Nevada: "odd" or "add"?

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"Trump Tells Nevadans How to Pronounce 'Nevada' … Incorrectly", ABCNews 10/5/2016:

Donald Trump raised some eyebrows in the Silver State Wednesday night when he told Nevadans how to pronounce their state's name — differently than they do.  

"Heroin overdoses are surging and meth overdoses in Nevada, Nuh-VAH-da," he told the crowd in Reno. "And you know what I said? I said when I came out here I said nobody says it the other day, has to be Nuh-VAH-da.  

"And if you don't say it correctly and it didn't happen to me but it happened to a friend of mine he was killed."  

Generally, the state's name is pronounced Nuh-VAD-uh.

 

Donald Trump's disquisition on pronunciation:

Heroin overdoses are surging and meth overdoses in Nevada
Nevada
and you know what I said?
you know what I said?
I said when I came out here I said
nobody says it the other way, has to be Nevada
right?
and if you don't say it correctly
and it didn't happen to me but it happened to a friend of mine he was killed

Back in 2004, the AP criticized George W. Bush for using the pronunciation that Trump asserted falsely to be Nevadan's preference ("You say Nevada, I say Nevahda", 1/3/2004):

President George W. Bush has a language problem. At least, people who don't like him see this as a point where he's vulnerable, and they keep the journalistic spotlight focused on it, just as people who didn't like President William J. Clinton kept the spotlight on what they saw as his vulnerabilities.

In both cases, I find that the intense scrutiny makes it hard to evaluate the issues. The focus on Clinton's "Whitewater" transactions seemed so wildly out of proportion to the facts, and so clearly motivated by political animus, that at a certain point I simply starting ignoring the whole sordid business. Throw in a few tens of millions of dollars worth of high-powered investigators with subpoena powers, and you can cast a few financial shadows on anybody — or so I reckoned.

I've started to feel the same way about Bush's linguistic miscues. You can make any public figure sound like a boob, if you record everything he says and set hundreds of hostile observers to combing the transcripts for disfluencies, malapropisms, word formation errors and examples of non-standard pronunciation or usage. It's even easier if the critics use anecdotes based on the perceptions and verbal memories of equally hostile listeners. And the whole thing has crossed some kind of line when you can make the AP wire by citing him for using a widely accepted pronunciation, like Nevada with the stressed vowel of cod instead of cad.

Still, it seems to tell us something about Donald Trump's style that he tries to bond with Nevadans over right vs. wrong ways to pronounce the name of their state — and gets it wrong.

 



75 Comments

  1. Nancy Friedman said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 10:18 am

    In 2009 the Nevada tourism board, Travel Nevada, ran an ad campaign informing auslanders of the correct ("add") pronunciation of the state name. It included a diacritical mark. http://nancyfriedman.typepad.com/away_with_words/2009/08/you-say-nevahda-we-say-nevaaada.html

  2. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 10:27 am

    Nevada has the lowest percentage (around 25%) of current residents born in-state of any of the 50 states, from which it seems highly likely to me that old-timey echt-Nevadan pronunciations of the sort favored by native-born Sen. Reid do not completely dominate the pronunciation of the current population. But of course the correct takeaway from that is that more than one pronunciation is an acceptable variant, so both Reid and Trump would be wrong …

    Since the version with the "cod" vowel is more Spanish-sounding (Spanish phonology lacking the æ vowel of "cad" in most dialects), I wonder whether the "cad" version is simply a natural result of a Spanish-etymology toponym having its pronunciation Anglified or whether the earlier generation of Anglos living there deliberately favored a less-Spanish-sounding alternative to underscore their own non-Hispanic identity despite local Hispanic-origin toponyms. Obviously the "cad" version isn't the inevitable result of Anglified pronunciation since the "cod" version is current in much of the rest of the U.S. among speakers who would not seem to be motivated to affect an intentionally more-Spanish-sounding alternative.

