Oh, For The Love of The Sound

Came across a name pronunciation article today about cities around the world.  I am a nerd for proper word/name pronunciation.  I adore words.  I have always had a keen ear for it, and once heard, I add it to my mental dictionary.  I do not correct people, but I say things properly and I find that does have the tendency to set people off, so to speak.  Perhaps it is seen as uppity by these people?  I simply have a love of words.

Reykjavik, Iceland

01.  Melbourne, Australia – I’ve always said Melburn.  I will probably not be pronouncing it Melb’n, as I am not from Australia, but I do think that Melburn is a nice compromise between Mel-BORN and Melb’n, since Melburn sounds very similar to Melb’n.

02.  Bangkok, Thailand – Again I seem to have a middle ground on pronunciation.  I did not realize that it was Bahng-gawk, but from what I heard, I discerned it to be Bahng-kawk, so not too shabby, eh?

03.  Beijing, China – Again I appear to have a middle ground.  I’ve been pronouncing it Bey-zzhing, so a mix of the two, apparently.

04.  Columbia – This one I’ve got.  “Co-LUM-bee-a is a city in Mississippi, but Co-LOHM-bee-a is the country in South America”, as taught to me by my partial semester Spanish professor in middle school.

05.  Lafayette, Louisiana – This is where things become tricky in my lexicon.  Hailing from the south, I do know that it is pronounced Laff-EE-yet, but the five years of French has me pronouncing it Lah-FIH-yett, but never Lah-FEY-et.  Besides the French pronunciation more closely resembles the southern (in the feeyett portion) than the general American pronunciation.

05-A:  Louisiana – Here’s a bonus.  I have family in Louisiana, but my family was born in raised in Mississippi.  Mississippians generally say Loo-zee-anna, as well as I think the general American population.  That is wrong.  I was always the odd Mississippian out, because I knew it was named by France and therefore Louis is loo-ee, always.  Louisiana is pronounced Loo-eez-ee-ahna (you can throw a W in there if it makes you more comfortable; Loow-eez-ee-ahna).

06.  Iraq – This is the same as Iran.  It really does bother me to no end that people pronounce them eye-rack and eye-ran, mainly because that doesn’t sound beautiful at all!  It is ee-rock and ee-rahn, or more specifically ear-rahk and ear-rahn, where the r’s seem to make a silent d, but I’ll give allowances on that.  Just say ee-rock (ee-rahn) and the world will be a happier place, indeed.

07.  Dubai, UAE – This one, is again a middle ground for me, as I’ve been pronouncing it Du-BYE, instead of Du-BEY.

08.  Brisbane, Australia – Again a middle ground.  I pronounce it as Bris-bin, but that is markedly close to the Australian of Bis’bn.  So, hey, alright.

09.  Helena, Montana – Have always said Hell-en-a, but perhaps it is because I have relations out in Montana, as I’m sure one of them would have corrected the overwhelming numbers of Arkansasian accents at our family reunions, if it came to it, or either remarked on the city.

10.  Reykjavik, Iceland – Growing up, this was “that Rekkeryavikka place in Iceland” with crossed eyes because I’d never heard it pronounced before & I just couldn’t discern it into a passable RAKE-ja-vik.  Don’t ask me how I knew the J was a Y, I have no idea.  Perhaps I just used the the Y in Rey and couldn’t see the J?  But once I learned, I have always pronounced it REY-kya-vik.  Spelling it is another matter entirely.

11.  Niger – Oh!  It’s so lovely!  Sadly I have been pronouncing it like most people, and it is a very unbeautiful pronunciation indeed!  NYE-jer.  But, nee-ZHAIR is so beautiful!  I’m so glad to know how it’s really pronounced now.  I can’t begin to describe to you exactly how beautiful nee-ZHAIR is to my ears!  This is probably the best thing I’ll read or discover all day.  NYE-jer was so hideous sounding to me that I would often forgo pronouncing it.  Ever.  nee-Zhair.  I am happy.

12.  The River Thames, London – Oh, how the British make me laugh.  It’s not right, but it’s true.  That clearly reads THAYms, yet somehow they’ve gotten TEMs out of that.  How did that happen?  Was it not written properly back in history?  Did the pronunciation change over time?  That one is a plausible question as James was once JAYmes, but no longer is it pronounced that way even amongst the British (at least most of the British).  Is it something like that?  I’m confused, but am also too polite to confront a British person and have them explain the oddity of it all.

