Chranna and Fluffya

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From the start of "What Can Doctors Learn by Admitting Their Mistakes?", Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Making Mistakes:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Guy Raz: That's Brian
Brian Goldman: I'm uh staff emergency physician
at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada
Guy Raz: That's [təˈɹɐn.toʊ]
Brian Goldman: You know
about thirty years ago
it was- it was [ˈtɹɜ.ɾ̃ə]
because I used to say [təˈɹɐn.toʊ]
and Canadians would correct me
Guy Raz: and say [ˈtɹɐ.ɾ̃ə]
Brian Goldman: ((yeah))
There's no 't' in it
Guy Raz: Anyway, Brian
went to medical school in
that city …

This seems to be meant as a metaphor for how Dr. Goldman (who describes his high school self as someone who would study for a blood test) learned to relax about the possibility of not being precisely correct about everything. At least, here's the abstract for the associated TED talk:

Every doctor makes mistakes. But, says physician Brian Goldman, medicine's culture of denial keeps doctors from talking about and learning from those mistakes. Goldman calls on doctors to start talking about being wrong.

But I'm puzzled by the implication that the pronunciation of Toronto has changed since "about thirty years ago". Turning intervocalic post-stress /-nt-/ into a nasal tap remains a normal process in North American English.  An forum discussion from 2007 notes that

Wikipedia devotes an entire section to the pronunciation of Toronto saying, "Locals sometimes pronounce the city's name as 'Toronno', 'Trono', 'Toranna', 'Taranna', 'Chrono', 'Chranna' or even 'Terawhnna' ?in each case, the speaker merely pronounces 'Toronto' in the way that is most natural in his or her dialect." – Jack Chambers, a professor of linguistics at University of Toronto for more than 30 years, agrees with this logic, explaining that people born and bred in Toronto pronounce their hometown differently than outsiders because Torontonians say the name of their city repeatedly, over time becoming lazier about the pronunciation, eventually shortening it. "For people who live here their solution is to get rid of the 't' at the end."

And similar testimony can be found in a 2009 Yelp forum and a 2010 Yahoo! answers discussion.

The local pronunciation of my own city, Philadelphia, is conventionally spelled "Fluffya". That's the most opaque-to-outsiders local-pronunciation spelling that I know — but no doubt commenters will have some other candidates to suggest.

[Note: Because the cited passage is clearly edited from fragments rather than being the result of a single take, and because Raz and Goldman have similar voices, I'm not sure that I have the back-and-forth correctly assigned to participants. One of the many curious things about human speech perception is that I was not at all aware of this ambiguity until I tried to transcribe the passage with speaker IDs.]


  1. Theo said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

    Someone with more direct knowledge should correct me — I'm a west-coaster with family from New York — but I'm under the impression that one of the pronunciations of "New Orleans" is roughly "Nahlin."

  2. Ben Zimmer said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

    For Toronto, "Trawna" is the pronunciation spelling that best matches what I hear, and it's well-attested online.

    The relevant Wikipedia section appears to have been heavily edited since that 2007 reference to it — the pronunciation spellings have been replaced with phonetic representations. "Chranna" is gone, but it does note that the /tr/ "often sounds almost like [tʃʰɹʷ] chr, for pronunciations such as CHRON-oh and CHRON-ə." Neal Whitman's discussion of "chricky affrication" is relevant here.

  3. David said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

    I visited Chile for a couple weeks recently. Chilean Spanish is notorious, at least among my colleagues who've been there more than I have, for dropping terminal consonants (e.g. it's almost always "gracia" not "gracias") and sometimes other consonants (e.g. "graia," though that's much less common).

    The most impenetrable example I heard was a metro conductor who quite distinctly pronounced the "Francisco Bilbao" stop as "Fa-e-oh Bi-ow."

  4. Adam said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

    @David, there is a similar dropping of terminal consonants, especially 's', in Puerto Rican Spanish. I often work on the island of Vieques. The name apparently comes from the Taino word "bieke". But that's how locals pronounce it anyhow (pronouncing the 's' is a sure test of a gringo). What's interesting is that there are now many businesses there whose names include the reconstruction "Bieke" (or even "Bieké") in their names, as a point of local pride. (I live near Durham, NC, but have not yet noticed any business there with "Durm" in its name).

  5. Peter Metcalfe said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

    It's been happening in ole blighty for some time.