  3. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 10:31 am

    Are there other similar variations in Hispanic-origin U.S. toponyms? For example, I pronounce the stressed penultimate syllable of "Colorado" to rhyme with "cod" (i.e. the same way I personally pronounce "Nevada"), but I have a very vague sense of having occasionally heard it with the "cad" vowel instead, but so vague I can't associate that variant with any specific region/ethnicity/class.

  4. dw said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 10:41 am

    For the benefit of non-North-Americans, "odd" in the title refers to the vowel of words like "spa" or "father" (which which it's merged in nearly all North American accents).

  5. Kenny Easwaran said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 10:51 am

    I somehow made it almost a point of pride to learn to say most state names approximately the way locals do, so that "Nevada" and "Colorado" have the anglo "a" that Canadians and Brits use in "pasta", rather than the foreign "a" that most Americans use in all three words. Similarly, both "Maryland" and "Oregon" have their last vowel reduced to a schwa, even though most people from farther away from those states pronounce them with secondary stress and distinct vowels.

  6. Scott McClure said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 10:52 am

    It's not a toponym, but the two-syllable vs. three-syllable pronunciation of 'coyote' strikes me as something similar to what J.W. Brewer mentioned:

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/coyote

    Rio Grande might be another example.

  7. Walter Heukels said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 10:54 am

    Nevadans sure seem to take this issue seriously, to the extent that it has even been the subject of legislation.

  8. Yuval said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 11:03 am

    Typo: day/way ("the other day").

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 11:19 am

    That's an interesting point re general AmEng/BrEng differences in pronouncing "pasta" and many similar foreign-origin words, but raises the seemingly puzzling question of why Nevadans would have taken the BrEng rather than usual AmEng approach. How do old-timey Nevadans pronounce "pasta"?

  10. GH said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 11:19 am

    It's annoying though perhaps not surprising that journalists try to explain the pronunciation variations using respellings and analogies rather than with phonetic symbols.

    The Washington Post uses, in two separate articles and quoted tweets by different people: Ne-VAHHHH-duh, Nev-AD-uh, Ne-VAH-duh, Nev-AH-da, Nuh-VAA-da, Nuh-VAH-da, nuh-VAA-duh, and nuh-VAH-duh. I don't know that any of these are particularly helpful.

    I'm particularly puzzled by the Nuh-VAA-da vs. Nuh-VAH-da distinction, where the spellings to me suggest no obvious difference in pronunciation (and if I had to take a guess at which is which, I would have gotten it wrong). At the same time, aside from vowel quality there's a potential issue of vowel length, where Nev-AD-uh to me suggests a short vowel and all the other spellings a long one.

  11. Mara K said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 11:20 am

    Your transcription of the two ways to say "Nevada" doesn't tell me which one residents of the state consider correct. Is it the Spanish-like way (with "odd") or the other way (with "add")?
    NB this question comes from someone who gets antsy when people pronounce the L in Milwaukee.

  12. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 11:24 am

    Re authentic local pronunciations, my original childhood pronunciation of my native Delaware was the national standard one, with secondary stress on the final syllable (rhymed with "square"), but then at some point around adolescence I switched over to the more local pronunciation (final syllable is unstressed and vowel is reduced) as, quite frankly, an affectation, but one which stuck and is now natural in my idiolect lo these many decades later. That my parents (and probably also the parents of a material percentage of the other kids who were my peers in early childhood) had grown up elsewhere in the U.S. rather than locally was probably an important factor in why I started with the "national" rather than local version.

  13. Gregory Kusnick said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 11:40 am

    Perhaps this is a case where we can legitimately deprecate the passive in "It's pronounced []." On the surface this appears to be a simple assertion of fact, i.e. there exist some people who pronounce it that way, but by declining to specify who those people are, the claim assumes a spurious prescriptive authority, as if pronunciation were a property of words rather than of individual speakers.

  14. Bill S. said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 11:49 am

    The article on this that Politico currently has up contains an absolute gem: "Nevadans generally say the name of their state without an 'h' sound in the middle…."