13.  Phuket, Thailand – I don’t have any recollection of ever reading the word Phuket before, so I’m unsure if I’ve ever tried pronouncing it before today.  Today, however, I did pronounce it Foo-ket, which seems to be a combination of both the wrong pronunciations.  I’m realizing this is something that my mind does, and I’m not sure how I keep ending up there.  I like knowing that K’s are G sounds in Thai.  Very fascinating.  Also PH’s are P’s.  Good to know.

14.  Worcestershire, England – Again with this weird stuff, England.  This one makes me laugh too.  I purposefully, only around my sister, pronounce these English words wrong because it amuses me.  I’m forever saying, “Oh the river THaymes.” and am always saying that we need the worchestershire sauce in such and such recipe.  I have known most of my life, because of my maternal grandmother who adored everything British, that it is wusta-sheer.  I can understand sheer, but wusta?  You’re missing some letters there from your spelling, y’all?  I really do want to know why it’s spelled this way, yet said in another.  I need to understand; to wrap my head around it.  But until that day, at least amongst family I will continue to jokingly refer to it as worchestershire and never wusta-sheer.

15.  Qatar – This is again a mix between the wrong and the right.  Seriously, how do I keep doing that?  Anyways, I’ve always been pronouncing it as Kuh-TAR.

16.  Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem – I have never, to my knowledge, read or heard this.  But as there are no E’s in Dolorosa, I would have never pronounced it as Vee-ya DEL-A-Ro-sa.  I would have either been pronouncing it as DOLE-A-Ro-sa or DOLL-A-Ro-sa.

16.  Versailles, France – Oh, this one is positively cringe-worthy, and only because I am blessed to know French.  I probably, in my youth, did pronounce it as something a-kin to Verr-SAYLZ, if I’d even read about it or bothered even trying to give the pronunciation a-go (think Reykjavik), but from about age 10 I did learn that it was Vehr-SYE.  I type Verr and Vehr, because they are not both pronounced the same way, as this article would have you think.  The wrong pronunciation with its Ver is Ver/Verr as in “I’m about to verge”.  But in French it’s not really a straightforward Verr.  It is most of a slight Vehr, as in air.

19. Montreal, Canada – I know the proper pronunciations, yes pronunciations, because my aunt called this city home for over twenty years, and is fluent in French.  Also I was very keen on the telly show Road to Avonlea, where they do mention this city quite a bit.  If you are an English-speaking Canadian you say MUN-tree-all.  If you are a French-speaking Canadian then you say Moun-trey-all (moun as in a combination of moon and mun, or a lazy MUN.  It’s hard to replicate the sound into text).  It is never MON-tree-ALL.

19-A.  Quebec – the province where Montreal resides.  If you are an English-speaking Canadian you say Kwuh-bek.  If, however, you are a French it is always and only KUH-bek, which is how I say it.

20.  La Jolla, California – I have heard two ways that are incorrect.  La JOL-LA, and also La HOLE-A.  I am guilty of both of those in my youth, but early on I learned that it was La HOY-a.

21.  Pakistan – In my youth I pronounced it as PAK-IH-Stan.  Then it morphed into PAHK-ih-STAHN and has since verged on that very close pronunciation or the accurate of PAHK-ee-STAHN.

22.  Kissimmee, Florida – When I was really young I read this as KISS-a-mee.  But not far into my youth there were telly commercials advertising the Kissimmee/St. Cloud area as a place to stay because it was close to Disney World.  So at about age eight I knew that it was Ka-SIM-mee, and because of those blasted commercials, in my head, I always have to add St. Cloud to the end.

23.  I’m not going into this one because you all know by now my thoughts of the variance of British spelling vs pronunciation.  Besides Worcester is already in Worcestershire, so we all know it’s Wuster here.

24.  Budapest, Hungary – This is one that I am mocked for by, mainly, my sister.  I will pronounce it as Boo-da-PESHT and she tells me I’m wrong because it’s clearly Boo-da-PEST (no H).  But since the early 2000s when I heard it pronounced correctly, I have always said pesHt.  She’s funny.


