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I’ve noticed that homage is now often pronounced hom-aag with a French accent not hom-ige as previously used. Anyone else noticed this?

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    That's the original pronunciation. The word comes from French. Around 1300. So people have been noticing this for 700 years now. – RegDwigнt Oct 20 '18 at 14:12
  • Similarly the I hear garage pronounced both ways. – Weather Vane Oct 20 '18 at 14:58
  • I had believed ever since my schooldays 50+ years ago that the English word 'homage' was pronounced with a silent 'h'; it's only in the past few years that I discovered that it's usual to sound the 'h'. (However, it is pronounced in the French way when it means a tribute to a writer, film director etc.) – Kate Bunting Oct 21 '18 at 7:56
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The pronunciation most dictionaries list as most common is HOM-ij, with stress on the first syllable and with a sounded h. However, OM-ij and oh-MAHZH with silent h are becoming increasingly common.

Looking at the Google Ngram Viewer, it looks as though the pronunciation flipped around 1800 from silent h to what is now considered the traditional pronunciation.

Frequencies of "a homage" and "an homage" in Google Books

But that also coincides with the approximate time English pronunciation began to be standardized—namely the advent of John Walker's A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary (1791) and Thomas Sheridan's A General Dictionary of the English Language (1780)—so it might be indicative of a prescriptive standardization rather than an actual immediate change in people's pronunciation.

From a 2010 New York Times article by Ben Zimmer:

While most U.S. dictionaries list HOM-ij first, one exception is Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Joshua S. Guenter, Merriam-Webster’s pronunciation editor, explained to me that prior to the Tenth Edition of the dictionary in 1993, the pronunciation of homage was given with the initial “h” in parentheses, “indicating the two variants were about equally common.” Starting with the Tenth, they began giving a slight edge to OM-ij. “Our citation files do show the ‘h’-less variant to be more common than the ‘h’-ful one, though not by a huge degree,” Guenter said.

French /h/ had already disappeared by the time of the Norman Conquest, so /h/ in homage is indeed an English innovation, whether it was reintroduced only once or many times (probably the latter). Zimmer says:

As with many other imports from Norman French into Middle English, the initial “h” was not originally pronounced in homage. Eventually, so-called spelling pronunciation introduced the “h” sound to words like habit, host, hospital and human. Some words resisted the extra puff of aspiration, like heir, honest, honor and hour ... Starting around the eighteenth century, homage joined the “h”-ful crowd.

The pronunciation more faithful to French, oh-MAHZH, is apparently much more recent as Merriam-Webster seems to be the only dictionary that has caught up on it. It is generally confined to the relatively new sense of an artistic tribute, so, Zimmer argues, it may be understood as a reintroduction of French hommage, comparable to the way auteur is now re-borrowed into English, which refers to a filmmaker with a distinct style like Scorsese or Wes Anderson, not just any "author".

Zimmer concludes:

Listening to 10 recent uses of the word homage by on-the-air personalities [on NPR], I found an even split: five for oh-MAZH and five for OM-ij, with the latter generally reserved for the “respect” meaning, as in pay homage. The HOM-ij pronunciation, meanwhile, seems to be losing out to its trendier h-less rivals, despite the protestations of traditionalists. And since it’s a fight of two against one, “a homage” may, over time, become increasingly rare.

  • That’s why the OED says: “Sense 3b may partly show a reborrowing of French hommage, which shows similar extended or metaphorical uses in the arts. A perception of such reborrowing is reflected by the pronunciation Brit. /ɒˈmɑːʒ/, U.S. /ˌoʊˈmɑʒ/.” As a recommendation, I would edit your post to include the actual pronunciations using standard IPA notation. The other two are Brit. /ˈhɒmɪdʒ/, U.S. /ˈ(h)ɑmɪdʒ/ respectively. – tchrist Oct 23 '18 at 23:06
  • +1. Nice use of Ngram to show evidence of probable long-term changes in pronunciation preference. – Sven Yargs Oct 24 '18 at 2:37

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