  15. dw said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 12:01 pm

    @J. W. Brewer

    American English usually uses its SPA vowel for the /a/ of Spanish / Italian, while British English tends to use its TRAP vowel in such words. In the case of "Nevada", the local pronunciation with TRAP presumably arose because the word is no longer considered Spanish but fully nativized.

  16. Jonathan said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 12:05 pm

    @JWBrewer, if you're looking for other interesting Spanish-origin toponym controversies, you can't beat Los Angeles (which even went through a hard "g" phase that I've heard in radio shows from the 1940s and 50s.)

  17. Jonathan said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 12:07 pm

    Sorry, I blew my HTML link above. "Los Angeles" is supposed to point here, i.e.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/26/local/la-me-0626-then-20110626

  18. DWalker07 said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 12:15 pm

    "And if you don't say it correctly and it didn't happen to me but it happened to a friend of mine he was killed".

    Really? I find that very hard to believe as actual fact, as opposed to Trumpian fact.

  19. James C. said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 12:17 pm

    Missourians, Iowans, Ohioans, and Texans might say "NeVAYda"…

  20. Gregory Kusnick said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 12:28 pm

    DWalker07: I'm not sure, but I think Trump is saying that his friend was killed by an overdose, not by an angry mob of Nevadan prescriptivists.

  21. SlideSF said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 12:36 pm

    @Mara K – Back in the days of the late great WFMT, there used to be a longtime DJ (I forget his name) who pronounced the city's name as Mil-WAU-kay. I thought it sounded great, a remnant of sophistication in Wisconsin's only "real" city. But coming from anyone but a classical jock it sounds pretty stilted.

  22. SlideSF said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 12:37 pm

    Posted too soon! I meant WFMR, of course. WFMT is still going strong.

  23. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 12:40 pm

    Like many Americans, I pronounce the second syllable of "Montana" with the TRAP vowel yet the second syllable of "Nevada" with the LOT vowel, yet I really don't think the latter (either the word or its referent) feels to my conscious mind any less domesticated or more Spanish-origin that the former. Maybe it's just that these are all borderline cases and the historical processes that determines which fall on which side of the line have a semi-random output. (Is there anyone out there who uses the LOT vowel for the second syllable of Montana?)

  24. Nancy Friedman said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 1:05 pm

    Speaking of Trumpian pronunciation, check out how he says "acumen," beginning at about 09:00 on this Stephen Colbert tape: http://time.com/4520955/stephen-colbert-mike-pence-debate/

  25. Belial Issimo said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 1:05 pm

    To us life-long (50+ years) Californians*, the pronunciation of the name of our neighboring state has always been a well-known shibboleth. Anyone who says Nevahda (with the SPA vowel) is instantly marked as an Easterner. Same for pronouncing the last syllable of "Oregon" as in the word "gone."

    Local pronunciations just have to be assimilated in your consciousness. To take just two (locally) prominent examples, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is pronounced differently from Rodeo Road in South Los Angeles, and Costa Mesa in Orange County is pronounced differently from Contra Costa County in Northern California.

    *I do not know how Californios, as opposed to Californians, pronounced "Nevada."

  26. Eric said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 1:07 pm

    Growing up in Missouri (and with almost all my family from Kansas), I ONLY ever heard or used the TRAP vowel in Nevada while Colorado was split but leaned toward TRAP as well. It wasn't until I moved farther away–first Chicago in college and now Massachusetts–that I hear different pronunciations for several states.

    In Massachusetts (note I don't hear many people with native Mass accents), people regularly use LOT for Nevada and Colorado as well as the last syllable of Oregon. I have heard Maryland said like Mary-land many times, and I ALWAYS hear Illinois pronounced with the s…now that last one truly drives me bonkers.

  27. GH said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 1:17 pm

    @DWalker07, Gregory Kusnick:

    I took it to mean that the friend was "killed" (metaphorically speaking) by Nevadans for pronouncing it wrong. That interpretation is mainly based on his tone of voice, which seems to be amused; not what I would expect if he was talking about a friend who overdosed (particularly since his own brother died young of alcoholism).

