Local toponymic pronunciations in northwestern Ohio and northern Indiana

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Continuing my run through the Midwest, among many others, I have passed through the following towns and counties:  Lima, Cairo, Gomer, Delphos, Van Wert, Warsaw, Kosciusko, Hamlet, Wanatah, and Valparaiso.  These names reflect the variety of ethnicities and origins of the inhabitants.  Several of them are locally pronounced in ways that I had not expected:

Lima is Laima, not Leema (one of my students flew to the capital of Peru that same day I went to its reputed namesake in Ohio).

Cairo OH is Kayro, not Kairo; I don't know for sure how the same name of the southernmost city in Illinois is pronounced locally.

Kosciusko is Kaziasko, not Koskiusko.

Valparaiso is colloquially known as Valpo.

My overall impression is that local pronunciations and appellations are often at considerable variance from the pronunciations for the same places in the standard, national language.  I find that to be an intriguing, thought-provoking phenomenon.

Case in point:  there's a town about five miles from my hometown called Louisville whose residents pronounce the name as Lewisville, not Looeeville


Selected readings


  1. Dick Margulis said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 7:08 am

    Often, if not always, these are shibboleths—intentionally odd pronunciations to distinguish locals from auslanders. In some cases, they are deliberate changes to avoid association with a wartime capital (lots of Ber-LINs became BER-lins during World War I).

    When I lived in the Charlotte (shar-LAHT) area of Rochester, the next town over was Chili (CHAI-lai).

  2. David Marjanović said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 7:15 am

    My overall impression is that local pronunciations and appellations are often at considerable variance from the pronunciations for the same places in the standard, national language. I find that to be an intriguing, thought-provoking phenomenon.

    Rather, the thought-provoking phenomenon is that in English local pronunciations are generally borrowed into the standard. That doesn't happen elsewhere. In Viennese dialect, Vienna – Wien – is [vɛɐ̯n], but not only would nobody dream of pronouncing it that way (instead of [viːn]) while speaking Standard German or even Viennese mesolect, people who speak very similar dialects elsewhere in Austria, where [vɛɐ̯n] would likewise be the regular development, tend not to even know this form and, even if they do, don't use it when speaking their dialects because they consider it specifically Viennese dialect.

    This is probably the same phenomenon as local/family-internal pronunciations of last names being borrowed into the standard in English. I blame it all on the exceptionally loose relationship of spelling and pronunciation in English.

    Kosciusko is Kaziasko, not Koskiusko.

    In the unlikely case anyone is wondering, the Polish original is Kościuszko, straightforwardly pronounced [kɔɕˈtɕuʂkɔ], roughly kawsh-CHOOSH-kaw.

    Looks like people remember there's supposed to be a z in there somewhere, so they pronounce one somewhere…

  3. Craig said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 7:32 am

    There's a town called Marseilles somewhere in the (midwestern?) US, the name of which is pronounced locally as "MAR-suh-leez", not "Mar-SAY" as anyone familiar with the French city would expect. And there's another called Versailles, pronounced "ver-SAY-leez". As a denizen of a coastal metropolis, my uncharitable theory to explain this is ignorance, but I could be wrong; Dick Margulis' explanation may be more to the point.

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 7:44 am

    I have almost zero knowledge of the toponyms of the USA, but I am familiar with some in Ontario (Canada) where one finds (for example) Weber = /ˈwiː bə/, not /ˈveː bɐ]/, Delhi = /del haɪ/, not /ˈdel i/, and Baden = /ˈbeɪ dən/, not /ˈbaː dən/.

  5. David B said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 7:56 am

    I grew up in a small town in northern Ohio called Milan, pronounced MY-lin. We shared a high school with another town called Berlin Heights, pronounced BER-lin Heights, making us part of the "BER-lin MY-lin school district." Even in other parts of Ohio (e.g. on school field trips) that was often mispronounced.

  6. John Maline said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 8:06 am

    I’ve stopped in that southern Illinois town. I heard the Kayro pronunciation.

  7. Mark P said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 8:12 am

    I’m sure every US state has cities named after some city in Europe. Even well-read people might be excused for pronouncing them phonetically in English because they never heard the “correct” pronunciation. I had an Indian friend in grad school. He pronounced Delhi something like Del-hee, with close to equal stress on both syllables.

  8. Peter Donald said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 8:12 am

    Valparaiso, Chile is also colloquially known as "Valpo" – I'd hazard the nickname stuck.

