Escort

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Escort is pronounced differently according to whether it is a noun or a verb.

  • The noun 'an escort' has the stress on the first syllable: 'ESS-court', IPA: /'ɛs kɔːrt/.
  • The verb has the stress on the second syllable: 'isk-ORT', IPA: /ɛ (or ɪ)s 'kɔːrt/
This word is to some extent changing its meaning - at least its connotations. Its basic denotation remains the idea of 'giving protection to [someone or something] by accompanying [it] closely'. Valuables such as gold bullion are often escorted by security guards or police; in wartime, merchant ships travel in convoys with warships as escorts. In civilian life, however, where in traditional European society women would be honoured to be escorted by men (to give them protection), in modern Britain, escorts are not seen as honourable: they are usually young women hired by older men to keep them company, and are often regarded as in effect prostitutes. Occasionally a woman may hire a male escort, but this is not seen as primarily for protection.
Note
This pattern of shifting stress in words that look identical but belong to two separate word classes is quite common in English.
Quirk (1985) (Appendix I.56 B) describes the most common: "When verbs of two syllables are converted into nouns, the stress is sometimes shifted from the second to the first syllable. The first syllable, typically a Latin prefix, often has a reduced vowel /ə/ in the verb but a full vowel in the noun: He was con-VICT-ed (IPA: /kən ˈvɪkt ɪd/) of theft, and so became a CON vict (IPA: /ˈkɒn vɪkt/)" [AWE's rendition of IPA].
There follows a list of some 57 "words having end-stress as verbs but initial stress as nouns in Br[itish] E[nglish]." Note that "in Am[erican] E[nglish], many have initial stress as verbs also". Quirk's list is the foundation of AWE's category:shift of stress. Additions have been made from, amongst others, Fowler, 1926-1996.