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August 14, 2009


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Yes! It struck me as interesting too that the ad "assumes that average American transit passengers know (a) what a diacritical mark is and (b) what it means."

Thanks for clearing that up. Julie remains obsessed with naming all 50 states and their capitals, and she recently asked me which pronunciation was correct, and I wasn't sure. Now, how about Oregon? Is it "Or-uh-GON" or "Or-uh-g'n"? (I know it's not "origin" as she originally thought when she saw it.)

P.S. Good luck trying to pronounce the names of any of the cities in towns in Massachusetts. Worcester? Nahant? Woburn? Bwahahahaha!

@Karen: It's OR-uh-g'n /or/ OR-uh-gun. Whenever I hear "OR-uh-GONE" I think: not from out here. (Worcester is "Wooster," right? As for the others, I don't have a clue!)

Woooburn (Woburn), Gloster (Gloucester), Hav'rill (Haverhill), Quinzy (Quincy), and so many more unintuitive pronunciations.

In Colorado there's a town called Arvada, and the way to spot a new TV newsreader in Denver is to hear him/her try to say it. "Ar-vadda" is the local preference, but new people often try "Ar-vahda" first, or sometimes "Ar-vayda." Up in Wyoming, they have another Arvada -- and that one, according to a very literate resident of nearby Ucross (pop. 25), is "Ar-vayda." I don't think there are enough diacritical marks in either state to solve this.

And then there's my favorite California geo-pronunciation stumper: Suisun. I'm a CA native and didn't know this one till I moved to the Bay Area.

(It's suh-SOON. Named after a Native tribe.)

Thanks, and yes on all counts. But no one attempted NAHANT?

Diacritic marks make things look foreign to many people. Why not give a list of rhymes for Nevada? Maybe the only close rhyme they came up with was "the bladder" and decided against it.

@Karen: I discovered "How to Pronounce Massachusetts Town Names"-- http://www.worcestermass.com/pronounce/essexcounty.shtml -- which has some amusing entries. But no one's submitted a pronunciation for Nahant, so I'm stumped.

I have enjoyed reading your posts but this time my smile seemed wider, especially after reading the responses your thoughts have harvested. In part because I have faced all my life with having not only my first name miss-pronounced but my last name as well.
When ever I am at a doctors office or a place where they have to call ones name, I can see then struggle. Oh well, life goes on.

Love this post and all the comments. Karen, I'm going to have a go: NAY-unt? Now I must know!

I'm proud of myself for having learned to pronounce Mamaroneck, New York, and Groton, Connecticut. But I'll just drive around the outskirts of Cairo, Illinois, before I agree to pronounce it CAY-ro.

If they're trying to get across that Nevada should be pronounced like "dad," not "wad," they should have used æ, not a-with-breve. Not that most people would know what to do with either. But to me, a-with-breve actually means the vowel in "wad," as opposed to a-with-macros, which would mean the vowel in "wade."

They should have just used IPA ;)

My Oregonian grandfather used to have a bumper sticker that read "ORYGUN" so all would know the proper pronunciation. I would take issue with the Y, but it's definitely gun and not gone.
Regarding Nevada: I have to laugh when I watch "CSI" and the characters who are presumed to live there pronounce it Ne-vah-da.

Actually I don't care about how you pronounce Nevada,...Its a great place to relax,...chill!

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