Sevierville, Tennessee – My family always took our summer holiday in the Smokey Mountains.  Sevierville, is in Sevier County just before you enter Pidgeon Forge and thusly, Gatlinburg.  Until I was 13 we were pronouncing it See-ver-ville.  A local clearly, and curtly, informed us that it was Suh-veer, as in this is a severe situation.  So, it is Suh-veer County (not see-ver) and it is Suh-veer-vuhl for the town.  Similar to how Kentuckians pronounce Louisville, where they clip the ending, so it is never VILL, but vuhl.  In the case of Kentucky it’s Loo-uh-vuhl, as I was informed on my 2007 conference trip to the city that Loo-ee-VILL was not going to cut it.  A family friend who grew up in Kentucky informed us that yes, it is Loo-uh-vuhl, in the most matter of factly way possible as we were recounting our tale through her former stomping grounds.  Would have been ideal to know that little tid bit before our trip, but I digress.

Homachitto (Mississippi) – you may never find yourself in Mississippi, but if you do happen down this way you’ll notice a lot of Choctaw.  A lot.  One of the main ones is that of Homachitto (sometimes spelled Homochitto).  You will hear the locals drawl out the words hoooomA chiiiiiiihto.  But this is not correct.  Well, it is, but it’s just filled with molasses.  The correct pronunciation is markedly more clipped; Ho-MA CHIHT-toe.  But if you just say homa chihto you’re doing fine, clipped or not.  There is a sign in Natchez, however, that spells it Homochitto (though I’ve seen it other places too).  Homa is river and chitto is big.  Homo means nothing in Choctaw, except the beginning to sapiens or sexuals.  My Choctaw friend laughed and took a picture of the street sign to show her family back home of what Natchez was telling us was Big Gay Road.

Natchez, Mississippi – More times than I can count, the general American population wants to jazz this word up.  They pronounce it in such a way that I literally imagine girls in flapper dresses flashing their jazz hands at me.  They pronounce it Na-CHEZZZZ.  Imagine that CHEZZZ ending while doing jazz hands.  It is quite amusing.  But no, as fun as it is to say that way, it’s simply not Na-CHEZZZZ, it is Natches, like the way you would say the word matches.  If you come here and say Na-CHEZZZ we won’t be able to take you seriously for wanting you to also be doing jazz hands with that.

Biloxi, Mississippi – I know, you’re thinking that if we’re going to spell it this way, then it should be pronounced this way.  But, ah-ha!  Unlike the British I can actually tell you the origins as to why the spelling and the pronunciation are different (I’m sure they can, I’ve just not found that info anywhere).  (Seriously, y’all over in the UK, I really, really want to know for educational purposes already.  Please?).  The Biloxi were an Indigenous tribe in the area.  I have no idea exactly why it was written down this way by the European explorers when told the name of the tribe, but it was.  It is never BYE-LOX-ee.  It is simply Buh-lux-ee.

Gautier, Mississippi – This town is of a French name, as the area was settled by Jean Baptiste Baudreau in the late 1600s, and that is what he named it.  In French it is Go-tee-yeh, but around here it’s Go-shay.  I, personally, will accept either pronunciation, though around Mississippians it is Go-shay, but around my family I pronounce it the French way.  But, your best bet is to just pronounce it Go-shay unless you want to agitate the locals.

D’Iberville, Mississippi – Again, French.  Named in honour of Pierre Le Moyne Sieur D’Iberville who was tromping through coastal Mississippi in the late 1600’s.  In French it is DYE-buhr-vyhee.  But in Mississippi you had probably best pronounce it as Dee-IBER-ville so as to keep things friendly.

Petit Jean, Arkansas – This is a town and mountain in Arkansas named for the legend of Petit Jean.  Her fiancée was to explore further inland of New France.  She didn’t want to be parted from him so pretended to be a guy to gain access to the voyage.  They called her little John, Petit Jean, because she was small.  They reached that part of Arkansas and that particular mountain.  Then Petit Jean became ill, her identity discovered.  She knew she was dying and asked to be buried on the top of that mountain.  In French, this pronunciation is Peh-TEE zjahn, but in Arkansas if you say anything other than Petty Jeen then you will be told what for.  I remember my relatives always saying that we should go to Petty Jeen.  To Petty Jeen state park and the Petty Jeen antique car show and the Petty Jeen this and that.  We go and when I read that the sign says Petit Jean State Park, all I could think was, “Are you kidding me?!?  Peh-TEE zjahn!  Peh-TEE ZJAHN!?!  This is Petty Jeen?  Good Lord.”  Sure I get the Petit morphing into Petty, but zjahn?  Perhaps it’s simply that it got written down and through a combination of sound for Petit and sight for Jean it ended up as Petty Jeen?


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