There’s No ‘Jerry’ in ‘Gerrymander’ (Try ‘Gary’ Instead)

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The term gerrymander, commonly used as in “gerrymandering a Congressional or other electoral unit to the benefit of one political party or the other,” should not be pronounced with a soft “g “resembling a “j.”

Elbridge Jerry, pronounced with a hard ‘g’

So say the good folks of Marblehead, Mass., once home to Elbridge Gerry (hard “g”), a governor of the fine state and also a U.S. vice president, after whom the term gerrymander was coined.

The Selectmen of Marblehead (kind of like supervisors and city councilpersons, one would assume) even fired off a letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to inquire of how he pronounced the word.

Jeffrey P. Minear, counselor to the chief justice, wrote back:

“Vice President Gerry’s grandson, Elbridge Thomas ‘Commodore’ Gerry, was a bibliophile, and the gift of his 30,000-volume collection to the Supreme Court of the United States became the foundation of our Library. In the words of the Court’s former Librarian, ‘Elbridge T. Gerry is to the Supreme Court Library what Thomas Jefferson is to the Library of Congress’.”

He added that pronouncing jerrymandering with a “g” sound is correct, even though Chief Justice Roberts used the “j” pronunciation during recorded oral arguments from a redistricting case in October.

All of which I find interesting since, even though my first name starts with a hard “g,” umpteen zillion people still call me Jerry when trying to read my name from print, or from my pronouncing it. Worse, all my life I’ve been McCarthy, not McCarty, due to the ignorance, or the inability to read simple English sounds, of the American public.

Categories: Grammar Notes News

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