Go ahead and Ask: What color is “egg”?

January 18, 2015 by admin

A reader asks…

I see that you have ‘egg’ as a GRAY word on your website.  I would categorize it as a RED word.  When using your tool (which I think is very creative and innovative), is regional pronunciation ok? 
– Jennifer Fitzgerald, K-12 ESL Teacher
Manchester Essex Regional School District, MA

Karen answers…

Thanks for getting in touch, Jennifer! Your question is a great one, and our answer is YES– in fact, regional pronunciations are more than ok, they’re what spoken English is all about!  The Color Vowel™ Chart supports positive and productive conversations about accent variation.

  • Consider the word ‘egg.’ For me (raised in California), egg is a RED word.  For my co-author Shirley (who is from Michigan), egg is GRAY.
  • Another example is the word ‘want.’ For me, want is MUSTARD. For my colleague from Vermont, it is OLIVE.
  • A third example is the word ‘roof’. For me, roof is BLUE.  For my friend from New Jersey, it is WOODEN, and for a third friend, roof is MUSTARD.

The Color Vowel Chart 4th Edition binder insertNow look at all those color options, and you’ll notice something:

  • RED and GRAY share a border on the Color Vowel Chart
  • MUSTARD and OLIVE share a border as well
  • BLUE, WOODEN and MUSTARD touch one another on a border or a corner.

We’ve designed the Color Vowel™ Chart to mirror the continuum of movement in jaw/lips/tongue precisely so that we can convey the ‘rightness’ of accent variation: that if you say egg with GRAY and I say it with RED, we still understand each other without a hitch despite this slight difference in vowel quality.

Learn more!


2 thoughts on “Go ahead and Ask: What color is “egg”?

  1. Laura McIndoo says:

    I love both this question and the answer! We all have so many regional differences. I love that the Color Vowel Chart opens up our eyes and lets us gain insight into our own pronunciation. Having lived in Vermont for seven years, I say “want” as OLIVE, but I must not have lived there too long as the word “because” is definitely MUSTARD for me.

    What I really had a strong connection with was when you said that it took you years for you to realize that you and your mother pronounced something differently. I think it was not until grad school when I was studying phonetics that I realized that my mother pronounced my own name as OLIVE, while I clearly had been saying my own name as ORANGE my whole life. Where did I get that from? And how on earth did I not notice that?

    I love your explanation about shared borders, and the Color Vowel Chart helps me to visualize it all. I guess what it’s still hard for me to understand is how I ended up on the other side of the border as my own mother, who gave me the name in the first place.

    Ah, the joys and complexities of language!

  2. Shirley Thompson says:

    I’d like to add one thought to Karen’s blog post. When teachers ask me “Where do I put a word on The Color Vowel Word List if I say it one way and a colleague says it another way?” My answer is always, “Put the word in BOTH places since both are completely acceptable and understandable. Our goal for students is always to have them be understood.” So, I’d put the word ‘egg’ in both the RED box and the GRAY boxes. Put ‘want’ in both the MUSTARD and the OLIVE boxes. And put ‘full’ in both the MUSTARD and the WOODEN boxes.

Comments are closed.

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