Moscow, ID and Berlin, WI...

Many American cities are named after after famous places in the old world, but they're often pronounced very differently. I've been to Berlin, Wisconsin—but no cheesehead calls their city "burr-LINN" like the capital of Germany. Instead Wisconsinites pronounce their town "BURR-linn" with the emphasis on the first syllable. So it's altogether normal for a Wisconsinite traveling from Berlin, Wisconsin to Berlin, Germany to say he's going from BURR-linn to bur-LINN.

It gets weirder. People in Moscow, Idaho become irritated if you pronounce their city like the one in Russia "mahs-cow." That's because Idahoans pronounce their city "mahs-go." Moscow, Idaho ends in "go" not "cow."

I long thought that maybe this was a result of Americans trying to distance themselves from unpopular regimes in the old world. But now I'm not so sure. After all, Cairo, Illinois is pronounced "KAY-row." And Egypt's never had a dictator bent on world domination... well, as far as we know. So chime in readers on your famous-city-names-pronounced-differently. Is Tripoli, Iowa really pronounced "Trip-OH-luh"? Is Palestine, Texas really "Pal-ess-TEEN." Chime in!

40 comments:

  1. Cadiz, Kentucky is pronounced as "kay-DEES" and no one there has a concern for the manner in which Egyptians mispronounce their namesake.

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  2. Ohio has several like this:

    Versailles is pronounced ver-sails

    Russia - roo-shee

    and of course Lima is lye-ma

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  3. I'm near Lima, IL (lym-UH instead of LEE-muh)

    ...Newark, MO (new- ARK insteak of new-erk)

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  4. New Berlin, NY and Berlin, CT are also pronounced "BURR-lin". In both cases, I was told that the pronunciation was changed in the 20th century to its current pronunciation due to World-War-related anti-German sentiment. However, I don't have anything non-anecdotal to back that up.

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  5. There is a Moscow, PA; I believe it is pronounced the same way we pronounce the great Russian city. However, PA also has a Lebanon, and it is pronounced LEB-nin. I think that may be the result of the local Pennsylvania Dutch influence.

    Colorado has a number of towns with Spanish-derived names, that are pronounced differently: http://www.usends.com/Explore/Colorado/placenames.html

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  6. Buena, NJ is pronounced BYEW-na.

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  7. There's a New Tripoli, PA that's pronounced trih-POLE-ee.

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  8. i grew up in Genoa, NY, pronounced je-KNOW-a

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  9. North Versailles, PA = North Ver-sailes.

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  10. In WV, Canaan Valley is pronounced kuh-NAYN as apposed to KAY-nuhn in the Middle East, where it took its name

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  11. Charleroi (city in Belgium) = shar-luh-RWA
    Charleroi (town in Pennsylvania) = SHAWL-la-roy

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  12. Lebanon (country) = LEH-buh-non
    Lebanon (city in Indiana) = LEB-non

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  13. Possibly I should explain about the "Egyptians" comment: my reference was to "BFE" not the country of Egypt. It may not translate well outside of Kentucky. Try a Google search if in a quandary still.

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  14. South Dakota's capital, Pierre, is pronounced "pEEr".

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  15. Leipsic, OH: LIP-sick
    Leipsic (Leipzig), Germany: liep-zisch

    Leipsic is an older English spelling of Leipzig.

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  16. Buena Vista, CO is pronounced BYEW-na Vista. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buena_Vista,_Colorado

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  17. Mantua, Utah is pronounced "MAN a way"

    Havre, Montana is named after Le Havre, France, but isn't pronounced quite so elegantly. If you ask a local how to say the name of the town, they'll tell you "As in 'You can have 'er.'"

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  18. There's a town called Madrid in Arizona. Locals call it "Mádrid".

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  19. Whenever I drive to my home in Indiana, I go through the town La Fontaine, pronounced...la fountain. Another Indiana town near Purdue, Russiaville I later discovered was pronounced Roosha-vill. Crazy Hoosiers...