    Trump has also faced some ridicule recently for his idiosyncratic pronunciation of "acumen" (with stress on the second syllable), and "fiduciary" (with the first syllable as /faɪ/).

  28. Stephen Hart said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 1:26 pm

    I wonder if the dialect mapping folks ever asked about state name pronunciation.
    http://dialect.redlog.net

    Belial Issimo said,
    Same [marked as an Easterner] for pronouncing the last syllable of "Oregon" as in the word "gone."

    Growing up in Washington, I always heard Oruh gun. Unfortunately, "Ory gone" may well be the most frequent way to pronounce the state name across the U.S.

  29. Jake said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 1:28 pm

    @Belial: also "Worshington" for the state.

  30. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 1:40 pm

    I have heard /faɪ/ in fiduciary often enough that it seems a not-particularly-remarkable variation, although I certainly don't say it myself. Maybe it's an NYC-area regionalism? Note the parallelism to the usual (AmEng) pronunciation of "bona fide."

  31. franzca said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 1:46 pm

    @J.W. Brewer: It's a bit odd to claim that Spanish has a "cod" vowel but not a "cad" vowel — of course it has neither, or both, depending how you look at it. (Spanish definitely has distinct A and O vowels!) There are different phoneme boundaries: many US Americans perceive Spanish or Italian A sounds as being a "cod" vowel, and pronounce it accordingly, but much of the rest of the world then wonders why (some?) Americans insist on talking about "posta" and "Los" Vegas.

    To my (non-native, in both) ear, even a full-on US American Neveaeda (with the a of "add") sounds closer to Spanish "Nevada" than Trump-style "Nevoda". It's surely just as plausible, then, that the "Nevada" pronunciation (rather then "Nevoda") reflects _more_ Spanish influence rather than less, perhaps depending on how the average Spanish speaker perceived the two US English phonemes when anglos arrived in the state.

    @dw Has anybody got a clear explanation why UK/US perception of foreign A sounds diverges? (And it's not just A from romance languages, e.g. Iron, Irok and Vietnom…)

  32. Craig said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 1:50 pm

    @J.W. Brewer. I also grew up in Delaware and used the national standard pronunciation. Both of my parents were native Delawareans, however, as were my grandparents. I tried to affect the "Delwer" pronunciation at some point, but it never stuck, probably because it sounds a lot like Dover when I say it that way. Maybe for me, it was the non-native teachers in the '70s and '80s.

  33. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 2:22 pm

    My highly inexpert sense is that even if AmEng a (in the IPA sense, i.e. the LOT vowel) and Spanish (for some relevant regional dialect) a aren't really quite the same vowel, the Spanish version isn't different in the direction of being intermediate between AmEng a and AmEng æ. So the idea of using AmEng æ as the closest approximation (or even one of two equally-plausible options, the way we historically had both "Moslem" and "Muslim" because the Arabic vowel kinda fell in between the English options) seems odd to me. But these may be one of those things where cross-linguistic perceptions are quite complex and subjective.

  34. JS said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 2:22 pm

    @franzca
    Speculatively, maybe because earlier American /ɒ/ (with its relative frontishness) was a better choice for Spanish "a" than /æ/, with the later very common merger /ɒ/>/ɔ/ producing the not-so-close values you write as "nevoda," etc.?

    And more generally, long live the shibboleth; otherwise, how would everyone thumb their nose at outsiders? I'm sure Nevadans secretly love that everyone pronounces their state's name "wrong," just like we Kentuckians love that outsiders saying "Louisville" sound like they have a stick up their butt.

  35. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 2:32 pm

    Maybe just to clarify (or add a further wrinkle/complication!) I don't have the cot-caught merger and my second syllable of Nevada goes with my cot (IPA a). Swapping in either ɒ (probably not in my usual phonemic inventory at all, although perhaps it was in my ancestors') or ɔ (my vowel for "caught") would result in a pronunciation of Nevada so bizarre-sounding I couldn't even, as the Young People apparently say.

  36. maidhc said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 2:43 pm

    I don't have the caught-cot merger, so much of this discussion sounds very surrealistic to me!

