The company which owns a care home where an Oxford teenager died after being bathed in scolding water will be sentenced today.
It’s my impression there are people for whom “scalding” and “scolding” are homophones, both having (I think) /ɒ/.
I think this is probably correct. There are certainly varieties of English English in which there is great confusion among back vowels before dark l.
It is well known that words like salt can have either ɔː or ɒ. Although I have continued to prioritize ɔː in LPD I have to confess that the most recent poll I did on salt showed a sharp trend of change over time in the direction of ɒ. The youngest age group voted 71% for the LOT vowel. Only 34% of my own age group voted that way, which accounts for my bias in favour of THOUGHT in this and similar words (i.e. words in which the vowel is followed by l and a voiceless consonant — alter, false, fault, waltz etc.).
Where the consonant after the lateral is voiced I believe there is less variation. Nevertheless I recall that my mother pronounced scald as skɒld, which was odd because she had the expected ɔː in bald, alder etc. (Why, even as a child, did I think her pronunciation of scald was odd?)
In this position before l and a consonant some people also have ɒ where RP traditionally has GOAT (əʊ, including for some its positional variant ɒʊ). That is presumably how scold can come to be a homophone of scald for some. This can apply to the vowel before final l, too. One sometimes hears -ˈtɒl for traditional -ˈtəʊl (-ˈtɒʊl) in extol, and similarly in bolster.
I play a musical instrument called a melodeon. One of the well-known designs of melodeon is Hohner’s poker-work design, with side panels imitating wood decorated by burning the motif in with a hot poker. On the melodeon website I have seen this called polka-work (and even polkerwork). I wonder if anyone really has polka and poker as homophones, as this seems to suggest. For me they’re ˈpɒlkə and ˈpəʊkə respectively. I think there may be a different explanation: contamination from the spelling of folk fəʊk, plus of course the fact that the melodeon is a very suitable folk instrument for playing polkas on.