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  20. My childhood home was just up the road from Milan, Michigan, pronounced "MY-luhn." Its namesake is the Italian city of Milan (mih-LAHN).

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  21. Blanco,TX near San Antonio,TX is pronounced
    "BLANK-oh" instead of the Spanish pronounciation.

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  22. Prague, Oklahoma, which was settled by Czech immigrants and hosts an annual Kolache Festival, is pronounced "preɪɡ" - like plague, rather than it's Czech namesake.

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  23. Iowa, Louisiana is in the southwest corner of the state and was settled by farmers from Vinton, Iowa. (There is also a Vinton, Louisiana named after the Iowa city.) There it's pronounced I-O-way instead of I-uh-wu but spelled correctly. It started with the early farmers to differentiate when they were speaking of their town instead of their state...also BFE is in the vernacular in south Louisiana also. and don't even get me started on pronounciations in New Orleans!

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  25. What about Charlotte (Shar-LOT), MI, and Charlotte (Shar-let), NC?

    Or Vienna, IL (VI-enna),and Vienna Austria? There's a Vergennes, IL (Vir-gens) too.

    Or Saline, MI (Say-leen), rather than the salty ocean.

    Or New Madrid (MAH-drid), MO?

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  26. Here in WA, we have several places with altered pronunciation, in addition to the already hard to pronounce (Sequim, Puyallup, Wahkiakum, Wawawai, Waiílatpu, anyone?), including Des Moines (say the last S, not the first), Mesa (Mee-sah), and Buena (Byu-én-nah).

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  27. Sinai, SD is pronounced (SIGN-ee-eye), I kid you not.

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  28. Nevada, IA (ne-VAY-da)
    Madrid, IA (MAD-rid)
    Des Moines, IA (De Moin, or some say Dee Moin) - but no one local pronounces either S)

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  29. Newark, DE is pronounced "New-ark" rather than "New-erk" as they do Newark, NJ.

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  30. Pretty much any town in Maine with a French name is most definitely not pronounced the way it would be pronounced in French. The only one I can think of that has a namesake in France is Calais, which rhymes with palace.

    New Madrid, Missouri, home of those wacky 19th-century earthquakes, is MAD-rid, or at least that's what my high school history teacher claimed.

    And even though it's not a city, it probably has a population higher than several other states' capitals: Houston St. in Manhattan is pronounced HOWS-ton.

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  31. Oh! And though there's a mild spelling difference, Wikipedia informs me that the U.S. one was named after the French one: Montpelier, VT is NOT pronounced anything like Montpellier, France.

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  32. East Calais, VT is pronounced East Callus.

    Vermonters pronounce Barre as Berry, but if they grew up in Barre, it's Bar.

    My hometown of Weathersfield is pronounced the same, but spelled differently than the town it was named after, Wethersfield, CT.

    Ivan

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  33. I just stumbled upon your blog and finally reached this post. Nebraska, up to this point, is sorely underrepresented. Maybe we're just too practical and level headed to let any weird anomoly happen.

    Anyway, back to the map. Nebraksa has plenty of these names. A few immediately come to mind: Cairo (pronounced just like the example in the original post), Prague (pronounced Praig with a long "a"), and, Papillion, locally known as Papio, is pronounced puh-PILL-ion, rather than the French word for butterfly, PA=pee=YON.

    Also, Norfolk, NE is pronounced nor-fork, not like Norfolk, VA. Story goes, the town has always been pronounced that way, as it sits on the north fork of the Platte River. But a map maker just couldn't believe that the town was actually spelled Norfork. So in some official map, he labelled it as it is today, and the town never had it changed. That's the story. Not sure if it's true.

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  34. Okay, here are some from Minnesota:

    Montevideo = "Mon-ta-video" (you know, like a video store)
    Santiago = "San-ti-ay-go"
    New Prague = "New Pray-g"

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  35. There's a town in IA spelled Onawa but is pronounced Ah-na-WA-na.

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  36. Vienna, OH = VY-enna

    Another obvious example would be Toledo, OH. In Spanish, Toledo would be pronounced TO'-le-do.

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