Say Where?

By Dave Fox
Seattle, Washington

[This post originally appeared on my Wordsplash blog in 2008.]

Nevada State FlagI wrote a couple of days ago about how some Nevadans are getting their feathers ruffled over the way outsiders pronounce their state’s name. According to the Associated Press, Nevada’s state archivist complained that when outsiders pronounce the name of his state differently from native speakers, they are being disrespectful. I listed a few other names of places that many Americans mispronounce. Here are the correct local pronunciations (based on spellings in standard American English):

Melbourne, Australia: Australians pronounce it “Melbun.”

Bath, England: Rhymes with the American pronunciation of “moth,” not “math.”

Hawaii: Has a glottal stop somewhere in those last three vowels.

Spokane, Washington: It’s pronounced “spoh-CAN,” not “spoh-CANE.” (The Indigo Girls mispronounce it in their song, “Hey Kind Friend.”

Missouri: Most of us who live in the US know this one if we think about it. But most of us in the north (and probably in Nevada) pronounce the last syllable, “ee,” rather than “uh.”

New Orleans, Louisiana: A lot of people say New or-LEENZ, Loo-EE-zee-ANN-uh. But a lot of people there say , “New OR-linz, LOO-ZEE-ANN-uh.” (And in France, the home of the original Orléans, it’s pronounced, “Orr-lay-ohn.”

Baltimore, Maryland: I’ve been told that in many working class neighborhoods, the correct pronunciation is “BALL-mer.”

Copenhagen, Denmark: Heh… I get asked about this all the time when working there as a tour guide. Is it Copen-HAY-gen or Copen-HAH-gen? If you’re Danish, it’s neither. The Danish spelling is “København.” How do you spell that phonetically in English? It’s impossible. (The closest I can come up with is KÖH-bin-how’n, but if the letters Ø or Ö aren’t familiar to you, you’ll just have to snuggle up next to a Dane and ask him or her to pronounce their nation’s capital for you.)

Kiribati: This series of coral atolls, a strangely independent nation scattered around the Pacific Ocean, is pronounced “KEE-rih-bass.” One of those islands, Kirimitati (a.k.a. Christmas Island) is pronounced “KEE-riss-mass.” How do you get an “S” sound out of the letters “TI?” Some wacky linguists came up with it a while ago. Think of words in English such as “action,” or “election.” Add a few swigs of kava as you’re coming up with a written language, and there you go!

Paris, France: The French say, “pah-REE.”

Oslo, Norway: In Oslo, people say, “OOSH-loo.”

Munich, Germany: The Germans spell it München (and pronounce it similarly).

Japan: In Japanese, it’s “Nippon.”

Moscow: In the Russian alphabet, it’s “MOCKBA.” Transliterated to the English alphabet, it’s spelled and pronounced “Moskva.”

…and the list goes on and on… and on… and….

My point: I think the Nevadans who were interviewed for that AP story are being rather cranky. Nobody pronounces every place in the world the way the local residents do. And those who try sound mighty pretentious.

Comments from the original blog: 

Oslo, Norway: In Oslo, people say, “OOSH-loo.”

Not “loo”. Maybe “Lo” or “Low” could work better. Neither works well, but “loo”??

You should know better Dæjv.

Posted by: brrre | February 29, 2008 at 04:10 AM

It suddenly hit me that “lo” or “low” are some utterly stupid suggestions.
I think “loh” could work.
Never mind though, it’s quite charming when Americans say “Us-love”.

Posted by: brrre | March 01, 2008 at 08:34 PM

Published on Friday, February 8, 2008

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