "Eng. regional 19– moosh (Yorks.)". Note that Yorkshire English is well-known for its tendency to have /ʊ/ in words that are pronounced with /ʌ/ in Southern British English, such as "cut" and "blood" (Wikipedia "Yorkshire dialect"). This may be what Kate Bunting is alluding to with her comment about pronunciation varying between different areas of Britain. I don't know enough to give any more detailed description of where you might expect to find /mʊʃ/.

As Lawrence mentions in a comment, the adjective" mushy" is derived from "mush". As variation exists in the pronunciation of the noun, it makes sense that variation exists for the adjective as well. There might even be people who use one pronunciation for the adjective and another for the noun, since the adjective is relatively common and its connection to the noun is no longer especially prominent, I think (at least not for me).

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    On top of spaghetti, all covered in cheese, I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed. ... It rolled in the garden and under a bush, And then my poor meatball was nothing but mush. – Peter Shor Sep 7 '17 at 13:16
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    I don't think it's just Yorkshire, I associate /mʊʃi/ with "oop north" in general. Especially when related to peas. – AndyT Sep 7 '17 at 14:39
  • Yes, that is what I was referring to. The 'mooshy' pronunciation would be standard in Northern England. – Kate Bunting Sep 8 '17 at 9:02

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