November 19, 2012

Ant/Ont/Aunt

I spent part of the weekend with my brother's family, and we had so! much! fun! My niece is three years old and getting so SOCIAL and CUTELY ARTICULATE, and my nephew is one and such a nice squeezy baby.

Here is my question: Did your family growing up pronounce the word aunt like "ont" or like "ant"? My family said it like ant and so did Paul's, but my sister-in-law's family says ont and that's true of most of my friends' families as well. We moved when I was in second grade, so I wonder if that explains my classmates teasing me a bit about it in elementary school: "ANT? That's a BUG!"

We are doing a combination: we say Ant Anna for my sister-in-law (because Ont Anna is harder to say), but my niece calls me Ont Swis.

Let's have a poll over to the right to show us the rough proportions [poll closed; see results below]---but I'd also like hearing more detail (what your spouse's family does, what you do now, whether things changed when you moved to a new area) in the comments section.

76 comments:

Slim said...

Closer to ant. I also "vace" for that thing you put flowers in. Honestly, I find "ont" and "vahse" pretentious.

Anna said...

Well, I'm English, so neither of those. :) More like 'ahnt' I suppose, long A. But Aunt sounds a bit formal to me, we tend to use Auntie (I'm Auntie Anna, my girls have an Auntie Jen, Auntie Kate, Auntie Helen, Auntie Sue and Auntie Emma).

Rebecca said...

Both my husband and I use "ant", but our daughters use "auntie" (prn "antee"), which must be a throwback from spending my teen years in Canada.

Anonymous said...

My Mother's family (from southern New England) said Aunt like "Ont" and my Father's family (NY & NJ) said it like "Ant" -- when growing up we had Aunts on her side we said "Ont" and on his side we called them "Ant." It wasn't confusing for us because that's just how we always knew them. Ants and Onts actually helped us to distinguish which side of the family we were talking about (very large family!) over time I have transitioned into saying "Ont" because it feels more natural to me... Probably because of where I have grown up.

karen said...

We say it like ant. I'm from Chicago, and we live in Michigan, but my husband is from all over (missionary kid)and his mom is from England, so she says, ont. Everyone else from around here says ant. Unless they're trying to be cool.

StephLove said...

I grew up in the Philadelphia area and now live in Maryland. I almost always say Ant, but for some reason Ont slippled out the other day and my kids thought it was so funny. I don't know why I said it. I've always said Ant and the people around me always have, too.

My kids call my sister Auntie Sara, which they pronounce Anty.

melty said...

I'm from ny/nj and we say ant.. my husband is from ct and they say ont... my father in law says ontie when referring to SIL.. drives me nuts, but so far my kids haven't started saying it. Honestly though I dont' call anyone "aunt" or "uncle" I just call them by their name. I think it's a little tiny bit ridiculous and would just as soon not have my nieces and nephews call me anything but my name.

Erin said...

I've always said Ant, but my husband (who grew up less than an hour from where I did in northern Virginia) says Ont. I had a lot of friends in school who said Ont too.

Now we sort of use a mix for L's aunts (none of whom are actually related to her, as Kevin and I both have brothers who aren't married so she HAS no real aunts), depending on the person -- Ant Betsy, but Ontie Vanessa and Ontie Hayley. I don't really know why.

But neither Kevin nor I grew up using the term when we called our aunts by name. I would refer to "my aunt Kristina" when talking about her to others, but when I'm talking to her, she's just Kristina.

Susan C. said...

I was part of a Midwestern family that moved to New England when I was 5. So my family said "ant" while all of my friends and neighbors said "ont." I was "Ant Susan."

Laura Diniwilk said...

Both sides of our family say ant, as do 99% of the people I grew up with. I have always thought ont sounded a bit pretentious as well.

We also call everyone Aunt and Uncle and don't just call them by their first names. My brother tried to just go by John because we have enough creepy uncles that the term is ruined for him, but he got over it and is cool with being called Uncle Johnny now.

Becky said...

I grew up in Northern MN (like closer to Canada than the nearest town), and we say Ont in my family (or Auntie/Onty, when the kids are little). Many of my Midwestern friends say ant, though.

Noelle Spooner said...