  9. Cervantes said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 8:23 am

    In my neck of the woods in CT is the borough of Versailles, pronounced Versayles; and the river Thames, which is also pronounced exactly as it is spelled. So that's no surprise. A bit harder to explain why the town of Berlin, CT is BERlin.

  10. Fernando said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 8:56 am

    Maine is full of cities named for places abroad. I live a few miles away from China, Belgrade, and Rome. But for the most part the pronunciations are standard. The exception is Vienna, which is Vai-enna.

  11. Allan from Iowa said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 9:24 am

    Tripoli, Iowa: accent on the -POL- and the other vowels are schwas.

  12. JB Smith said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 9:30 am

    I'm a native of Southern Illinois: we definitely say CARE-oh for Cairo. It's so ingrained that I often use that pronunciation instead of the standard one even when talking about its Egyptian namesake.

  13. Robert T McQuaid said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 9:34 am

    A political candidate parachuted in from another district lost credibility when he pronounced the name of Erin Ontario like the name for Ireland. Locals all referred to the place as EAR-in.

  14. Scott RK said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 9:35 am

    There's a Kosciuszko Park in Milwaukee, and Polish-American old-timers tend to get it right with cus-CHOO-sko. But I always want to say, "Bless you," after hearing it. :) Sounds like a sneeze. On another name, I hadn't realized Michigan's sher-LOT pronunciation of Charlotte came from NY state. I confess I thought it was just yokel ignorance (or that it's closer to French that way, maybe). My bad.

  15. Arnold Baldwin said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 9:42 am

    FWIW, the local pronunciation for Australia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko (previously spelled Kosciusko), is KOZ-ee-OS-koh /ˌkɒziˈɒskoʊ/

  16. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 9:52 am

    So Lima, Ohio is pronounced the same as the "lima" in "lima bean"? That doesn't strike me as surprising in the least. I see that Lima is about 40 miles south of Defiance, Ohio, which is not pronounced oddly but is still a somewhat unusual toponym in my book. (I became aware of Defiance some decades ago while traveling between NYC and Chicago on I-90, when my car radio happened to light upon a station broadcasting from there.)

  17. Peter B. Golden said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 10:22 am

    In lower Manhattan there is Houston St. In local New Yorkese it is most often pronounced HOW-ston, but non-natives usually say HEW-ston (as in Texas).

  18. D. Fowler said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 10:39 am

    There’s a place in Kansas called Marais des Cygnes, pronounced Merdesine.

  19. Jim Mack said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 11:00 am

    "Valpo" is a pretty standard formation for 4-syllable place names. cf Sacramento (Sacto), Kalamazoo (Kazoo) and many others.

  20. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 12:02 pm

    I’m from Ohio!! I’m addition to Ly-ma (yes like the bean) & Kay-ro, there’s also Muh-Dy-na (Medina), Leb-nun (Lebanon), Ver-Sales (Versailles), Piz-gee (Pisgah – hard g not soft like j), and Bell Fount’n (Bellefontaine).

    There’s also the pronunciation Sin-sin-AT-uh for Cincinnati, but only in the western-most portions of it.

  21. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 12:35 pm

    *In addition to

    Auto-cow-wreck. Sigh.

  22. mg said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 12:38 pm

    When I lived in Ann Arbor, we used to occasionally go to the nearby town of Milan, pronounced MY-lan.

  23. mg said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 12:42 pm

    As to NYC's Houston Street, it's a misspelling rather than a mispronunciation. It's named for William Houstoun, who was a delegate from the state of Georgia to the Continental Congress from 1784 through 1786 and to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

  24. Anthony said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 12:45 pm

    Missoura, of course.

  25. VVOV said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 12:50 pm

    I've always enjoyed the pronunciation of Detroit's Gratiot (ˈgræ.ʃɪt) Avenue.

  26. Not a naive speaker said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 2:47 pm

    When you're into steam locomotives (Lima Locomotive Works) you know the pronunciation is ˈlaɪmə

  27. Garrett Riggs said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 3:04 pm

    Interesting thread! In my home state of KY there is also a Versailles pronounced “ver- SAILS,” and Louisville pronounced “LOO-vul,” but in my cutrent state of CO, Louisville is “LEWIS-ville.” Outside of Rochester NY is a suburb named Chili but not pronounced like the food, but rather as /ČAI-lai/.

  28. CuConnqcht said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 3:09 pm

    I imagine that until some time in the twentieth century English speakers generally pronounced the Cairo in Egypt as they now pronounce the ones in Ohio and Illinois, and probably similarly with Lima and some of the other names mentioned here.