    Californians are inconsistent about names of Spanish origin.

    La Jolla = luh HOY-uh
    Vallejo = væ-LAY-hoh
    This case has the Spanish J but not the LL

    Cañada = cæn-YAH-duh
    Los Baños =los BÆN-uhs

    Old-time (1920s) white people pronounced Los Angeles with a hard G.
    More recently it has shifted to a J like the English word "angel".
    Neither is like the Spanish pronunciation.

    Los Robles = los ROH-buhls
    Lodi = LOH-daɪ (named after either Lodi, Illinois or Lodi, Italy, site of Napoleon's first victory in 1796)

    Butano = BYOO-tuh-no is almost correct because it's a Spanish dialect word that has the accent on the first syllable. (A butano is what early Californians called a drinking cup made from horn of a bull or other animal. A Native American origin is possible.-Wikipedia)

    Duarte's = DOO-artz (a popular old restaurant in Pescadero)

  37. maidhc said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 3:01 pm

    Scott McClure:
    It's not a toponym, but the two-syllable vs. three-syllable pronunciation of 'coyote' strikes me as something similar to what J.W. Brewer mentioned

    I associate the two-syllable version with someone like Yosemite Sam or Gabby Hayes ("yuh mangy cai-ote!"). I don't hear it much in conversation. It might be different in places like Wyoming or Utah.

    The reference says
    (US) IPA(key): /kaɪˈ(j)oʊti/, (especially Western US) /ˈkaɪ(j)oʊt/
    (UK) IPA(key): /kɔɪˈ(j)oʊteɪ/, /ˈkɔɪ(j)oʊt/
    but I think that's out of date for California.

    I heard /kɔɪˈ(j)oʊti/ (not /kaɪˈ(j)oʊti/ so much) some decades ago, but now I'm more commonly hearing /kɔɪˈ(j)oʊteɪ/. As they become more frequently encountered in our urban environment.

  38. GH said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 3:16 pm

    For those of us having trouble with some of these mergers, are the audio samples in the Wikipedia vowel chart reliable? To me, it sounds like the closest match to Trump's realization of the second syllable in "Nevada" is [a] (or possibly [ä]), going by the audio clips. I don't hear it as an [ɒ], and certainly not [ɔ]. Something wrong with my ears, or with the clips, or what?

    [(myl) Trump's pronunciation in the posted clip is an unrounded low central vowel. In IPA terms that makes it an [ɐ], and the Wikipedia clip for that glyph seems OK to me. The clip for [ɔ] is weird, though — it seems to have been produced by someone who has no such vowel in his normal inventory. [ä] is not a standard place in the IPA vowel chart I'm familiar with.

    One of the many, many peculiar and unfortunate choices that the IPA has made is to use the peculiar and difficult symbol "turned a" for one of the most basic and common vowel sounds, namely the unrounded low central vowel, while assigning the typographically easy "a" symbol to an unrounded low front vowel which is vanishingly rare as a phonemic category or a phonetic outcome.]

  39. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 3:27 pm

    I associate two-syllable "coyote" with the early Red Hot Chili Peppers' song "True Men Don't Kill Coyotes," but I don't know whether that reflects how the singer (born in Michigan but moved to Southern California at age 12) would usually say it or was a bit of poetic license because the three-syllable version wouldn't have fit with the rhythm.

  40. JS said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 3:57 pm

    Sorry, I often see unmerged cot-caught generically represented with IPA /ɒ/ vs. /ɔ/, but the phonetic facts definitely vary… COT where I live in SE Virginia often has close to no rounding (i.e., approaches [ä]). My merged values, like the Trumpian "VAH" in the audio, are more open and less round than the symbol /ɔ/ suggests (split the [ɒ],[ɑ] difference?).

  41. GH said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 5:32 pm

    @myl:

    Trump's pronunciation in the posted clip is an unrounded low central vowel. In IPA terms that makes it an [ɒ]

    Wait, now I'm confused. In the Wikipedia chart, the "unrounded low central vowel" (or as they put it, "open central unrounded") is [ä], while [ɒ] is described as the open back rounded vowel. To me these sounds (as represented in the Wikipedia clips) are psychologically quite distinct, while the [ɒ]-[ɔ] distinction is much less so.