    Cholmondeley – Chumly
    Featherstonehaugh – Fanshaw
    Marjoribanks – Marshbanks.

    [(myl) Not to speak of Worcestershire, or on the other side of the channel, Marseilles = Massalia. But we're talking here about informal, nonstandard, casual pronunciations that differ from the normative standard found in dictionaries or used in formal settings.]

  6. Bobbie said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

    When I lived in NJ 50 years ago, I went to the shopping district of Bloomfield, "Bloomfeel Senner" (not Center).

    [(myl) Thereby illustrating t/d deletion as well as -nt- flapping.]

  7. Alex said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

    I think at one time people pronounced "Toronto" as something akin to "Trawna" (as heard in the Wikipedia sound clip Ben Zimmer links to), but as a 34-year-old native resident of Toronto, I almost never hear this pronunciation used by other Toronto residents. Where the pronunciation is unusual is in the final "ah" sound, which is instead typically pronounced as an "oh" sound ("Tron-oh" or "Chron-oh"). The "ah" sound in the clip has the nasal sort of quality heard in other parts of Ontario and perhaps elsewhere in Canada, and to my ears is a pretty clear marker that the speaker isn't from Toronto.

  8. rootlesscosmo said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

    I live in Sampm'sisco California.

  9. Narmitaj said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

    Though it's not that opaque to outsiders, the city of Bristol in the UK is often called "Brissle" by the inhabitants (or more sensibly "bristle", but I wanted to ensure the "t" was missing). The formal pronunciation has a well-defined "t" and "l". See here.

  10. Bob Ladd said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

    Greetings from Embra!

  11. Adam B said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

    Narch and Norn Iron seem to be in reasonably common use as respellings to reflect local pronunciations.

  12. John Lawler said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

    Jim McCawley (a near-native of Chicago) used to say that there was a recursive syllable-deletion rule operating on Chicago in local speech, with the result that the most common local pronunciation was something like [ʃkaʊ].

  13. Rodger C said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

    I think I've already mentioned "Weshchinny" here. Or as the youngsters say, the Dub Vee. To be precise, I'm from near one of its largest cities, to call it that, viz. Hunnickton, which I once saw a person not endowed with much literacy spell "Huicton."

  14. Y said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

    @rootlesscosmo lives in Sampm'sisco, California. Haven't been there, but it can't be far from Sarasisco.

    [(myl) The first two vowels are nasalized, right?]

  15. JB said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

    The conductors on Amtrak walk through the train announcing imminent arrival in Baltimore, Maryland, as "Balmer, Merlin."

  16. keri said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

    How interesting! Maybe it's the accent, but I can't think of very many city names in Florida that have such distinct differences from the official version. Orlando is usually just O'lanno, but that fits with what's described above with the 'nd' becoming a flap, and the "orl" syllable simplifying.

    In fact, St Pete and Jax are the other two that have the most different names, and they're just cutting off the last two syllables. JAX is the airport code for Jacksonville, and it's even used in postal addresses and business names.

    …Though I did just think of one nearby town. Fernandina Beach is more generally known as Ferndina. When I was learning local geography, I thought there were two different towns and wasn't sure why we were going to Fernandina Beach to visit cousins who lived in Ferndina. (The stress is on "di", so it doesn't disappear. Sometimes you hear Ferdina, too.)

  17. Adam said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

    A follow-up on Vieques — there is a split even among natives who pronounce it "Bieke" and those who pronounce it "correctly" with the final "s". I just found it interesting that the dialectal pronunciation has made it as far as business names and signs. Some of those who pronounce the final "s" have told me they resent that.

  18. Y said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

    @myl: "The first two vowels are nasalized, right?"
    There's an /n/, which I should have written, but no nasalization as I recall. Something like [sæɹnsɪskoʊ]. I'm not sure if the final diphthong is fully realized or not. It's been a while since I heard it, though, so I might be off. I was told by a native it's how the natives pronounce it, as opposed to the newcomers.

  19. Robert Coren said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 7:57 pm

    In Massachusetts we have Meffa and Chemsfud (spelled "Medford" and "Chelmsford", respectively), among others.

  20. Linguo said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

    Here in Australia, the usual pronunciation of out country's name is stræjə, only əstræɪljə in very careful speech. I cringe a little when foreigners pronounce it ɑst- or ɒst-.

