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Pronunciation of Gerrymander

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A listener in New York City wonders about how to pronounce gerrymander, which means “to redraw the lines of an electoral district so as to favor a particular political party.” The term comes a joking reference to Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, who in 1812 presided over such a redistricting. Gerry pronounced his name with a hard g (like the G in Grant) and for a while, the gerrymandering retained that pronunciation. In the absence of audible mass media, the name spread, but the pronunciation slowly shifted. By 1850, for example, an Indiana politician alluded to this variation, declaring, “You are constantly gerrymandering the State, or jerrymandering, as I maintain the word should be pronounced, the g being soft.” This is part of a complete episode.

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