    The second syllable of Delhi, NY is "high".

  29. David Marjanović said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 3:09 pm

    When I lived in Ann Arbor, we used to occasionally go to the nearby town of Milan, pronounced MY-lan.

    That's simply a retention: the name underwent the Great Vowel Shift in English, and much more recently its vowels (and stress) were reborrowed for the actual Italian city.

    In German, too, the name underwent diphthongization, but then it was folk-etymologized to Mailand, "may country", because northern Italy has spring instead of winter (by transalpine measures). It remains so to this day.

  30. David Morris said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 3:36 pm

    Mount Kosciuszko, Australia is pronounced kozzy-osko. One game I used in English classes claimed it was pronounced ko-shoos-ko. No it's not. It was given that name by Edmund Strzelecki, pronounced strez-lecky. Wikipedia reports that its name in the local language (Ngarigo) has been recorded as ‘Jagungal, Jar-gan-gil, Tar-gan-gil and Tackingal’.

  31. Terry K. said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 3:45 pm

    In the St. Louis area there's a street called Gravois, pronounced GRAV-oy (a as in cat). I just found this article that argues that the -oy pronunciation reflects the pronunciation of French at the time (pre French Revolution) that the name came to St. Louis.


  32. Jonathan Smith said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 4:08 pm

    Locally "Louisville" has ~3 syllables by my reckoning… so Wiktionary /ˈluːəvəl/ is adequate — really just vocalic /l/ in the last syllable tho.

  33. Jeff said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 4:32 pm

    There is a town near where I grew up in Wabash County, Indiana called La Fontaine. Instead of "Lah-Fon-Tayne" as one might expect, it is pronounced by the locals as "Lah-Fount-Un"

  34. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 5:14 pm

    Delhi in New York State is pronounced Dell-high. In Pennsylvania, I live near a place named Grantham after an English location. I do not know the English pronunciation, but I expected the pronunciation would be Grant-ham. No — it’s Gran-tham.

    There are also a lot of place names that get butchered by those unfamiliar with them. An Englishman I encountered pronounced Nyack, in downstate New York, as though the name was one syllable. The place is Nigh-ack. Elyria, Ohio, throws a lot of newscasters into confusion. It’s El-eer-ee-uh. I grew up in Schoharie County in upstate New York, and folks struggle with the name— it’s Sko-hair-ee. And I think I have noted here before that I have heard of people pronouncing Oneonta, N.Y., as Won-on-tah when it is Oh-nee-on-tuh. Place names based on Native American words — whether accurate or misunderstood — often seem to be pronunciation pitfalls, and Ohio has plenty of them, too.

  35. Philip Anderson said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 6:50 pm

    @Barbara Phillips Long
    It’s Gran-tham in the UK too. But the Cardiff suburb of Cathays is cat-‘aye, probably from hay meaning a hedge.
    I hadn’t heard of Lima beans since they are called butter-beans here, but dictionaries give the same UK pronunciation as the city they were named from.
    In Britain the local pronunciation is usually the accepted one, given the conservative spelling, but it’s n

  36. Philip Anderson said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 6:53 pm

    But it’s noticeable that surnames are more likely to be phonetic, e.g. Barclay versus the town of Berkeley, pronounced the same.

  37. Gregory Kusnick said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 6:58 pm

    WillAMette, dammit!

  38. Jerry Packard said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 7:41 pm

    In Virginia, Newport News is Newpert News and Norfolk is Nawfuk, and in Massachusetts, Concord is Conkid and Worcester is Wustah.

  39. Neil Weinreb said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 7:45 pm

    Watching the telly while vacationing in Australia, we heard a news reader pronounce the town of New Norcia as Nyoo Nausea. Of course that's just how Australians talk and not the kind of thing you're talking about here but I thought I'd share anyway.

  40. Victor Mair said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 8:09 pm

    In different parts of Boston, we have both Quinsy and Quinzy for Quincy.

  41. Josh Eskew said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 9:27 pm

    Having grown up in Southern Indiana, about 40 miles north of Louisville, I was really delighted by this post. Let me add just one observation. Near where I lived, there was a church called "Syria Christian Church." For reasons still unknown to me, however, everyone pronounced "Syria" as "Sorry." I have no idea how or why that pronunciation took hold, but I was reminded of it for the first time in perhaps fifteen years by this post. Thanks for this!

  42. Allan from Iowa said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 9:35 pm

    And how about Scanny Atlas, New York.

