Thursday, January 21, 2010

Root Route

I was on a tram the other day. Ok, you are hovering over the x button with your mouse. I will go on. There was an announcement by a lass reading from a script about something or other, maybe alterations to the service for a holiday. Doesn't matter. She referred to alterations to a certain route.

Now, focus on the last word in the previous sentence. Did you read it as root or rowt? I think rowt might be an American pronunciation.

I think, only think, if you are Australian or English born, you would you would read it as root.

I recall from many years ago asking a question of a tramway employee and he answered my question, but said rowt. Him saying rowt distracted me to the point where I did not hear the rest of his answer. I was really puzzled. He had a slightly foreign accent, but that of Euro immigrant who had grown up in Australia. What is this rowt word?

Over some years I have heard many tram announcements over the public address system from a central control centre, and invariably, they say rowt.

Yet, no one I know personally says rowt. Everyone says route as root.

Hang on, how do you get your kicks? Don't you get your kicks on root 66? So maybe not American.

Apart from tram people, I never hear anyone say route as rowt. Is it an American pronunciation?

Please explain.


  1. I think it's Aussie, for delicacy.

    There's also rout (like when Napoleon got rooted).

  2. lol. I actually don't know how to pronounce it. I'm a bit lost when it comes to saying the word. We do say ROOT 66. Definitely.

    But if I said "Which route do you want to take?" I think I'd pronounce it rowte.

    The other word that confuses me is wound. I'm never sure if I'm supposed to say woond or wownd.

  3. Hmmm, good question, Andrew. I use both interchangeably, and I don't know why.

    It's a mystery.

  4. Dunno, I'll have to listen out a bit more in the future

  5. I've always said 'root' and it never occurs to me to pronounce it differently. In the last year however I've been corrected when saying the word 'router' with a double o. I've even been asked by someone thinking of buying one what the correct pronunciation is. Rowter sounds very wrong to me but I hesitate now when I come to say the word!

  6. Root it is. I'm NSW by birth, and moved to Victoria 10 years ago. I never heard anyone say rowt until I moved to Melbourne.

    But I'm happy to say rowter. Go figure.

  7. Or a football team gets routed.

    While deferring to local custom Dina, I wouldn't think of it as anything else but woond.

    Ian, probably not a word you hear that often.

    Time Boy, funny, I only know router as rowter but given its task, I don't see why it should not be said rooter.

    So you have heard it here then Captain. Interesting.

  8. Daisy, you are just a blonde in disguise :-P

  9. I saw an American movie years ago where some bloke wanted to move to another state. "But Frank," said his wife, "We've got our roots here."
    Bogans in the audience laughed, I only gave a titter.

    Half bogan.

  10. Anonymous12:00 am

    I've always said 'root' but most Americans I know say 'rowt'.

    BTW 'wound' (rhymes with 'hound'), is the past tense of wind (rhymes with 'kind'), as in 'Yesterday I wound a ribbon around the tree.' Vik.

  11. Chris L7:37 am

    PERSONAL OPINION ONLY. There's a difference in meaning between 'route (pronounced root)' and 'route (pronounced rowt)', in transport terms at least. In English, 'route', pronounced as 'root' means a specific and publicly timetabled path between 'A' and 'B'. In America, 'route', pronounced 'rout' refers to a specific duty roster, which may or may not involve changing destinations during the shift. I think, but am not sure, that in America the equivalent of the UK/Australian 'route' is 'line' - as here in Europe. So in the British context, 'route' is getting from 'A' to 'B' using constant and specific paths, and 'duty/roster' is getting your tram/bus/train around the network according to the rolling stock utilisation plan. For American areas, replace 'route' with 'line' and 'duty/roster' with 'route' (pronounced 'rowt').
    I also believe, though I can't access the references to be sure, that in certain places in Britain a 'rout' was a duty, so a driver would work 'rout 3' which involved two trips on 'root 3' and a final run on 'root 5'.
    'Rout' (pronounced 'rowt' in English because of the lack of an 'e' at the end) is, like many words, a homophone and has nothing to do with movement except, perhaps, the retreat of troops/mobs/unionists/Girl Guides utterly overwhelmed by forces opposing them.

  12. I say 'root'. Nathan says 'rowt'. I tell him he is un-Australian. He tells me that he was taught to say 'rowt' when he was working at an airline call centre. Apparently root sounded too 'unsophisticated'.

  13. Y'know Vik, I thought she meant wound as is a sore. Makes more sense now. Btw, if your wore a yellow ribbon on 07/02 to mark last years fires, would students ask why? Might be interesting.

    Very interesting Chris and thanks. This rather explains why US folk are not quite sure of pronunciation as the reasons are somewhat technical.

    AR, interesting. I wonder if it sometimes said rowt because of the sexual connotations of root.

  14. Andrew8:12 pm

    I've been confused by that as well. I grew up in NSW and say root.
    There is a site that tells you how to pronounce english words, i.e British/Australian or American. See below.

    It says 'root' is the proper pronunciation and rowt is the American one.

  15. Thanks Andrew. I think we can safely say root is the correct way to say the word route in Australia.