How do you pronounce Dawn?

Today on Jeopardy there was a category on homophones, words that sound alike, but have different meanings.

Here’s the clue that threw me:

a homophone that can mean either a high-ranking member of a Mafia family, or the rising of the sun.

No wonder I missed that one. In the dialect of standard English that I speak, the words don and dawn are NOT homophones.

Merriam-Webster gives the pronunciation of the o in don as short o, as in oncon, lot, pod, and John.

The popular gives the “aw” pronunciation heard in thought, Maud, fall, straw, and yes, dawn.

I have no quarrel with regional speakers who make Dawn rhyme with Don, but I do object when a quiz show that draws contestants from all regions makes a nonstandard pronunciation part of a clue.


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6 Responses

  1. My wife Dawn’s father’s name is Don. Dawn is like Fawn as Don is like Con. Easily discernible.

  2. I so agree. Not homophones. Say: Yawn, prawn, lawn, saw/sawn, drawn, spawn, fawn, brawn, pawn. Now say: on, John, non, con, Ron, yon, pond. Yes, regional accents can cause variations…(maybe Boston?), but since my name is Dawn, I’m always right. It does make me wonder though, how do those named Dawn living in Boston or Indiana, or elsewhere, pronounce their own names…hmmmm…

  3. I pronounce both Dawn and Don the same. People tell me it’s wrong, but I have always said it this way. They both make the “ahn” sound. I’m from central Indiana, so maybe most Hoosiers are like me; I don’t know. Where I currently live in northwestern Illiniois, many pronounce Dawn with the “aww” sound, and Don somewhere between “ahn” and “ann” so that their lips open horizontally–sort of a subdued Chicago accent.

  4. I’m with you on this one! I’ve traveled around the country and have never gotten up at the crack of “don.” Nor heard anyone else refer in this way to their early rising!

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