I was watching an episode from 2007 of the Science Channel's How It's Made in which a canoe was being constructed*.

The narrator consistently pronounced "gunwale" as /ˈɡʌnheɪl/ (gunhale) with an aspirated "h" (and no "w"). I'm only familiar with the pronunciation /ˈɡʌnəl/ (gunnel) and that (or similar) is the only pronunciation given in a few dictionaries I consulted.

Is there a dialect of English (or regional accent) in which his pronunciation is common?

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  • 2
    Why? I know how it's pronounced generally as I indicated in the question. Sep 9, 2018 at 19:08
  • Are you aware that that word was spelled gunwhale during the 1800s, and that some folks pronounce such spellings with [ʍ]?
    – tchrist
    Sep 9, 2018 at 20:57
  • I don't know anything, but 'How It's made' is produced in Quebec, so it may be a Canadian English thing.
    – Mitch
    Sep 9, 2018 at 21:09
  • @tchrist: I thought I had seen that spelling before and I'm familiar with [ʍ], but the narrator was clearly saying [h] and not [ʍ]. Sep 9, 2018 at 21:59
  • 6
    Maybe somebody told the narrator "you don't pronounce the 'w' in gunwhale" so he started pronouncing it gunhale instead. Sep 10, 2018 at 2:37

2 Answers 2


Anyone spend time on boats in Ireland? It seems many dialects there appreciate the aspirated h where other dialects use none.

Alternatively (having heard many flavors of mispronunciation of nautical terms) might it be the result of grappling with an unfamiliar word and finding a pronunciation that felt adequate?


It's more like "gunnel". Like someone said, the Brits shorten "forecastle" to "fo'scle" and "boatswain" to "bosun" so "gunnel" would follow that trend. Some writers even use the spelling "gunnel" as a variant of "gunwhale" but this is not standard usage. (see Liz Dexter's website: she has a degree in English Language and Literature and is an editor, a qualified librarian and a published author so she would know.)

  • 3
    The OP is familiar with the “gunnel” (/ˈɡʌnəl/) pronunciation. The question is: Is there a dialect of English (or regional accent) in which his pronunciation (“gunhale”, or /ˈɡʌnheɪl/) is common? This is not an answer to the question. Nov 17, 2018 at 2:44

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