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24 January 2011

This is another pronunciation thread pjern's comment in his post the other day about pronunciation reminded me of one of my favorite things: local pronunciations of names and places that seem wrong, wrong, wrong, but have been mangled over such a long period that the local version is the only way to pronounce it, forever and ever amen.


The awful part is that if you go as a visitor and innocently pronounce it the way it seems like it should be pronounced, you're immediately smacked down.

In DC/Baltimore, there was Havre de Grace, MD (HAVer-dee-grayce), La Plata, MD (leh PLAYda), and Berlin, MD (BURRlin). Here in Colorado, we have the Cache la Poudre River (just "the POOter", usually, resulting in many bad puns) and Ouray (YOOray, gets me every time!).

Any good examples from your corner?

This reminds me, too of one of my favorite parts of True Grit - Matt Damon's La Boeuf, pronounced, of course, "La Beef".
posted by peachfuzz 24 January | 13:35
There's a section of Pittsburgh called "North Versailles" and people pronounce each letter: north ver-sails. When said with the Pittsburgh accent, it's maybe the most annoying thing in the world.

And Washington became Worshington here, somehow.
posted by punchtothehead 24 January | 13:42
New Orleans is full of 'em. As a tourist, you go there and try to pronounce the French words in a Frenchified way, to swiftly find out you're wrong wrong wrong. There's a list of place names at the bottom of this page, and I pronounced almost all of these wrong at some time when my brother and his wife lived there. They eventually schooled me on most of 'em. If you think you know how to pronounce "Burgundy," "Calliope," "Marigny," or "Socrates," New Orleans will disabuse you of the notion.

We have plenty of these in New England, too. One of the most famous ones is Worcester, which is pronounced "WUHS tah" or "WUHS ter."

When I first moved to Connecticut, I used to drive by this fire station that was named after the place name of an old postal district that had become part of a larger town. The name was "Wequetedequock." I saw it many times, and each time I swore to myself "I will never try to say this word until I hear someone else say it." Wise choice. As it turns out, it is pronounced "Weckedy-quock."
posted by Miko 24 January | 13:43
"Versailles" reminds me of Calais, Maine, which is pronounced "Callis."
posted by Miko 24 January | 13:45
you people are breaking my heart. I don't even want to know how they pronounce Versailles
posted by Firas 24 January | 13:55
There's a remote place where they pronounce 'herbs' without the h.
posted by jouke 24 January | 14:08
Plaistow. No, it's not Playstow, but Plarstow.

Southwark is Suth-uck. The 'th' is said as if in 'mother', not a soft 'th', like in 'faith'.

Theydon Bois. Although it's in the forest and comes from the French for wood, 'Bois' is not said as the French would say it - "Bwah" - but has been Essexified into "Boys".
posted by Senyar 24 January | 14:11
Leicester Highway here in Asheville is Lee-Sester, not Lester. You can totally tell the natives from the emigres with this one. My favorite in Bawlmer was always Thames Street - no, not tems, Thames to rhyme with aims.
posted by mygothlaundry 24 January | 14:19
Bolivar, PA. "Bolliver" Like Oliver with a B at the beginning. No hint of Simón Bolívar. Also fun to pronounce is "Coraopolis."

There's a Bogota, NJ, too. We call it Bogotá, of course.

There's a remote place where they pronounce 'herbs' without the h.

East End of London, guvna?
posted by Eideteker 24 January | 14:21
This is making me think, too, of the flip side to this - the overcorrection. Like the town here in CO, Limon, which I had been pronouncing as "li-MON", like Spanish for lemon (there are a lot of Spanish derived place names here!). Turns out it's "LYE-man", and it has nothing to do with citrus, it's named after a guy who actually spelled his name "Lyman" sometimes.

jouke: heh.

posted by peachfuzz 24 January | 14:25
There's a county Alachua (uh-LACH-oo-uh), but the tiny city within is Alachua (uh-lach-oo-WAY). I'm told the city residents will make fun of you for using the wrong pronunciation, but I think mostly they use it to determine who's local and who's passing through.
posted by galadriel 24 January | 14:29
Dude, what's up with ArkansaW? And isn't Mackinac pronounced with a random W at the end as well? Is this a holdover from the Injuns or something?
posted by Eideteker 24 January | 14:32
Bolivar, PA. "Bolliver" Like Oliver

Growing up, we used to vacation on the Bolivar peninsula in Texas - also propnounced "Bolliver."

Plaistow. No, it's not Playstow, but Plarstow.

There's a Plaistow in New Hampshire, and it gets called "plass-tow."
posted by Miko 24 January | 14:32
New York City has a Houston (HOUSE-tin) street. Not like Houston, TX (HEUCE-ton).

One of the most famous ones is Worcester, which is pronounced "WUHS tah" or "WUHS ter." Always loved that one, and its brother, Gloucester (GLOSS ter).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 24 January | 14:53
San Antonio, TX is awful with mispronunciations. I don't know how a town with such a large Hispanic population could screw up so badly.
posted by deborah 24 January | 15:22
But, that's how you always pronounce Gloucester, right? Even in England?
posted by gaspode 24 January | 15:22
Maine has many. Vienna is pronounced vy-EN-na. Madrid is pronounced "MA-drid." Bangor is not pronounced "BANG-er" but "BANG-GORE."

Mississippi: Biloxi is pronounced "bil-LUX-i."

Virginia: Staunton is pronounced "STAN-ton." Buena Vista is pronounced "BEEYU-na VIS-ta" not "BWE-na VEE-sta."