Ant or Antie is what I'm called by all my nephews. I'm from California and now live close to my husband's family in Florida and everyone I know says Ant.

KT said...

I'm from the Midwest so my family says Ant. My husband is from the East Coast so his family says Ont.

Amanda said...

I grew up in New England and it is Aunt (ont) and would be mocked any other way. Hubby grew up in California with Ants. We now live in Virginia where it is Ant but for my children they call the person based on that person's location. So they have an Ant Shelle and an Ant Jessie from California and an Aunt Joyce and Aunt Shelly from New Hampshire.

Amanda said...

ps - I answered the poll based on how I grew up, not how we do it now that my kids have ants/onts of mixed correctness ;)

Holly said...

I've always used and heard 'ont' here in New Hampshire. (but unlike your previous commenter who called it prententious... I've never heard anyone say 'vahse' for vase)

shin ae said...

My husband and I both said ant, but my kids say auntie (the only aunts the have are great-aunts), still with an "ant".

Therese said...

My family says it like ant as does my husband's family. We are from different states but both in the south so I don't know if that makes a difference. From my experience (again in the south), the difference in pronunciation seemed to go along racial/cultural backgrounds. Most causasian families pronounce it "ant" while African-American families say "ont." Not sure why but that is my experience.

Sarah said...

We all say it like ant, but my FEELING is that it should be pronounced like ont. If you follow the rules of phonetics, then that's the correct way, right? Like, rhymes with jaunt?

Beylit said...

We pronounced it 'ant' always, unless we were being snotty and then we would use 'ont'. My mom was an air force brat, and when my grandfather retired they were in Connecticut. My moms sister married a man from there. His family always used to try and correct me when I would pronounce it 'ant'. Of course this would just make me say it louder and more often to annoy them.

Sara said...

My husband and I are both from Ohio and we pronounce it "ant". And as a child, "ont" always sounded somewhat snooty to me. :)

RA said...

I grew up saying "ont," but my husband teases me that it's pretentious. So I call his aunts "ant" and mine "ont" now. It has just become part of the person's name: Ant Judy versus Ont Faye, and so on.

Shari said...

Ant - I think most people in my area (PA) say it that way.

Heather said...

I'm from New Zealand and live in Australia. Our pronounciation isnt either of those. I guess the closest I could say would be "aren't-y". In our family we are aunty-first name but when children reach double digits in age, they drop the first name altogether so the vast majority of my nephews and nieces just call me 'aunty'. Some of my adult cousins call our aunts and uncles by their first name but I dont...its a mark of respect to not drop the 'aunty' part.

Melissa said...

We all say "ant" - grew up in IL and AZ - but like several commenters above, we don't always use the term when speaking to the person, just their first name. It is probably less respectful but it's what we do.

SallyG said...

My husband and I are both from the midwest and we say "Ant". My family tends to use the title (Aunt Pam) when addressing the person or speaking about them - especially amongst the kids. We even use Ant when the person is really more of a second cousin or whatever because that just gets confusing. My husband's family just uses the person's name mostly.

Giselle said...

We used a Congo growing up...my Mom is from NH originally and mydad fromOH. Ohio people definitely madefun of us for saying "ont", and our New England family made runoff us for saying "ant". We couldn't win!

Giselle said...

That would be COMBO. Not Congo as my autocorrect seems to want to do...

Cherie Beyond said...

I say "ont" and the husband says "ant" and so far we are holding firm in our mixed-pronunciation marriage. I think the kids go back and forth, so we are probably warping them for life on this point.

However! This made me think of a pet peeve. We have a few children's books that rhyme "aunt" with an "ant" word and it makes me crazy. In order to make the rhyme work, I must pronounce "aunt" in a way that feels incorrect and strange and look! This is a pronunciation that varies so can we just accept that both are correct! The "ant" people need to stop subtly pushing their case via children's literature.

changelivlife said...

In my family we refer to them as an ONT, but address them as ANT.

So it is "did you hear that ONT Carole is going to Italy again?"

and "Have a great trip, ANT Carole, bring me back a souvenir!"

I don't know why...

Kara Keenan said...