  43. Thomas Rees said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 9:41 pm

    @Peter B. Golden
    Apparently the original Houston is the one in Renfrewshire, [ˈhuːstən] HOO-stən.
    @Victor Mair
    My godson’s middle name is Quincy; he’s descended from the distinguished Massachusetts family. He pronounces it (when he has to) [ˈkwinsi] KWIN-see but knows it’s properly [ˈkwinzi] KWIN-zee.

  44. Jongseong Park said,

    July 4, 2022 @ 11:51 pm

    The Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.) gives Lima [ˈlaɪm ə], Cairo [ˈker oʊ, ˈkeɪ roʊ], Berlin [ˈbɝːl ən], Baden [ˈbeɪd ən], Milan [ˈmaɪl æn](!), Houston St. [ˈhaʊst ən], and Medina [-ˈdaɪn ə] in addition to the more well-known pronunciations, and also Pisgah [ˈpɪz ɡɑː, -ɡə]. It only gives [ˈɡræntθ əm] for Grantham, [ˈnaɪ æk] for Nyack, and AmE [ˌoʊn i ˈɑːn t̬ ə] for Oneonta, while Willamette is [wɪ ˈlæm ɪt, wə-, § -ət] (the § indicating that the [-ət] pronunciation is not RP).

    Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary (3rd ed.) gives Lima \ˈlī-​mə\, Cairo \ˈker-ō, ˈkā-rō\, Louisville \ˈlü-is-ˌvil\ (Colorado, Georgia, Illinois) vs \ˈlü-i-ˌvil, -vəl\ (Kentucky), Berlin \ˈbər-lən, -ˌlin\, Delhi \ˈdel-ˌhī\ (Louisiana, Delaware, Ontario), Marseilles \mär-ˈsālz\, Versailles \vər-ˈsālz\ i.e. not three syllables (Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri), Weber \ˈwē-bər\ (Utah), Baden \ˈbād-ən\ (Pensylvania), Thames \ˈthāmz\ (Connecticut), Vienna \vī-ˈe-nə\ (Georgia, Illinois), Erin \ˈir-in\ (Tennessee, no mention of Ontario), Houston \ˈhau̇s-tən\ (Georgia, no mention of the street in NYC), Marais des Cygnes \ˈmer-də-ˌzēn\, Pisgah \ˈpiz-gə\, Bellefontaine \bel-ˈfau̇nt-ən, -ˈfänt-\, Cincinnati \ˌsin-sə-ˈna-tē, -tə\, Nyack \ˈnī-ˌak\, Elyria \i-ˈlir-ē-ə\, Schoharie \skō-ˈhar-ē\, Oneonta \ˌō-nē-ˈän-tə\, Willamette \wə-ˈla-mət\, and Quincy \ˈkwin-sē; in Mass. ˈkwin-zē\. Grantham \ˈgran-thəm\ only appears as a place in England.

    Interestingly, it gives \ˌkä-zē-ˈəs-kō\ for Mount Kosciusko in Australia but \ˌkä-sē-ˈəs-ˌkō\ for the places in Indiana and Mississippi. The LPD only gives the name of the mountain as AmE [ˌkɑːs i ˈʌsk oʊ, ˌkɑːsk-]. From what I remember checking in the Macquarie Dictionary (my free trial has expired), the traditional Australian pronunciation is /ˌkɒz.i.ˈɒsk.oʊ/. It also gives only Medina \mə-ˈdē-nə\ for the places in the US.

  45. John Swindle said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 12:27 am

    The pronunciation of Ottawa, Kansas, differs from that of Ottawa, Ontario, in having a schwa as its final vowel. Missouri has more than one pronunciation and more than one theory about the geography of the pronunciations. The Arkansas River has “kansas” in it in its upper reaches but not when it gets to Arkansas.

  46. Vanya said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 1:13 am

    in Massachusetts, Concord is Conkid

    But not in Concord itself, where most of the residents have standard educated class rhotic accents and say “concurd”.

  47. Philip Taylor said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 4:08 am

    Philip A — "Barclay versus the town of Berkeley, pronounced the same". Not in this Briton's idiolect — I have /ˈbɑː kleɪ/ for the surname but /ˈbɑː kli/ for the square.

  48. Akito said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 5:26 am

    And Oregonians tell outsiders "Don't Call It Or-i-gawn" (name of a tourist pamphlet I saw more than 50 years ago).

  49. /df said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 5:41 am

    Grantham (Lincs, UK) = /ˈɡrænθəm/ according to Wikipedia, but it then says that early C20 pronunciation was Grant-m or Grahnt-m, and now also Granfum.