    [(myl) Abject apologies, what I meant (and have now corrected the comment to read) was [ɐ] for the "unrounded low central vowel" — which I correctly described as a "turned a" in the next sentence. The "[ɒ]" glyph in my comment was a slip of the mouse as I was running out the door…]

  42. GH said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 5:51 pm

    Aha, reading a bit further I see that some the characters used in the Wikipedia chart, including [ä], are not standard IPA symbols, because there is no official dedicated letter for them (which strikes me as odd, but OK…). However, even if these central vowels are subsumed by the back ones, the sound Trump is making should at least still be [ɑ] (unrounded) rather than [ɒ] (rounded), shouldn't it?

  43. Coby Lubliner said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 6:07 pm

    Most Americans (and I believe most English-speakers) pronounce the Spanish ending -ada as [ɑːdə]: enchilada, tostada, armada, La Cañada, and even Nevada when it's preceded by Sierra. The Nevadans' officially preferred pronunciation of their state's name is just one of those quirks that one has to learn, like Birmingham (England) vs. Birmingham (Alabama).

    I don't know what the current status of the pronunciation of Missouri is.

  44. phspaelti said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 7:08 pm

    @myl: One of the many, many peculiar and unfortunate choices that the IPA has made is to use the peculiar and difficult symbol "turned a" for one of the most basic and common vowel sounds, namely the unrounded low central vowel,

    Mark, what are you saying?! The "turned script a [ɒ]" represents a low back _rounded_ vowel in the IPA. While this vowel is used in British English, I'm not sure that it can be said to be "one of the most common vowels".

    The IPA distinction between "script a [ɑ]" and "typed a [a]" is admittedly a bit of an acquired taste though.

    [(myl) Abject apologies again — what I meant of course (and said in the next sentence) was "turned a" [ɐ] not "turned script a" [ɒ] (which I entered via a slip of the mouse in a hurried comment as I ran out the door).

    And you're completely right about the rarity of [ɒ] (and also the low front unrounded vowel [a]) in the world's languages. So why the IPA tries to make us use [ɐ] for the ubiquitous low central unrounded vowel is the odd decision.]

  45. Martha said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 7:21 pm

    franzca: I'd argue that there isn't a divergence in the way US and UK speakers perceive foreign vowels, but how they deal with integrating them into English.

  46. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 7:44 pm

    My own shaky IPA literacy means I erred in an earlier comment: I ought to have typed that my own vowel for the "cot" side of cot/caught (and also my stressed vowel in Nevada) is ɑ, not a. Unless it's actually ɐ or (unofficial notation) ä? I'm more relying on wikipedia to characterize the GenAm LOT vowel than actually trying to introspect about exactly how far back it is or isn't in my particular mouth.

  47. Rebecca said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 8:39 pm

    Do the dialects that say "Nevahda" and "Colorahdo" also say "Cahlifornia"?

  48. ryan said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 9:05 pm

    >Re authentic local pronunciations, my original childhood pronunciation of my native Delaware was the national standard one, with secondary stress on the final syllable (rhymed with "square"), but then at some point around adolescence I switched over to the more local pronunciation (final syllable is unstressed and vowel is reduced) as, quite frankly, an affectation, but one which stuck and is now natural in my idiolect lo these many decades later.

    As a newly returned Chicagoan in my late teens, having grown up downstate, I did much the same, seizing on the fact that the bitter enemies Mayor Harold Washington and alderman Ed Burke both said Chi-CAW-go, and so I should too. I can hardly say it any other way now, though my wife and most of my friends say Chi-CAH-go.

  49. Lazar said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 10:05 pm

    @Rebecca:

    No, everyone uses /æ/ in "California" as far as I know.