Like Ont and Ontie. Because I was born on the South Shore of Massachusetts, and that's just how it's pronounced.

And, yes, Ant is a bug!

Joanne said...

I say Ant for Aunt, I am from Northern NJ and that's how everyone says it. We have relatives from New England and the Berkshires and those snooty bastards say Ont for Aunt. Ha! I'm kidding! But I did grow up thinking Ont was v. v. fancy. An ant is indeed a bug, but it's not that crazy in English to have two definitions for words.

Maggie said...

I grew up in Massachusetts and said it like ont. My husband grew up in Oregon and says ant. He finds ont pretentious (also my pronouncation of vase like vahse) as do lots of other people out here on the left coast, so I've changed to saying ant. I can't seem to change vahse though.

Anonymous said...

In New York and in the South, we pronounced it "ant", my husband's family, from Boston, says "ont". So my kids have some of each, because, as others have mentioned, we teach them to call people what they want to be called.

Brenna said...

When we said it, we said "Ant", but usually we just called our aunts by their first names.

Niki said...

I grew up saying "Ant Barbara," and my families were from California and Minnesota. For some totally unknown reason, I recently introduced one of my best friends as "Ahnty Susan." (for pronunciation, think of the difference between the English "o" and the Spanish "a."). However, I think if I mention her to other people, I would revert to "oh, her Ant Susan gave that to her. I have no idea why (though I suspect it had to do with the concept of small villages where all the women are referred to as "Auntie", along with an aversion to saying someone is the "anti-Susan"?).

Oh, p.s., my phone doesn't show the poll, or I would vote for Ant.

Lawyerish said...

I was born in the Midwest, and everyone in my extended family always said Ant (we also called our relatives Aunt X, Uncle Y and not just by their name). When I was six, we moved to the South, and most people I grew up with there said Ant. My husband is from NY; his family says Ant also.

Becky said...

Minnesotans say ont. So my husband's family all says ont; my family all says ant. Our kids right now say ant. But their friends say ont, so we'll see what happens.

My mom grew up in NH, and my dad grew up in IA. My mom called her aunts "ont" but called my aunts "ant."

MomQueenBee said...

Unless you are of the English royal family, the only correct way to pronounce it is like the insect. Apparently this means my Minnesota-born sister-in-law is a duchess.

H said...

My husband and I have always been Minnesotans and live in Minnesota near the North Dakota border now. We say "ont" and everyone we grew up with said "ont" as do the people we know here, with a few rare exceptions. My sister-in-law (also Minnesotan) says "ontie" so that's how her children refer to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm from NJ, and grew up with "ant" only. I have friends from Iowa and Illinois who are teaching their kid to call me "ant." And my own nephews in Texas call me "ant."

Pickles and Dimes said...

Both my husband and I were born and raised in MN, and we say "ohnt."

Lisa @ Trapped In North Jersey said...

we say Auntie, pronounced Antie. But there is no rhyme or reason to who gets called auntie--I have ten aunts, but only four of them are called Auntie, and the others are just called by their name.

Jessica said...

I live in Iowa and thought the entire Midwest said Ant! I grew up a few miles from the Minnesota border and none of my friends said Ont. I guess I didn't know typical people:)

Elle said...

I live in the Southwest now, but my family originates from Minnesota and we have a tremendous history of fabulous "Ont"s. Great Aunts, Aunts -- all called "Ont FirstName". When my sister got pregnant, I immediately started thinking of myself as Auntie (Ontee) instead of just Aunt (Ont). I wonder if there is a map of the Ant v. Ont pronunciation somewhere on the interwebz... I love this topic. And I love being an Auntie! :)

Elle said...

Commenting a second time because I forgot to mention that my husband's family all originates in Iowa and they all pronounce it "ant" and refer to various aunts as "ant" or "antee". I laughed when I saw up above that someone commented that "Ont" sounded pretentious to them -- because "Ant" sounds so country bumpkin to me. (Nothing against country bumpkins.) To each their own!

Jess said...

I and my family pronounce it "ont" but we never called anyone "Ont" whoever, we just used the first name (so I would say Helen rather than Aunt Helen, for example). We are not big on titles. I also went to a school where we called our teachers by their first names.

