My daughter was recently helping me set up our new WiFi computing system at home by reading the instruction manual – something, to my detriment, I rarely do. As she was reading she mentioned something about a rooter which immediately made me smile, because I knew she was talking about the router we were trying to connect to the computer. The funny thing was that my daughter was neither aware of the Australian connotation of rooter nor the pronunciation of ‘router’.
A router is a device that sends information from one part of a computer network to another. They have been around for some time but are now more commonly encountered in the household where there may be several computers all linked to the Internet.
In colloquial Australian English a rooter is someone who is sexually promiscuous and to root is to have sexual intercourse.
The word ‘router’ is derived from ‘route’ meaning ‘a way of getting from one place to another’. In Australian English we would generally pronounce ‘route’ to rhyme with ‘boot’. In American English ‘route’ rhymes with ‘doubt’. So an Australian English speaker who has never encountered the word ‘router’ may indeed pronounce it to rhyme with ‘hooter’.
At the Centre we would be interested to know if the US pronunciation of ‘route’ is becoming more common in Australia. It would also be interesting to know if the colloquial senses of rooter and root are dying out in Australian English. See our draft entries for root and rooter below.