How do you pronounce "moths"?
May 27, 2016 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Do you say moth-s, mawths, mothz, mawws, or something else entirely? I've recently found out that no one can understand me when I say "moths." I don't believe I say any other English word so confusingly, so I'm curious how I came to say it so peculiarly, and whether my pronunciation is unique to me. I do have a bit of the northern cities vowel shift (and no longer live in the midwest), so I'm wondering if that adds to the confusion.
posted by stillmoving to Grab Bag (42 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I say Mawths. But I have a SUPER hard time saying Sixth. Go figure. Like, "The Sixth Sense" is almost too hard for me to say, hehe.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 12:08 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't really say "moths" that often, but when I do, I think I say "mawths."
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:10 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I say mawths as well. Canadian here.
posted by aclevername at 12:11 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I say "moths" with approximately the same short o as "mom" or "dog." If I'm talking quickly I lose the "th" a little bit, so it sounds more like "moss."

My dad grew up in Kansas and pronounced it like "mawzz," which always sounded a little odd to me. He also said "Warshington."
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:11 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maw-ths. That is how I say it.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 12:15 PM on May 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Mawths, almost 2 syllables, from the Missouri Ozarks.
posted by ridgerunner at 12:16 PM on May 27, 2016


mawths. NYC here.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:19 PM on May 27, 2016


Mothes!

No, just kidding, I just say moth, but with an s at the end, which I think "mawths" is a reasonable phonetic spelling of. Though the th does certainly get less emphasis.

IPA: /mɑθs/

Disclaimer: my dialect considers "cot" and "caught" to be homophonic. I have a very hard time distinguishing /ɑ/ from /ɔ/. I grew up in New England, lived in Minnesota for a while, and have spent the last 15 years in California.

I've recently found out that no one can understand me when I say "moths."

How do you say it? Can you post a recording of it? Some context is really helpful for calibrating the ear to how you navigate vowel space. Maybe: "My lamp shade is full of dead moths. It's gross."
posted by aubilenon at 12:21 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nthing mawths. Chicago suburbs.
posted by Kalmya at 12:22 PM on May 27, 2016


I'm in New England, and I say "Mozz." As in, "holy hell, that's a lot of mozz."
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:25 PM on May 27, 2016


For me, it's closest to mawths. Same o vowel sound as cloths, offs, broths, (but different from coughs, moms, dogs -- listening to myself saying those words out loud just now, I realize I have a very slight Chicago accent for mom - almost "maahm" and a very slight I don't know what accent for dog, somewhere around "dawg" - and cough is like caught - but I'm from a linguistic trainwreck of a family and geographic area with elements of northern AND southern shifts, and have lived all over the country so who the hell knows where my vowel shifts come from anymore). I definitely do not have the "cot/caught merger" for most words.

How do you say "moths"?
posted by erst at 12:25 PM on May 27, 2016


Mahths. As in open wide and say ahh. Mahths.
posted by phunniemee at 12:33 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


"lepidopterae" j/k mawths
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:44 PM on May 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


I agree with aubilemon, right down to the IPA, except I grew up in California and then moved to New England for college and haven't managed to migrate home yet :) For me, moths has the same vowel as cot, caught, coughs, mom, and dogs, to use all of the above relevant examples.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 12:48 PM on May 27, 2016


I'm from the US southeast. I think that I say mawthz. But my vowel merges and your vowel merges are probably pretty different.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:50 PM on May 27, 2016


Sorry, which is to say that cot and mom are the same for me and those are totally different fron caught, cough, and dog, which are more or less the same as moths.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:52 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


For me it kinda depends on context. If I know that the person I'm speaking to knows that we're speaking of moths, it will get pronounced quickly and as 'mawzz', one syllable. If I'm saying it out of context, I'll slow it down to mawth-zsz, almost two syllables. (Chicago accent?)
posted by hydra77 at 12:52 PM on May 27, 2016


I pronounce it like this (I just added my pronunciation, username bwogilvie).
posted by brianogilvie at 12:58 PM on May 27, 2016


Mawths; most of my NYC-based family pronounce it like moughts.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:59 PM on May 27, 2016


Mawth-ss. I grew up all over the western U.S.
posted by djinn dandy at 1:14 PM on May 27, 2016


Mothz, th sounding as in "the." Western U.S.
posted by moira at 1:17 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mothzz. California childhood, mostly NYC adulthood.
posted by dame at 1:22 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's funny seeing the words other people think have the same vowel sound. For me, the vowel sound in "moths" is an "aw" sound, the same as the sound in broth, dog, cough, caught, or straw. (Not an "ah" sound as in mom, cot, or pond.) The "th" in moth is the same as in path or cloth, but when it turns into moths, the "th" turns into the same "th" as "the" or "this." But the "th" tends not to get pronounced very strongly, so the word is halfway to "mozz."
posted by Redstart at 1:23 PM on May 27, 2016


