The Language Geek Asks: Where Do You Live?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

town sign wales

I once was sitting at lunch with my friends in Louisville, KY. We were discussing the correct way to pronounce Louisville. Was it Louie-ville or Louis-ville or Lull-vull. After a while of eating and arguing, I asked the waitress: could you please state very slowly for my friend here where we are. She looked at us strangely and said, “BUR-GER KING.”

What is it about our cities that make us defy all linguistic convention? Even the most ardent Hooked On Phonics, Henry Higgins reincarnation has no problem pronouncing Hillsborough “Hillsbruh” like he’s gargling maple syrup. And before you say it, it’s not just Americans, either. Witness the residents of “Toronna” in Canada and “Glosstah” in England. In fact, the English win the award for “The most likely to just skip any letters we feel like”. Remember that old PBS show The Electric Company? There were these two silhouetted people who would teach kids how to say a word. The left silhouette would say the first part, the right would say the second, then they would both say the combined word.

This program would never work in England.

“Chis” – “wick” – “Chisik”
“Glou” – “cester” – “Glossteh”
“Cholmon” – “deley” – “Chumley”
“Alver” – “discott” – “Olskot”

I asked some of the other GeekDads for more examples:

Z: “Atlanta is pronounced add-lan-uh. And if you say Hot-Lanta I will totally kick you in the taint.”

Anton: “See also San Antonio. It is pronounced San Antonio and if you pronounce it San Antone someone will shoot you in the taint.”

Randy: “Louisville, Kentucky, pronounced like the last name of the Apollo 13 commander if you have a mouthful of Miller High Life, and not to be confused with Louisville, Colorado, pronounced ‘Loo-iss-ville’ with the diction of John Malkovich talking to a four-year-old.”

Anton: “Don’t forget Mackinac, Michigan where the last C is really a W in disguise.”

Nathan: “Worst one I saw was when Beyonce came on stage at the Glastonbury festival and shouted ‘Good Evening Glaston-BERRY!'”

Anthony: “‘Sarasota’ is pronounced crisply with a patrician air with one’s pinky raised over tea and crumpets.”

Jenny: “We live in Prescott, Arizona. Pronounced press-kit. If you get it wrong, we KNOW you’re not from around here.”

What’s your favorite oddly pronounced town or city name? Let us know in the comments.

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