    Similarly it seems like New Zealanders call their country nezɪlən, and South Africans sæfrɪkə.

  21. David Morris said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

    Is there a rule – linguistic or sociological or anything else – that says that the residents of a place get to determine the pronunciation of that place, even against the spelling and history?

    In Australia, we understand when tourists say "Mel-bourne" and "Bris-bane" (rather than "Mel-b'n" and "Bris-b'n") – it just marks them as outsiders. While many Sydneysiders say "Sinny", they would probably concede that the correct pronunciation is "Sydney". I live in a suburb of Sydney called by some "Penriff", and written by everyone "Penrith".

  22. Bill Walderman said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

    This article probably won't meet Language Log's standards of scientific accuracy in phonetic transcriptions, but, speaking about Fluffya, some might find it amusing.

    I particularly like the t-deleted Wall Women Bridge.

    For city names, JB mentioned Balmer (the Amtrak conductors aren't the only ones who say this), and there's also Mwaukee.

  23. Lazar said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

    The reduction of /nt/ to a nasal stop or tap in NAE fascinates me; it's definitely not as widespread in my speech (rhotic, 20s, Massachusetts) as it is in other people's, but even in a "General American" context I have my doubts that it can be considered as regular and universal a rule as the flapping of /t/ and /d/. For me, reduction is nearly mandatory in words like "don't, can't, want, isn't, aren't, wasn't, etc." when followed by a vowel, and in "wanted (v.), twenty, plenty (of)". I have it variably in some words like "center", but for most lexical items my inclination is to preserve [nt]. Reduction sounds off to me in words like "winter, inter-, anti-" (i.e. I sometimes reduce them in mumbly speech, but I definitely don't consider the reduced version to be my "citation form" as in the case of "twenty"), and totally unnatural in "hunter" or "lantern". I think all but the most affected NAE speakers would produce "Descar[ɾ] is a philosopher", but how many would similarly produce "Ka[ɾ̃] is a philosopher"? Many phonetic treatments of NAE seem to gloss over the fact that the former is basically an ironclad allophonic rule, whereas the latter has at least some nuance to it for most speakers.

  24. Mark F. said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

    If my last name were "Appointment" I wouldn't name my kid "Dennis." Then again, I'd probably be thinking about changing my last name.

    How many syllables in "Florida"? I tend to pronounce it "Flarda."

    I first noticed the tr –> chr thing when I saw some first graders' writing assignments posted outside a classroom and "tree" came out "chree".

  25. Mark F. said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

    …of course, for Toronto it's a two-step process to get to "chr" since you have to elide the vowel first.

  26. Clare said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 9:49 pm

    I grew up in Atlanta. The best way to identify people who didn't grow up there was how they pronounced it. People who live there call it "Ad-lanna." Everyone else in the US calls it "At-lant-ah."
    Sometimes people argue with me and say it's just a Southern thing; but the interesting thing about Atlanta is that almost no one who lives there is actually from the South. Since it's such a huge business hub, I could count on one hand the number of people I knew whose families were actually from the South, it's mostly northern transplants.

  27. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

    I say "Flor-i-da", but there're probly other words I shorten.

    Opposite to (sorry) the examples above, the little town of Moriarty, New Mexico, is often pronounced and even misspelled "Moriarity" /ˌmɔriˈɑrəti/. I have no idea why. I've never heard anyone add a syllable to "party". Could people be afraid of invoking the Napoleon of crime?

  28. George Amis said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 10:33 pm

    And of course San Jose CA is routinely pronounced Sanna Zay, despite what Wikipedia says.

  29. maidhc said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 12:45 am

    My father used to tell a story about riding a bus north from Miami on his first day in the US, and this illiterate man kept asking him to read out the names of all the towns so he wouldn't miss his stop. Where was he going? "Fettle", spelled "Fayetteville".

  30. Robert said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 4:17 am

    To add to the Australian examples there is a Toronto north of Sydney, known to locals, of course, as Tronno.

  31. Jeremy Wheeler said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 4:23 am

    For travellers on London Underground's Central Line it can be disconcerting to hear the effect of dropped initial h and terminal t when the driver announces that this train will be going via Hainault.

