Checking Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary shows that the British and American pronunciations for each of esplanade and promenade differ. Also the way the ending is pronounced for each dialect is different in the two words. Are there any explanations for this phenomenon?

  • I would pronounce the endings the same. So where does CALD say I live?
    – GEdgar
    Oct 18 '11 at 18:13
  • 5
    @GEdgar Riding a fence somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic.
    – Daniel
    Oct 18 '11 at 18:21
  • How weird! In practice I think many Brits say esplanard now, so it rhymes with promenard. I'd never noticed Americans pronouncing promenade to rhyme with lemonade, but maybe if they'd just drop that little quirk, we'd all speak the same language again! Oct 18 '11 at 18:46
  • As far as I can recall, I've never heard either word pronounced /-eɪd/ in Canada. Oct 18 '11 at 19:29
  • In the US, I think I've only seen esplanade used in the proper names of streets and the like. As opposed to promenade which, as part of the language, would have drifted in pronunciation, proper names seem to have more inertia.
    – Sam
    Oct 18 '11 at 22:41

In English spelling, a silent e at the end of a word usually signifies the preceding vowel should be pronounced as a "long vowel". Some of these words borrowed from other languages are pronounced according to the rule (/eɪd/), others are pronounced more closely to the borrowed word (/ɑːd/).

Both of your words have a French origin.

promenade (1560s) leisurely walk; (1640s) place for walking; (1887) dance given by a school
esplanade (1590s) large level area

There are many other such words in English with a variety of pronunciations, e.g.:

comrade (1590s) one who shares the same room
facade (1650s) front of a building
charade (1776) long talk, chatter

I don't think there is a rule governing the pronunciation of these words. Perhaps some speakers have been influenced by greater exposure to French. That would be consistent with my impression that US speakers prefer the 'anglicised' form. I find their anglicising approach more logical, as for instance, nobody pronounces grenade: /grəˈnɑːd/.