Others did not hesitate. Two days ago there was a letter saying that Rufus must be a northerner (and by implication not properly educated) because he pronounces the two words the same. Today someone writes from an address in Greater London as follows.
…whereas “crux” as pronounced oop north rhymes with crooks as pronounced in t’ south … it does not rhyme with crooks in t’ north, where it approximates to “crewks”.
Clear? Let me explain. Popular northern speech merges the STRUT and FOOT sets, making dull rhyme with full and cut with put. (Hence the eye-dialect joke spelling 'oop' for up in the comment.) However among the FOOT words (i.e. words that have ʊ in RP and in ‘General American’) there is a variable subset in which some northerners (and also some Irish people) use a long vowel uː. This subset includes several words spelt -ook, such as book, cook, look… and crook.
This is why you have to be careful when selecting minimal pairs to test for the STRUT-FOOT merger. Cut vs. put is fine; but luck vs. look is not. Nor is crux vs. crooks, the pair at issue here.
|most speakers of English||krʌks||krʊks|
(As usual the notation ʊ can cover a multitude of qualities for northern speech, ranging from close to mid and from back to central. Some people use a kind of ə for both STRUT and FOOT. The point is not the exact phonetic quality involved but the sameness or differentness of the vowel qualities in particular lexical sets or subsets.)
It’s difficult even for those who understand this situation to explain it in simple terms in a line or two of a letter to the editor.