  32. Joe said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 4:39 am

    I'm a bit late to this discussion, but is there any empirical evidence to support the statement attributed to Chambers that inhabitants of a city say its name more frequently than outsiders? Or that over time the inhabitants get "lazier" about its pronunciation? (Which to me sounds like a claim that children would pronounce the name more in line with outsiders than adults)

  33. Bob Lieblich said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 5:49 am

    Add to the collection the L'Enfant Plaza stop on the D.C. Metro (subway). "Laffont" is so common that "Lonfont" is regarded as an error.

    And I live in Rosslyn (part of Arlington, VA), pronounced "Rozlin."

  34. richardelguru said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 6:11 am

    IIRC in Norwich (Norfolk, UK) maybe 40 years ago there was a little local (possibly poetry) magazine called 'Norch'. Of course this is the county that contains Happisburgh and Wymondham among many others.
    (Check their pronunciations on-line if you aren't a native of East Anglia, neither is ogooglebar.)

  35. richardelguru said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 6:16 am

    Oh, yes…
    @Jeremy Wheeler
    Ah! But the announcement was most appropriately in the frenssh of stratford atte bowe.

  36. Rodger C said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 7:00 am

    @Jerry Friedman: There's an Irish music hall song with the tag line "Are you there, Moriarity?" I want to say it's sung in a Sean O'Casey play.

  37. H said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 7:50 am

    Us in Norfolk use those (and Costessey, roughly pronounced 'Cossy' and Tasburgh, pronounced 'Tazebru') as a sort of shibboleth to mark out outsiders and tourists. I personally now pronounce 'Norwich' as 'Norritch', though I'm sure 'Norch' is not unknown. But the Norfolk dialect is wonderfully impervious to demands of modern language, or being able to be pronounced by outsiders, and is all the more mellifluous for it.

  38. Brian T said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 8:53 am

    Every Friday at 5, a local radio station used to play "Switchin' to Glide/This Beat Goes On," a wonderful song by one-hit wonders The Kings, who (unbeknownst to me) were Canadian. My carpool came to know the song well. But one line — "You said to ring you up if I was in Toronto" — puzzled me. I had always heard [təˈɹɐn.toʊ] and the [ˈtɹɜ.ɾ̃ə] pronunciation led me to think this rock 'n' roll singer was saying the song took place in Tirana, Albania. "Why would these people be hooking up in Albania?"

  39. Brian T said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 9:00 am

    Every Friday at 5, a local radio station used to play "Switchin' to Glide/This Beat Goes On," a wonderful song by one-hit wonders The Kings, who (unbeknownst to me) were Canadian. My carpool came to know the song well. But one line — "You said to ring you up if I was in Toronto" — puzzled me. I had always heard [təˈɹɐn.toʊ] and the Band's [ˈtɹɜ.ɾ̃ə] pronunciation led me to think this rock 'n' roll singer was saying the song took place in Tirana, Albania. "Why would these people be hooking up in Albania?"

  40. Ellen K. said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 9:12 am

    For both Atlanta and Toronto, if North American's from other places are likely to fully pronounce the -nt-, it's simply because they are likely to be saying it in a context where they fully articulate, rather than a context where they give is a relaxed (normal) pronunciation. It's the flipside of what one of the quotes in the original post says: "people born and bred in Toronto pronounce their hometown differently than outsiders because Torontonians say the name of their city repeatedly, over time becoming lazier about the pronunciation, eventually shortening it".

  41. Parker F. said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 9:24 am

    @ Robert Coren:

    Don't forget New Beffa. I had a neighbor from there with a thick accent and when I asked her where she was from I couldn't understand what the hell she was saying. It actually sounded more like new "New Beffin" to me. I only figured out how it was written some time later when I was looking at a map of Massachusetts and I happened to see that place on the map :)

    @ Mark F.:

    I also say Florida with 2 syllables. But for me it's like "floor-duh". I'm guessing you're from the East Coast if you have more of an "ar" sound in the first syllable. BTW, I'm not from Florida. I'm actually from the Midwest. So maybe it isn't only the natives of a place who use reduced pronunciations of its name.

  42. Ellen K. said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 9:34 am

    P.S. The emphasis on the second T the second time "Toronto" is said I found odd.