Maureen said...

I grew up in the Chicago area, and my husband grew up in a rural area of New Jersey, and we both say ant. Growing up, we used the titles like it was part of their names, like antpeg, antsue, antfloss. Funny, I never would have thought of calling them by just their given names.

Kathy said...

My family always said ant but my husband's family said ont. So the aunts from my side are ant and from his ont. It doesn't confuse the kids either, it's just like it's part of their name.

Cayt said...

I grew up in northern England and I say it more like ahnt, with a long aaah sound. I also say vahse, with the same long aaah sound. Vaize sounds weird to me. Also, I say scone with a short 'o', like the o in 'lot', but a lot of people say it with a long 'o' like the o sound in 'moan', and I don't pronounce the 'l' in almond, that's another long aaah sound.

Carrie said...

I was born and raised in the Southeast and my family, on both sides, has always said "ant." I have always thought that "ont" sounded way too formal.

Daycare Girl said...

These comments are so interesting! I grew up with ant and so did my husband's family. His side calls me Ant, my sister's kids call me Auntie, and now my best friend's kids call me Ontie. She grew up in Singapore.
And as far as vase/vahse goes, I always heard that if it costs over $100, it's a vahse. $5-$50 is a vase, and under five bucks it's a jar. :)

Gentle Blue Mom said...

I always grew up calling my aunts (not ant's) "Auntie" I am 35 years old and I still call my Godmother "Auntie Jane" and my kids call their aunts "Auntie ___" My husband thought it was childish and he calls my aunts "Aunt ___" (not ant).

HereWeGoAJen said...

We use ont, but always Auntie. But I used ant growing up, which is weird. My husband's family- actually, I am not sure. He only has brothers, so Elizabeth doesn't have any aunts from that side (she has one now through marriage, but I initiated the pronunciation there so I can't tell) and Matt's only aunt is just called Debbie. Hmm.

stephanie said...

We've always pronounced it ont. My husband's family, too. We're from CT if that matters. My sister, SIL and I are all Aunties.

stephanie said...

PS, I also say "vace" not vahse.

Alice said...

My parents are both from NJ, and I was raised in NJ, and we all say "ant". I'm trying to remember what Chris says, but he has 2 parents who speak (different) non-English languages so I'm guessing however he ended up saying it will be sort of a moot point anyway.

Sunk Costs said...

I'm from South Carolina, and my sister and I tend to say "aint." Aint Pam. Or often we just call them by name, as our parents do. Now in conversation we'll say "my ant" but with family it's aint. I think it's from my mom- she has Aint Ree and Aint Snook. I'm surprised and self-conscious that nobody else has said it that way.

Ms. Key said...

I get very torn about this subject!

I definitely call my own Aunt's "Ant" or "Ant-ee" (Auntie). However, whenever I write "aunt", I WANT to say "ont" because I think the rules of phonetics are bothering me!!! LOL.

I also always pause before saying Aunt in front of someone else, as if I should say "ont"... so I think conversationally, I switch between "ant" and "ont" depending on whom I'm talking with?!

I feel torn. I do think "ant" is the more common personal pronunciation and is my family's pronunciation.

spacy dreamer said...

We say "Ontie" on my mom's side and that transferred over to my dad's side. My in-laws said "Tante" because their roots are French Canadian, but they always gave me and the other daughter-in-law dirty looks for not pronouncing it "just right." We started to use "Ontie," instead which has now become the norm, hee hee.

distracted by genius said...

We said 'ant' until we moved to New England (my family is originally from CA & MD) and then we said "ont" with classmates and my own aunt who moved to New England too, with her native New England husband- their family still says 'ont', but my family has since moved to the Pacific NW and we all went right back to saying 'ant' all the time.

Diane said...

I'm UK ENglish/AUstralia.
I say Aunt as in "aren't" or auntie as in "arntee"
By I'm more likely to be called Arny Di.
:D

Leslie said...

My family and my husband's family both pronounce Aunt like ant.

My extended family, however, says mum for mom. When we moved away from them (and Pennsylvania) to West Virginia and then later to Ohio, people would laugh when I said mum. "Don't you mean your mom? A mum is a flower." So now I say mom, not mum.

