Originally posted 13 DECEMBER 2008 on my old blog.
Is there a word that rhymes with monger? As it’s usually pronounced on American TV and radio, there isn’t. There, the first syllable sounds like the first syllable of monster, the second like the second of anger. That pronunciation appears to have become standard in contemporary American English, at least on the broadcast news, which is where it usually crops up, most recently in the unfortunate term fear-mongering. (See, e.g., Glenn Greenwald’s recent use of it on the Rachel Maddow Show. No reflection on Mr. Greenwald, who can’t be blamed, and whose column I read every day.) [I did in 2008, anyway. He doesn’t have a column at the moment, as far as I can tell.—JDC 20140112]
I think that’s happened because monger is a word Americans tend to encounter first in print, rather than in conversation, and we have to guess at its pronunciation. As far as I can tell, most of us are guessing wrong.
The proper pronunciation of monger (unless you subscribe absolutely to the view that whatever most speakers say is ipso facto correct) rhymes with hunger. Dictionary.com and its audio pronunciation guide still know this.
In England, where ironmonger’s is still a part of the common vocabulary (we say hardware store), they haven’t forgotten how to pronounce it. I imagine, too, though I don’t know how to check, Americans with the surname Monger still remember how to pronounce their name—though, of course, one’s name is one’s own, and if the Pepys family want to call themselves “Peppis”, as Fowler reports, rather than “Peeps”, we may lament it, but we can’t say it’s an error.