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Why is The Mall (Westminster, London) pronounced like mawl?

A few friends and I are playing Monopoly and are having an argument over how to pronounce the property 'Pall Mall'. Is it pronounced as 'Pal Mal' or 'Paul Maul'?

marked as duplicate by JSBձոգչ, user2683, MrHen, FumbleFingers, Mitch Dec 5 '11 at 19:29

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As a Londoner I pronounce it pal mal, but I am much less consistent with the next street, The Mall, which I sometimes rhyme with shall and sometimes with hall.

The pronunciation has varied over time. Samuel Pepys wrote of the game as Pelemele (Diary 2nd April 1661) and the road as Pell Mell (Diary 1st May 1669).

  • I agree. Most (but not all) people (in Southern UK, at least) rhyme the shopping mall with "hall", but I've never heard that pronunciation with Pall Mall, even though the word "mall" is the same one, with the same etymology and meaning. It's just idiomatic usage based on the alliteration, I guess. – FumbleFingers Dec 4 '11 at 19:06

Normal English pronunciation is Pal (as in friend) - like shall

But it's named after a game in French Paille-maille, so 'upper-class' English pronunciation is sometimes Pel Mel.

  • 2
    The term "short a" can refer to at least three different sounds, so that's a pretty useless explanation. – JSBձոգչ Dec 3 '11 at 16:54
  • Isn't the word for friend or buddy spelled pal not pall? – Hugo Dec 4 '11 at 18:43
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    I'm not sure the 'upper-class' English pronunciation is related to the fact that Pall Mall came from a French term. I think it's just another one of those standard vowel changes in "cut-glass" accents, like "hice" for "house". – FumbleFingers Dec 4 '11 at 21:04

There is a lot of variation. The cigarette brand was /pɛl mɛl/, just like the expression pell-mell, at least when I learned it in N. IL in the 40s and 50s. I later learned that some called it /pɔl mɔl/, which makes it a problematic word for Americans, because most people on the W coast have merged /a/ with /ɔ/, so what they say may well sound like /pal mal/ to others.

I must admit I've never heard it pronounced /pæl mæl/, which is what it would be if pronounced like shall /ʃæl/, though of course some pronounce shall the same as shell /ʃɛl/.

Summary: Decide on whatever name you like and stick with it. Everybody else does.

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    Yes, apparently the makers of the American cigarette brand, Pall Mall, did mean for it to be pronounced such that both words rhyme with bell. To wit; this 1955 commercial and this 1970 commercial. – sarah Dec 4 '11 at 9:58
  • The question is about the London place in Monopoly, not the American cigarette brand. – Hugo Dec 4 '11 at 18:46
  • Americans wouldn't normally know that, and wouldn't know how to pronounce the RP name, even if they did. – John Lawler Dec 4 '11 at 19:22

Both words rhyme with shall.

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