"mothss," usually, which is kind of hard because of the tongue slide between th and s.
posted by rhizome at 1:39 PM on May 27, 2016


Maw-thus(uh). Texan through and through.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:44 PM on May 27, 2016


Moth-s from a lifelong South Carolinian. Owl is the word I can't quite decide how to vocalize.
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 1:45 PM on May 27, 2016


IPA : mɒðz (soft -th and a z). Canadian who's moved around a bit.
posted by cardboard at 1:46 PM on May 27, 2016


I forgot to describe how the s sounds. It's a "z" just like the s at the end of dogs or moms or clothes.
posted by Redstart at 1:50 PM on May 27, 2016


It's funny seeing the words other people think have the same vowel sound. For me, the vowel sound in "moths" is an "aw" sound, the same as the sound in broth, dog, cough, caught, or straw. (Not an "ah" sound as in mom, cot, or pond.)

Yeah, these are all the same sound for me: IPA ɑ.
posted by moira at 1:54 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I live in the south, have done all my life, and for some reason have been told I don't have much of an accent (I think it's because I hung around with navy and air force brats growing up, and spent time in NW Florida as well).

I think I say mawths (rhymes with "costs," sounds like "moss") like most of the northerners/midwesterners describe it above, without really pronouncing the "t," and I think most southerners punch up the "a" and the "w" sounds a bit more. It's really subtle, but if you say the word "maw," getting the "w" way up in your sinus passages, and then add "ths" to it, that's more deep south.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:15 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I say mawths, with voiceless final consonants (I do not have the cot/caught merger), but I just discovered that my wife says [mɒðz] with final voicing. The things you learn after fifteen years of marriage!
posted by languagehat at 2:28 PM on May 27, 2016


Northern California: Mawssssss (and then I inadvertently spit on you).

I also have a hard time saying "sixth" and generally rephrase so I can avoid saying either word. "Oh hey, a moth. And there's another one. Huh, there's a lot of them, at least a half-dozen."
posted by jamaro at 3:41 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Very interesting replies so far! I've always thought I say "mawthz," (rhymes with "claws," but with less w). I have recently been told I am instead saying "maawds," or something along those lines. I don't think I do this with any other word, and don't hear myself turning the th into a d, which is perhaps why this strikes me as so odd! Interesting, too, to hear others stumble with "sixth."
posted by stillmoving at 3:56 PM on May 27, 2016


Only a few of the replies so far make it clear what the "th" sounds like (voiced, as in "this", or unvoiced, as in "thing"?). I'm on Team Voiced, and have the exact same vowel split as Redstart. Edited to add: I'm from Northern CA but also have some of my parents' accents (NY and Philly).
posted by aws17576 at 6:01 PM on May 27, 2016


"Mahves". "Ah" pronounced as in "ah ha!"

I'm from North Carolina.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:10 PM on May 27, 2016


Only a few of the replies so far make it clear what the "th" sounds like (voiced, as in "this", or unvoiced, as in "thing"?)

Unvoiced, NorCal.
posted by rhizome at 6:32 PM on May 27, 2016


the cot-caught merger was confusing the heck out of me above (not an answer, sorry, but maybe will help others understand where some people are coming from).
posted by andrewcooke at 6:51 PM on May 27, 2016


I just learned that I say "moss". But I also say Feb-wu-ary, foe-ward and earl (for oil). When I try I say it as "moths."
posted by bendy at 10:17 PM on May 27, 2016


The Clouseau "meuths" scene (I think it's in "The shot in the dark") suggests that a non-stadardized and difficult-to-understand pronunciation of "moths" is a universal problem. I have something similar going on with the Swedish word for moose, and have rehearsed a descriptive explanation of people don't understand me.
So for you: "you know, those little flying things that eat away on your clothes" (next question, how to pronounce clothes...).
posted by Namlit at 12:55 AM on May 28, 2016


maaaths, in the same sense that "florida" is pronounced flaaarida
posted by poffin boffin at 9:53 AM on May 28, 2016


Mawths. Grew up in the Seattle area.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:30 PM on May 28, 2016


I'm Australian, so I say "moth-s", with both the "th" and the "s" voiced, with a very short "o". My Pacific NW husband says it more like "mawthz", emphasis on the "aw" but still a defined "th".
posted by finding.perdita at 2:31 AM on May 29, 2016


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