I once got a chuckle when I heard Andalusia, Alabama pronounced as "ahn-da-lu-CEE-a." It's "and-a-LOO-sza."
posted by JanetLand 24 January | 15:28
HOUSEtin Street is a big tell. If I hear an actor who is supposed to be in or from NY say it like the city in Texas, I scream like my ears are bleeding in my mind.

We have a major road called the Powhite Parkway. There is no difinitive way to say it. It's fun watching newcommers say "Take the . . ." and watch their eyes glaze over. Pow-hite is fine, but so is Po-white.
posted by rainbaby 24 January | 16:43
But, that's how you always pronounce Gloucester, right? Even in England? I don't know that it's a familiar word to many people here in the US.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 24 January | 16:53
Darn, I came here to say North Ver-Sails but Punchtothehead beat me to it.

There's also DuBois, PA which is pronounced "DOO-boyz"

Oh and PA's Bangor is actually pronounced BANG-er unlike Maine's.
posted by octothorpe 24 January | 16:55
Beaufort, NC--BO fert
Beaufort, SC--BEWfert

Newark, DE, is pronounced as two clearly separate syllables, "New Wark," to distinguish it from its better-known sister city to the North.

And I've scored major points in English classes by pronouncing Mark Twain's birth city correctly incorrectly.
posted by mrmoonpie 24 January | 17:01
BER-lin, etc., comes in part from the anti-German sentiment around WWI and WWII. As one might imagine, this was not great for the heavily-German state of Wisconsin, so we had many place names change names and pronunciations. We have both a BER-lin and a New BER-lin, among others.

But I think some of our other local places specifically want to pronounce differently to differentiate themselves from the better-known places. To wit: we have ORE-uh-gawn, WI, as opposed to ORE-uh-gun, the state... and the similarly pronounced ORE-uh-gun, IL, which is only about 1.5 hours away.
posted by Madamina 24 January | 17:06
OH! How could I forget the best one?

Lake Butte des Morts, up near Appleton on the way to Green Bay.

It's pronounced "BEWduhmore"... but I really prefer saying it the way it looks.
posted by Madamina 24 January | 17:09
Ber'lin, NH, has been pronounced with the accent on the 1st syllable for a long time. Lima, Ohio.
posted by theora55 24 January | 17:50
Time for the west coast to chime in. We have lots of these around the Pacific NW too. Some of the lesser known to outsiders:

Oregon is NOT pronounced Oh-reh-gone, but "Oh-rih-gin" (Hard g)

Sequim, Washington is pronounced: "Squim," i.e. rhyming with "swim."

Puyallup, Washington is pronounced, "Pee-al-up," with "al" rhyming with "pal."

And saying "Warshington" is the mark of the homegrown native.
posted by bearwife 24 January | 18:17
And it is the wil-A-mette river, the big A sounds like it does in "apple." Not WIL-ah-mette.
posted by danf 24 January | 18:43
Lake Orion, Michigan (O ree un)
posted by Doohickie 24 January | 21:00
I went to school in Gambier, Ohio. gamBEER.
posted by Obscure Reference 24 January | 23:11
chimbley. The smoke's not going up the chimbley.

It makes me nuts.
posted by warbaby 24 January | 23:20

Stops those out of towners dead in their tracks.

Pew all up
posted by warbaby 24 January | 23:28
It's wi-LAMit, dammit!

I rather liked what Bill Bryson wrote about getting his first journalism job in England, basically asserting that he'd be the only person in the office who could reliably spell "Cincinnati", and when ridiculed over his mispronunciation of British place names, challenging his antagonist to properly say the name of the body of water next to Seattle.

There's a Kay-row in New York, too, although AFAIK it has yet to produce any authors of great acclaim.
posted by Triode 25 January | 00:11
There's also a place where they pronounce 'cheese' as 'cahs'.
Silly dutchies.
posted by jouke 25 January | 00:15
One of the most famous and storied streets in Atlanta is Ponce de Leon Blvd. PONSE duh LEEawn. I used to live there, and if you try to say it the Spanish way people will assume you're either an idiot or from out of town.

Georgia also has a Cairo (KAY-ro) and an Albany (al-BENNY). It's kind of useful, because unlike Dublin (Georgia) or Holland (Georgia) or Dallas (Georgia), there's only one KAY-ro.

Bonus points: how would you pronounce Dahlonega, Georgia? (Site of the first gold rush in the States)
posted by BoringPostcards 25 January | 01:56
"Matt Damon's La Boeuf, pronounced, of course, 'La Beef'"
Like the woman at the place I worked at in L.A. Jenny La Favre, pronounced, of course, Jenny La Fever.

Mackinac is pronounced Mackinaw as it derives from the Oji-Cree Mitchimakinak filtered through French meaning The Big Turtle.
posted by arse_hat 25 January | 03:06
Milan (MY-lan) and Charlotte, MI (shar-LOT) are two of my faves.

posted by Stewriffic 25 January | 08:15
Another Colorado placename: Purgatoire canyon. Pronounced (and even occasionally spelled) Picketwire.

As a former Missourian, I just have to say: for the love of all that's holy, Samuel Clemens was born in Hannibal (MO), not Cairo (IL).
posted by tortillathehun 25 January | 21:29
Gail Davis' daughter downloaded an app, she got $10k in iTunes credits || Terrifying but non-tragic nearly-getting-creamed-by-a-semi video