    @J.W. Brewer:

    The question of which sound better approximates Spanish /a/ may vary even within North America. In a typical General American accent, it would be intermediate between the "cat" and "cot" vowels but closer to the former; but for someone with a Californian or Canadian shift, in which "cat" is centralized and "cot" is retracted and/or rounded, then the former would be an euqal or better match. For someone with a Northern Cities shift, on the other hand, "cot" might be a perfect match.

  50. Lazar said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 10:06 pm

    Guh, my first "former" should read "latter".

  51. Usually Dainichi said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 10:32 pm

    @Rebecca

    I don't think anybody says Los Ongeles, Meomi or Ponama either. I suspect these were crystallized before the American TRAP vowel became so high/fronted that people felt it couldn't possibly represent a low central one anymore.

  52. Rubrick said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 11:06 pm

    Pity Nevada isn't especially known for its pecans.

  53. Gregory Kusnick said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 11:24 pm

    Rebecca, Lazar: Don't forget the kerfuffle over how Arnold Schwarzenegger pronounced "California" during his run for governor.

  54. Reinhold {Rey} Aman said,

    October 6, 2016 @ 11:58 pm

    @ Mara K:

    NB this question comes from someone who gets antsy when people pronounce the L in Milwaukee.
    Not a big problem. Have you heard out-of-staters mispronounce Waukesha as "Wau-KEE-sha" or mutilate Oconomowoc?f

  55. Jen said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 2:18 am

    Re Ne-VAH-da – are we talking about the vowel that English English speakers would use for 'bath', or something else? As a Scot with one 'ah' sound for everything I'm completely lost!

  56. philip said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 4:08 am

    How do North Americans pronounce 'cod'?

  57. GH said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 5:23 am

    @myl:

    Ah, thanks! That makes perfect sense, then. Glad my ears do not totally deceive me!

  58. Vilinthril said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 5:30 am

    Not completely on topic, but still: Can someone explain the "acumen" thing to me? AFAIK and as far as some dictionaries I've consulted indicate, both stress patterns are fine, and the dictionaries do not even agree whether "acúmen" is just a UK pronunciation or whether there are also areas in the US where "ácumen" isn't the mainstream pronunciation … could someone elaborate on that?

  59. Rose Eneri said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 7:53 am

    I recently moved to Naples, Florida. There is a city north of Naples called Punta Gorda which I pronounced in a Spanish fashion, but which locals pronounce "pun a gord."

  60. BlueLoom said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 7:53 am

    @ Eric

    Though I lived in Missouri for only 4 years in my 20s, I quickly learned to pronounce the name of the town in Missouri as Ne VAY duh, tho to this day, I still pronounce the state Ne VAH duh.

    Shall we get into the Missouri/Missourah debate? When I lived there, I routinely heard politicians code switch between the two pronunciations, depending on the audience they were addressing.

  61. GH said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 8:04 am

    @Jen:

    In these respellings, "Ne-VAH-da" is supposed to represent Trump's pronunciation (check the clip in the post), which I guess we concluded uses an [ɐ]. To my untrained ear this sounds similar but not quite identical to the RP "BATH" vowel , which is conventionally transcribed /ɑː/ (but might possibly vary?).

    @Vilinthril:

    The American Heritage Dictionary (5th Ed.), included here, writes:

    "The pronunciation (ə-kyo͞o′mən), with stress on the second syllable, is an older, traditional pronunciation reflecting the word's Latin origin. The Anglicized pronunciation with stress on the first syllable, (ăk′yə-mən), was accepted as standard by the entire Usage Panel in the 1997 survey and was the preferred pronunciation of two thirds of the Panelists. The older pronunciation was considered unacceptable by 40 percent of the Panel, suggesting that eventually this pronunciation will fall into disuse."

    I suppose Colbert and his writers didn't check a dictionary, and simply assumed that a pronunciation they didn't know was incorrect.

  62. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 10:05 am

    philip: How do North Americans pronounce 'cod'?

    Mostly with our "father" vowel. That has some regional variation but is usually within shouting distance of the [ɐ] that Trump used in "Nevada".