M.Amanda said...

I'm from Illinois and have always said ant. However, that is rarely part of someone's name. It's always been, "This is my aunt Judy. Judy, this is my friend Meg," not "Aunt Judy, meet my friend Meg." Usually, the title is only included for small children until they learn how people are related to them.

Gigi said...

I'm from Texas originally and my husband is from New York. We both say "ant" BUT his family is far more uptight about the title. As in using them. In my family, most of my aunts were closer to my age, so I just called them by their first name. After doing this a few times to Husband's aunts, it was made clear to me that I should use the title "Aunt." *sigh*

Magpie said...

sometimes, we mockingly (and internally) called one Aunt "Ont". But she deserved it.

Katie said...

We are firmly in the ant camp here, on both my parents' sides and my husband's various family members. Although his one biological aunt is actually "Auntie Donna", pronounced "Ant-y". We're from So Cal and his family is from Central Cal.

My kids have "ants" as well. "Ont" would sound ridiculous around here. Like you were putting on airs. ;)

Barb said...

I'm from Utah and everyone says it "ant". I have hung on to referring to and addressing directly my aunts and uncles as "Aunt Marie", "Aunt Barbara", "Uncle Tim", etc. even into adulthood because it seems respectful to me.

MargieK said...

I grew up in central Maine, and it would appear from the comments that "ont" is primarily a New England custom. One of my parents grew up in far northern Maine (with many Canadian relatives); the other in southern Maine.

I don't exactly say "ont," it's more like "ahhhnt" (perhaps like the pronounciation some are volunteering that's like "aren't" but without the "r" sound?). My husband -- who seems to have retained more of a Maine-ish accent, despite both of us moving to Colorado 33 years ago, says "aren't." He seems to put r's in words that don't have them (idea is "i-dear"), and --albeit to a lesser extent -- drop them in words that do (car = cahh...).

Kate said...

I grew up in Tennessee, but my parents are from California. I grew up saying Ant, but many of my school friends said Ont (and told me I was wrong). I've lived around the south a lot of my life, and it's my perception that a lot of people say Ont here, but some say Ant like me. My boyfriend is from Iowa and says Ont. I imagine if we were to have kids, his sister would be Ont, and I don't have any sisters, so there would be no Ants. (Boo.)

Anonymous said...

Another Chicagoan who says ant. I generally loathe our accent, but this is one case where I strongly prefer our pronounciation.

Jenny Grace said...

My comment gotten eaten. My paternal aunts are ants and my maternal aunts are onts. Actually, wait.
My paternal aunts are ants.
On my mom's side, her sister is an ant, her maternal aunts (my grandma's sisters) were all onts, but her paternal aunts were ants.
Gabriel has a similar mix. All of my onts have passed away, so my side is all ants, but his dad's side is ont.

CARRIE said...

I called all of my aunts "ants." My brother and I seem to have ix-nayed the whole "aunt/uncle" thing. The kids just call us by our first names, which I prefer because, really, when I was a kid my aunts were so, so, so old. And I, of course, am not. Ha-ha.

Misty said...

Fun! So, I call my Aunts "Ant." My friend from MA uses "Ont." My NOLA friends say "Ont-ie" for the most part.

I like Ont better. I say that when talking around my kids so they will say it, too.

Anonymous said...

In Michigan everyone says "Ant" unless you are of Africa American descent, then you hear "Ont" or "Ontie". It's definitely a cultural thing around these parts.

The Gori Wife said...

I grew up saying Ant. My husband's family speaks a different language, and all the aunts there have different way of saying it based on which side of the family they come from. There are four ways of being an aunt, so it's a lot of different add-ons that all mean aunt to remember. So your mother's sister is your khala (like "Beth khala") and your mother's brother's wife add-on is mami. Your father's brother's wife is chachee. The most unfortunate one is your father's sister, the add on for that is poopy. Beth poopy. Or if you have just one you just run around the house calling out "Poopy!" and someone actually responds to that name.

Oh wait, and there's a special term just for the ELDEST in the fathers-side group. But perhaps that was enough of an unsolicited Urdu lesson for now...