  43. J.W. Brewer said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 9:51 am

    @Bob Lieblich: Back in the late '80's I lived in the Rosslyn section of Arlington, Va., but I never found the "rozlin" pronunciation odd or counterintuitive or an outsider-tricking shibboleth. I was going to guess that was because of the analogy to words like e.g. Moslem/Muslim/muslin, where you get /z/ rather than /s/ before /l/, but it may have also been due to prior familiarity with Roslyn, Long Island, which is pronounced the same way. The original bearer of the toponym (in Scotland) has now had its spelling standardized as "Roslin," although many other variants are apparently historically attested or still used in related contexts (e.g. the ruins of Roslin Castle are per wikipedia still owned by the family of the Earl of Rosslyn). I know nothing about the history of the spelling of Scottish toponyms and what historical and/or modern local pronunciations may or may not be reasonably inferred from particular spelling choices. The alleged etymology of the Scottish toponym (with whatever spelling) as coming from "Rose Line" is apparently a recent fabrication by conspiracy theorists (either the dreadful Dan Brown or one of his sources), but does suggest that those modern fabricators were assuming a /z/ rather than /s/ pronunciation.

  44. Robert Coren said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 10:12 am

    @ Parker F.: Well, "New Beffa" (and, for that matter, "Beffa", which is nowhere near New Beffa) would be implied by "Meffa".

  45. Nick Lamb said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 10:25 am

    Of course if a place name must be frequently written it is tempting to shorten that too. After I'd left the University of Southampton subsequent management tried to persuade staff and students that the domain was superior to – it appears this still afflicts the web site but I see that people's advertised email addresses in academic papers and on business cards have reverted to the far easier to type short form. Probably to the great relief of anyone trying to contact them.

  46. dainichi said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 10:27 am

    > Sampm'sisco

    Assuming that this describes the pronunciation /sa'msisko/ (where the apostrophe is a glottal stop) or something like that, I find it interesting that the p (or is it the mp) illustrated the idea of the glottal stop so well. Maybe it's because m-vicinity ps tend to be realized as glottal stops in other cases as well… but I can't think of any good examples.

  47. Mr Punch said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 10:54 am

    Also in Massachusetts, our second-largest city is known locally as Wistah.

  48. Brian T said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 10:58 am

    When I lived in San Jose, I learned that "San Francisco" is pronounced "the city."

  49. Theophylact said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 11:28 am

    The DC Metro also has a stop at "Jewishuary Square" (spelled "Judiciary").

  50. Ralph Hickok said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 11:41 am

    Here in Massachusetts, the pronunciation of "ham" place names is a tossup. E.g., Wareham is pronounced just as it's spelled, but Raynham is "Raynum."

    Oh, and Chelmsford is pronounced "Chemsferd."

  51. Paul Kay said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 11:50 am

    @Theo. Your impression that one of the local pronunciations of New Orleans is something like "nahlin" is understandable but mistaken. It's understandable because generations of media people and others have found on visiting N.O. that some people there pronounce the name of that city in a way they (the visitors) find difficult to copy. This often results in the media person supposing it's something like "nahlins," a two-syllable word which sounds completely bizarre to a native. I grew up in New Orleans, where there were three common pronunciations: noo-AWE-yuns, noo-ALL-yuns, and noo-ALL-uns. In all cases: three syllables. As far as I can tell only a few oldsters retain the first of these. With the decline of r-lessness in many regional US dialects, I would guess that noo-ALL-uns is increasingly being replaced by noo-ORE-luns, with an increasing degree of what linguists call rhotacization. But I have not visited N.O. for many years, so my guess about that is probably not worth much. Could there really have been a reduction to two syllables in fifty years? Sure, of course there could have. The reason I doubt there has been is that I've heard non-natives claim erroneously that the native pronunciation is some form with two syllables for the last forty-or-so years. IOW, this historical error may have become present fact, but I doubt it.

  52. Bob Ladd said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 11:54 am

    MYL is right that this is not really about place names, but about familiarity and frequency of occurrence. For the past few years I have been involved in a research project on Dinka, and one of my colleagues on the project is an ethnomusicologist. She manages to get through the word ethnomusicology in what seems like 3 or 4 syllables.

  53. Dan Lufkin said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

    I believe that the Boston suburb of Scituate is unique in having no correct pronunciation at all.

  54. Faldone said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

    Then there's Skaneateles, NY. AKA, Skinny Atlas. Or Skinny Attlas, rhymes with tattle iss.

  55. Mick O said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

    I'm not sure how Louisville, KY escaped this list, so far. But I'll fix that now.

