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I dispute that this question is really a duplicate:

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/7439/why-put-and-cut-sound-different-closed

The duplicate question to which the asker is referred explains the Great Vowel Shift, but the OP is not asking about the GVS. He's asking, instead, why two different words with the same orthography have different pronunciations. The answer to his question may involve the GVS, but a real answer to his question should include some explanation of the words' etymologies, whether they were once spelled differently, etc.

I bring this up on meta rather than simply commenting, because this is not the only question I've seen closed in this matter. Not all questions about the spelling of English vowels are duplicates of a GVS question. In particular, questions about the differences in pronunciation between two words can never be completely answered just by an explanation the GVS.

4

Since I was the first person to vote to close, I will explain my reasoning.

  1. Nohat's answer to the "English written vowels are odd" question actually expressly mentions the word cut, explaining that the u in it used to be an [ʊ], but then changed to [ʌ] due to the GVS. So if the OP of the recent question is simply asking why cut is not pronounced [kʊt], he's got his answer right there.
  2. Then again, I don't actually think the OP is just asking for this one word. The way I read the question, he is looking for a general pattern/rule: "What is logic behind this ?" That makes Nohat's answer an even better fit, since it doesn't stop at mentioning cut, but explains the big picture.

Now, you do have a point about etymology. But we should be careful not to make that the only reason for a question to stay open, because then the next person will ask "why do put and but sound different", and the next one will ask "why do put and nut sound different", and then "why do put and hut sound different", and "why do put and gut sound different", and we will have to leave them all open as well. I would much rather let people ask about the etymology of each English word once, than let everyone freely combine any two/three/X words just because they haven't been combined before — which leads to not just duplication, but combinatorial explosion of effort.

But again, I don't think the OP is actually asking about these two particular words (perhaps he can comment on this?); the way I read the question, he might just as well be asking about hut or nut, it's just that cut happened to spring to mind faster.

4

RegDwight describes the logic that I also went through in deciding to close as duplicate. This did not seem like a question about those specific words, but rather, the explanation for the difference. The difference is the GVS in this case.

The question did not specifically mention the GVS, but I believe that is only because they were not aware of it. This is just like how someone who asks about the difference between "I read a book" and "I have read a book" is asking a redundant question about the difference between simple past and present perfect, even though the question they were duplicating probably didn't specifically use the verb read and might not have mentioned these tenses by name.

If I thought it might not be obvious how the GVS affected particular words in that pair, then maybe I wouldn't vote to close it, but cut was specifically mentioned in Nohat's answer.

All that said, I will try to be very careful when I see the next potentially redundant GVS question, and bear in mind what you've said. I definitely don't want question closings to be controversial very often.

Not all questions about the spelling of English vowels are duplicates of a GVS question.

Agreed. Many spelling issues/oddities were not caused by GVS. But, many were.

In particular, questions about the differences in pronunciation between two words can never be completely answered just by an explanation the GVS.

I disagree with this. I think it totally depends on the two words in question.

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