  63. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 10:06 am

    (Subject to correction. I'm far from an expert and wouldn't have known to use that turned-a before today.)

  64. Dan Lufkin said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 10:30 am

    Then there is the Boston suburb of Scituate, for which there is no correct pronunciation.

  65. Vilinthril said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 11:13 am

    @GH: Thank you very much, I figured something like that was the case. Shame, I expected better from Colbert. ;)

  66. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 12:02 pm

    I remain puzzled because the wikipedia piece on Lexical Set states with respect to what I think ought to be the vowel in cod: "For example, the word rod is pronounced /rɒd/ in RP and /rɑd/ in GenAm." Assuming pretty much all GenAm speakers rhyme rod with cod, should the piece (taking many of the comments above at face value) have said rɐd instead of rɑd? Is this a dispute about what the actual vowel actually is, or a lack of uniformity in use of notation? (Since GenAm is usually said to have the father-bother merger, it seems like it shouldn't matter that much whether we think the non-TRAP pronunciation of Nevada has the LOT vowel or the PALM vowel, assuming we can agree on what those actually are …)

    [(myl) I haven't checked the Wikipedia article in question, but if it (still?) reads as you quote, it's just wrong — perhaps written by someone who is a native speaker of another language?]

  67. dw said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 12:45 pm

    @franzka

    Has anybody got a clear explanation why UK/US perception of foreign A sounds diverges? (And it's not just A from romance languages, e.g. Iron, Irok and Vietnom…)

    Two likely reasons come to mind:

    the TRAP vowel tends to be more open in much of Britain, often approaching [a]
    Vowel length is significant, sometimes phonemic, for many British accents. The SPA vowel is long while the TRAP vowel is short. Therefore, in representing a short vowel from a foreign language, a short vowel in English is chosen.

  68. Eli said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

    @JW Brewer: it's a difference in phonetic vs. phonemic transliteration. The phonetic symbol [ɐ] is generally not used in English phonemic transliteration. The merged LOT/PALM vowel phoneme is usually transcribed as /ɑ/.

  69. Ellen Kozisek said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 5:23 pm

    For me (central U.S.), the word "palm" has a rounded vowel, because of the L, so not the same as "rod" and "lot", which are unrounded.

  70. PickeringPast said,

    October 7, 2016 @ 5:26 pm

    I grew up in Washington state but have lived many places around the world. Throughout my life I've heard place names pronounced any number of ways. The only mispronunciation that bugs me is hearing BBC news readers say Los Angeleeze ala Arlo Gunthrie bringing in a couple of keys (ki's.) For some reason I expect better of them.

  71. Chas Belov said,

    October 8, 2016 @ 2:09 am

    How I say them:
    Neh-VAH-duh
    KAWL-uh-RAH-doe
    MARE-ih-lind
    ORE-uh-ghin (with a half-duration vowel in the last syllable)

    but I, too, understand it's Nuh-VAY-duh, Iowa, from an Iowan.

  72. Graeme said,

    October 9, 2016 @ 4:34 am

    So: how many ways to pronounce 'A-meri-ca'?

  73. DWalker07 said,

    October 10, 2016 @ 11:29 am

    @Reinhold {Rey} Aman:

    "Have you heard out-of-staters mispronounce Waukesha as "Wau-KEE-sha" or mutilate Oconomowoc?"

    I think MANY out-of-staters (or out-of-nearby-staters) would mutilate Oconomowoc…

  74. Allan from Nevada, Iowa said,

    October 10, 2016 @ 9:44 pm

    Hi, Chas!

    Did I ever tell you how to pronounce Tripoli, Iowa? It has no sounds conventionally spelled with an I.

    Others: my understanding is that Oconomowoc is stressed on the preantepenult.

  75. dw said,

    October 11, 2016 @ 12:24 pm

    @PickeringPast

    Re: "Los Angeleeze" — this is how the name of the city is generally pronounced by British people. In their defen{s|c}e, some Americans have done the same: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/26/local/la-me-0626-then-20110626

    The same US/UK pronunciation difference affects "diabetes".

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