    Here's an example of locals being grilled on prononciation.

  56. Parker F. said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

    @ Robert Coren: Yeah, I guess so.

  57. GWP said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

    Back in the days before border paranoia, those of living us in Bufflo would often make a day trip of visiting Tronno, crossing the bridge at Niagra Falls en route.

  58. Jerry Friedman said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

    Roger C.: Thanks. Apparently the surname Moriarity exists. There was a surfing "legend" named Jay Moriarity. I still find it odd that people add a syllable to "Moriarty", though.

    Dan Lufkin: Good point, but there's also Puyallup, Washington.

  59. Diane said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

    On the subject of adding a syllable for no apparent reason, here in Southern California a surprising number of English-speaking people pronounce the border Mexican town Tijuana "Tiawana."

  60. Y said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

    There's a very long list of unexpected pronunciations here, but I like this crop of comments better.

  61. Ken Brown said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

    The name of my home town in England used to be written as Brighthelmstone. (Probably but not certainly once meaning Beorthelm's tun). Since the end of the eighteenth century its been Brighton. For genuine natives the "ght" is a glottal stop. In rapid speech the "n" and sometimes the "r" can be missed. So eight or nine consonants are reduced to two, and one of them represented by no letter in our orthography.

  62. Diane said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

    Yes "Tronna" is how I have spelled it, "Trawna" is how it is pronounced as Ben has said. But where I live it's "Oddawa" not Ottawa.

  63. michael farris said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

    "How many syllables in "Florida"? I tend to pronounce it "Flarda."

    I was born and grew up there, and my normal pronunciation is 'Florda'. I've heard Flarda too but can't quite pin down who says it (among natives).

  64. michael farris said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

    @ Brian T: I too always heard the lyrics of the old Kings song as "Ya said to ring you up when I was in Tirana" Later I put it down to my incipient fascination with Eastern Europe.

    here's a link for others to judge:

  65. Robert Coren said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

    @Ralph Hickok: The variation of pronunciation of the "-ham" suffix is a different phenomenon, however, in that these varying versions are "standard", and not an effect of local accent. I, a transplanted New Yorker, pronounce all the consonants in "Medford", but say Stonum and "Framing-ham" like everybody else.

  66. Theron Corse said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

    I for one grew up in Adlana (accent on second 'a'). Not all that opaque, but anyone who pronounces the 't's probably did not grow up in the area.

  67. Lazar said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

    In my case, my Massachusetts(ish) accent precludes a bisyllabic "Florida". Rather than GA-style [ˈflɑɚəɾə] or NY-style [ˈflɔɚəɾə], either of which could conceivably be compressed, I use [ˈflɒːɹəɾə], with an initial vowel that's not allowed to occur before tautosyllabic /r/.

  68. Lazar said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

    Oops, reverse that "NY" and "GA".

  69. Rodger C said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

    Here in Central Appalachia, Barbourville (KY) and Wytheville (VA) are pronounced to rhyme with "marvel" and "sniffle," though spelling pronunciations seem to be spreading among the young.

  70. Lindig H said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

    I grew up in Wumuhton NC (Wilmington) and my mother was born in Fedvul NC (Fayetteville).

  71. xyzzyva said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 7:42 am

    Only nonnatives of [kæ̃ˈsɪɾi] go to the trouble of putting the double /s/ in the middle: /kænzeˈsɪti/ is the full citation form. I've always suspected this is due not to the reductions we're talking about here, but to a preservation of the originally silent from the French-transcribed [kɑ̃zɑ]—but I don't know how you'd prove that.

  72. xyzzyva said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 7:53 am

    Silent -s- that is… I should've known better than to use angle brackets.

  73. Parker F. said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 11:23 am

    @ xyzzyva:

    I always say [kænzəˈsɪɾi] too and I'm not from there. FWIW, I've always suspected this is due to the reductions we're talking about here. I don't know how I'd prove this though. It kind of reminds me of how I always say ['tɛnəʃuz] "tena shoes". It seems that other people use that pronunciation too. But your explanation is certainly more interesting and makes regular Midwestern folk seem a lot more sophisticated than mine.

  74. Gregory Bryce said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 11:33 am

    Diane said «Yes "Tronna" is how I have spelled it, "Trawna" is how it is pronounced as Ben has said. But where I live it's "Oddawa" not Ottawa.»

