Recently, I wrote a post about Historic US Route 66. So …
How do you pronounce the word ‘route’? The nationally accepted way in the U.S. is to say it the same way as the nationally accepted pronunciation of ‘root’ which both rhyme with ‘boot’.
Growing up in Chicago, though, we said the word ‘route’ the same way people say ‘military rout’ to rhyme with ‘out.’
The fashion that we Chicagoans say ‘root’ is also at variance with national usage. We pronounce ‘root’ to rhyme with ‘foot’. For Chicagoans, this is the same vowel that occurs the word ‘roof’. This word rhymes with the sound that dogs make: ‘woof.’
I’ve heard these pronunciations from people who come from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve also heard these pronunciation from residents of Kansas City.
I don’t have anyone from Southern Illinois in my informal survey or from elsewhere in the Midwest besides the locations that I mentioned. My informants are older people who were born in these Midwestern states and who have not spent much time elsewhere in the country.
My own pronunciation changed to the nationally accepted way sometime during my life, but I don’t know why or when. I studied in Brooklyn for four years, but I don’t speak like a Brooklyner. Other than that, I’ve lived mostly in the Chicago area, except for ten years in Kansas City, until four years ago.
My impression is that the way we spoke in Chicago is the way people speak in the entire middle of the country. I’ve heard that some localisms came along with the railroads. Chicago is the railroad hub of the nation. It stands to reason that people who left Chicago for opportunities outward bound brought their local, Chicago speech with them.
While I’m at it, how do you pronounce ‘Chicago’, the city’s name? The people of the Chicago region and elsewhere in the Midwest pronounce the name of the city as shih KAW go, not like elsewhere in the country where they say the city’s name as shih KAH go. As far as I’m concerned, shih KAW go is the authentic name of the city.
Early on, when Frank Sinatra sang the song “Chicago, Chicago — My Home Town,” he gave it away that he’s from elsewhere. He sang, “shih KAH go, shih KAH go.” On the other hand, when Sinatra sang the song “My Kind of Town, Chicago Is” before a live crowd in 1982, he sang, “shih CAW go.”