pronunciation of Pall Mall (cigarettes)


Senior Member

I was very surprised to hear on a TV game show last night that Pall Mall, the street in London, is actually pronounced /ˌpæl ˈmæl/ rather than /pawl mawl]. I see that even shopping mall is pronounced [shopping mæl] in BrE sometimes. Is that true??

Also, how do you pronounce (in BrE) Pall Mall when referring to the cigarettes of this name?

Thank you,

Baffled me
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  • It's /mæl/ for Pall Mall and the neighbouring street The Mall. Presumably Pall Mall cigarettes would always be given this same pronunciation. For me, the common noun is /mɔ:l/, as in 'pedestrian mall', and when reading AmE 'shopping mall', but I can imagine someone saying /mæl/ for that too.
    That makes more sense, not to use this /mæl/ pronunciation in shopping mall. I am still wondering about the Pall Mall cigarettes though. I never heard anyone say /ˌpæl ˈmæl/. Not that that means anything, of course, given that the speakers have all been Romanian ;-)
    It has been a long time since I heard anyone say the name of Pall Mall cigarettes, but I think the name was pronounced to rhyme with "fall".
    The street: /ˈpæl ˈmæl/. The ciggies: /ˈpæl ˈmæl/. The common noun: /ˈʃɒpɪŋ ˈsentə/ [or /ˈmæl/ if I've got a gun to my head].
    It has been a long time since I heard anyone say the name of Pall Mall cigarettes, but I think the name was pronounced to rhyme with "fall".

    It was, indeed. :thumbsup:

    I believe you can find some videos of the old ('50s-'60s) commercials on the Internet. The slogan was "Outstanding - and they are mild."
    The OP's question was for BrE speakers. Posts 2 and 5 support the BrE version of the cat/pal vowels. The brand was originally named after the London street so that would also support the short a.
    From wiki
    The Pall Mall brand was introduced in 1899 by the Butler & Butler Company (UK) in an attempt to cater to the upper class with the first "premium" cigarette. It is named after Pall Mall, a well-known street in London.
    Are Paul and pall have same pronounciation?

    Thank you.
    If you're asking about the "pall" in Pall Mall, the answer is given in the previous posts in this thread, jacdac.

    But perhaps you're asking about a different "pall", unrelated to this thread?
    Indeed, Samuel Pepys wrote of the game as Pelemele (Diary 2nd April 1661) and the road as Pell Mell (Diary 1st May 1669). (The game is a mallet and ball game played, obviously, at Pall Mall in the 17th century!)
    So I into St. James’s Park, where I saw the Duke of York playing at Pelemele, the first time that ever I saw the sport.
    Diary entries from April 1661 (The Diary of Samuel Pepys)
    she then expected to meet Sheres, which we did in the Pell Mell, and, against my will, I was forced to take him into the coach
    Diary entries from May 1669 (The Diary of Samuel Pepys)
    I take it pall rhymes with fall which in turn rhymes with paul.
    No. As has been said, it depends on the meaning.
    The pronunciation of the proper noun "Pall" in BE is usually different from pall the verb and common noun,
    The pronunciation of the vowel sound of the proper noun Mall copies whatever the speaker uses in Pall,
    The common noun mall (a shopping centre) may differ depending on the speaker's form of English.
    To complete the set, there's also:
    pell-mell, meaning helter-skelter, all in a rush, hastily and carelessly.
    Pall Mall pronounced /pel mel/, retaining the etymology (see #15, first quote) or /pɔ:l mɔ:l/ as an upper-class affectation, long after everyone else had called it /pæl ˈmæl/
    pall as a noun (= coffin drape)
    pall as a verb (= fade in impact)​
    ...these last two pronounced /pɔ:l/ to rhyme with Paul.
    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., an American who smoked a hell of a lot of them, jokingly insisted that it was pronounced "pell-mell."
    That is, in fact, the pronunciation used in the US advertising jingles in the fifties and sixties.

    During the era of cigarette advertising on television and radio, the American pronunciation of the brand was /ˌpɛlˈmɛl/.[10] However, after the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act banned cigarette advertising, the American pronunciation shifted to /ˌpælˈmæl/, which is that for the street in London of that name and has always also been used for the cigarettes by smokers from the United Kingdom. Older smokers in the U.S. who heard the commercials often still use the older pronunciation.​
    I don't know whether this was the common pronunciation in the US, or whether smokers like Vonnegut pronounced it according to the spelling.
    All the old TV commercials I could find (up through 1967) pronounced the cigarette as Pell Mell. But when I was growing up, after that, I always heard it pronounced with both words rhyming with fall. Believe it or not, I found a number of recent cigarette review videos on YouTube. All the reviewers were American and all were under 35, and mostly under 30, by the looks of them, and all the reviews are from the last 1 to 10 years. And every one of them pronounced the name to rhyme with fall.

    Maybe the explanation is that when cigarette advertising went off the airwaves and people no longer heard it pronounced, the new people that came along started pronouncing it according to the spelling, using standard American pronunciation patterns.


    Due to the presence of the cot/caught merger in some parts of the U.S., not everyone here pronounces Paul the same way. Some pronounce it more like fall and some pronounce it with more rounding, using a more "aw" sound - Pawl.

    So whether Paul = pall depends on each person's pronunciation and whether they use the cot/caught merger or not. But none in standard American English use the vowel of cat for those words (that I know of).
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    But when I was growing up, after that, I always heard it pronounced with both words rhyming with with fall.
    Back around 1960, I heard the "Pall Mall" cigarette pronounced /pɔl mɔl/ on US TV. Or perhaps it was /pɔːlˈmɔːl/ and I didn't notice the difference. In any case, both words rhymed with "fall".

    In 1960 I was getting NYC channels on my TV, so perhaps the commercials used UK pronunciation.
    Maybe TV commercials in Chicago or Texas used a different pronunciation. I don't know.
    So whether Paul = pall depends on each person's pronunciation and whether they use the cot/caught merger or not.
    It does, and I don't. I don't remember ever hearing the cigarettes (BE 'cigarets', yes?) pronounced "pell mell", even on TV. That is, however, what I was told long ago was the correct pronunciation for the British street.
    Go search it up on YouTube. It's very easy to find commercials from the '50s and '60s. I was skeptical at first, but after listening I can't describe the pronunciation by the narrator and the actors in the commercials as anything other than Pell Mell. They all say it that way, at least according to my ear.
    I just checked out the WR pronunciation for the word mall (meaning what we call a shopping centre) and was amazed to find that the UK pronunciation is given as the same as maul (rhyming with tall/call/Paul)! Definitely not the case, in my experience. I pronounce it mall, rhyming with pal – and with both words in Pall Mall, whether as the London street or the cigarettes. The OED pronunciations are accurate.

    There is, of course, also pell-mell, the now rarely-if-ever-used adverb that means something like helter-skelter and is pronounced very differently.
    I pronounce the cigarettes and the London street to rhyme with the square on the Monopoly board:


    Edited to correct typo.
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    I don't think you can rhyme a square.

    And there's no Pall Mall on the U.S. Monopoly board.