    I would argue that almost no English-speaking Canadians, at least west of the Quebec border (I am not very familiar with the Atlantic provinces), would understand the distinction you are making. I would pronounce Tronna and Trawna identically. After all, Dawn and Don are identical in Canadian English, as are tot, taut and taught, right?

    By the way, I spent the first 27 years of my life in Toronto. I believe natives frequently pronounced it [təˈɹɐn.toʊ], if I understand all the symbols correctly, but 'tron-toh and 'chron-toh and 'tron-ta and 'chron-ta were also common, I think. and all of those without the second T,

    An Easter dinner guest who has lived in Toronto commented on my use of [təˈɹɐn.toʊ]; she said she has rarely heard that.

    I am always amused by visiting play-by-play announcers who cover the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team's games for their hometown audiences. They are all Americans, and they all try so hard to pronounce the name "correctly", as tohr-'on-toh. The team's own announcers, Martinez and Tabler, also Americans, have, I think, adjusted slightly, but I'm not sure they have quite figured out that the first O is a schwa.

    Yes, Ottawa is generally pronounced Oddawa.

  75. Lane said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

    I'm from Atlanta, and lived in a few other countries where my native pronunciation (Et-LANna) made people think I was describing some unknown town (even as the Atlanta Olympics had just happened) or, on one occasion, speaking Spanish, someone thought I was from "Holanda".

    So I started saying the T nicely and keeping the vowels mostly unreduced, and no one ever misunderstood me, until my dad came over to visit me, and to my slight embarrassment asked me "Why do you keep saying At-LAN-ta like that?" I felt like I'd put on some fancy-pants airs.

  76. Ron said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

    One of the most interesting pronunciation shifts is the "New York" in "New York City", which natives pronounce "The".

  77. mollymooly said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 4:14 pm


    On the subject of adding a syllable for no apparent reason, here in Southern California a surprising number of English-speaking people pronounce the border Mexican town Tijuana "Tiawana."


    In early historic mission documents — primarily baptism, marriage, and death records — there are mentions of the city with the names: La Tía Juana, Tiguana, Tiuana, Teguana, Tiwana, Tijuan, Ticuan, and the present day name, Tijuana. […] Common in regional folklore, a myth exists purporting that the name is a conjunction of Tia Juana, the Spanish language version of Aunt Jane. Tia Juana would provide food and a resting place to travelers on their journeys. The story has become a popular myth with residents of the city and has particular resonance among those who like to imagine the city as a place of hospitality.

  78. pj said,

    April 2, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

    @ Robert Coren and Ralph Hickok

    You may be pleased to learn that the original Chelmsford that your Massachusetts one is presumably named for also loses its 'l' in casual local speech (it's an area where dark 'l' -> 'w' is quite common in any case), and 'Chompsfud' is probably not a bad spelling representation of what you might hear as an extreme (where 'o' = approx [ɔ], and 'u' = [ə]).
    '-ford' -> '-fəd' is standard in BrEng place names, of course, for the majority of us with non-rhotic accents.

  79. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    April 8, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

    @Lane: I feel ya. I was born in Baltimore, which I grew up pronouncing ['bɒɫ.ɨ.mɚ]. But when I say it this way around people who aren't from Maryland or its environs, I almost invariably end up having to repeat the name with the "standard" pronunciation–which to my ears sounds like a strained overpronunciation. Obviously, the easier route would be to default to [ˈbɒɫ.tʰɨ.mɔɹ] and only use the local version with locals, but I just can't bring myself to do that.

  80. Paul said,

    April 12, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

    " I still find it odd that people add a syllable to "Moriarty", though."

    Helping vowels are a normal feature in Irish English (as they are in Irish itself). English words ending in two consonants such as, classically, "film" often pick up an extra vowel as in Irish phonetics, combinations such as "-rm" and "-lm" cannot usually be pronounced without an intervening vowel.

    I'm not sure of the exact details of which combinations of consonants require the helping vowel, though there is some information – how reliable I cannot tell – on Wikipedia:

  81. Jack said,

    April 15, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

    I'm from Minneapolis, and here people really don't seem to shorten the name. Most people will say Minneapolis, and the most shortened form I've ever heard was something like Minn'yeahpolis. It might just be that the name doesn't lend itself well to shortening.

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