    I've never heard the /θ/ as particularly thorny, sometimes more of a t with its accompanying aspiration, and the name has often been mentioned nationally because of its M Thatcher connection.

    If the Viennese say /vɛɐ̯n/, is the English name, even its Maine variety, closer to the local pronunciation than to the Standard German?

  50. Victor Mair said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 5:51 am

    From a faithful Language Log reader who was born and grew up around Lima, Ohio:

    saw your post on "southern ohioisms" –chicory talk.

    actually i know those odd pronunciations of foreign names are all over the country, but do you think there is an unusual number of them in Ohio? i am thinking it is historical. a lot of the towns (like Lima) got their names in the 1830s, after the Shawnee were forced to relocate west of the mississippi. they needed new names for the towns (kept very few, like Tecumseh's capital at Wapakoneta, our Wapak), so they took them from places that were new trade destinations (or originations for newly popular products). with the expansion of shipping, introduction of steam boats and packet ships, the 1830s were a time when exotic names like Canton, Pekin, Toledo, Lima, Cairo, Medina, Versailles, Russia, Moscow, Vienna, Lisbon, Athens, Cadiz, Mantua, , Verona, Milan, Marseilles, and so on were flowing heavily just as Ohio needed a lot of names.

    unrelated (except in the need for names at a certain time) are, I think, German names probably associated with ancestral origins: Ravenna, Berlin, your town of "Osnaburg," Amsterdam, Dresden, etc.

    and i think also unrelated are the classical names lik Syracuse and Athens, which I suspect like similar names from upstate New York are indirectly inspired by the classical history courses of military academies where the commanders of the troops occupying both places in the 1790s. from the early 19th century until fairly recently Ohio had a very high level of public education, so i suppose it is also possible that the citizens pulled such names out of hats (as in the case of Lima).

  51. Sophie said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 7:15 am

    Tavares, Florida, NW of Orlando, is pronounced Tuh-VAIR-ees by locals. (Vair rhymes with hair.) You will be corrected! This came as a surprise to me, as well as to my friend with that last name. He pronounces it Tah-VAR-ess. (Var rhymes with car.) Maybe closer to its original Portuguese by way of New Bedford, Mass.?

  52. KeithB said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 7:39 am

    I have lived in New Mexico for 10 years and I still don't know how to pronounce Cuba, NM. Whether it is Cue-ba or Coo-ba.

  53. cameron said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 8:05 am

    several years ago I was commuting for several months by rail to Trenton, from New York City. during that time, I made a highly unscientific survey of the pronunciation of the name "Secaucus" by the New Jersey Transit conductors and drivers. Secaucus is a not very notable town very near New York City, but it lends its name to Secaucus Junction, a very important train station in the NJ Transit system, which is usually simply referred to simply as "Secaucus". (Secaucus Junction isn't in Secaucus proper, it's out in the swamp; but it's where two rail lines cross, and hence a very important transfer hub.)

    The NJ Transit employees generally seem to be split about 50-50 as to SEE-kawk-əs vs sə-KAWK-əs. So they didn't clear things up at all

  54. Anthony said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 8:41 am

    Nevada, Iowa is pronounced "ne-VAY-da", with both unstressed vowels close to schwa. Madrid, Iowa is pronounced "MAD-rid".

    What Californians do to Spanish city names can be really terrible. The biggest city in Northern California is "SAnozay", Vallejo is "va-LAY-o". I've heard "MON-eray", but usually hear it with the 't'.

  55. Rodger C said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 9:29 am

    Natchitoches, TX, is pronounced "NATCH-a-dish," having passed through French on the way to English. For straightforward treatments of Spanish there are Mexia (muh-HAY-uh) and Bexar (BAY-er).

  56. Not a naive speaker said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 10:10 am

    Years ago I was passing through Cuba, NM. Still remember El Bruno's because of the combination of spanish article and germanic name

  57. Stephen Hart said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 10:52 am

    Washington State, where I live, has many place names from local Native American languages. They vary in pronunciation, for example:
    Sequim = Skwim
    Sekiu = See Q

  58. Andy Stow said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 1:00 pm

    Here I am in central Illinois, home of the "Marseilles" mentioned earlier, and across the river from me is "Creve Coeur," pronounced, of course, "creeve core."

  59. Victor Mair said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 1:43 pm

    From a faithful Language Log reader who was born and grew up around Lima, Ohio:

    Along with Wapakoneta, I should have also mentioned the old Shawnee capital, Chilicothe, and Ashtabula, which was once densely populated by farming Shawnee. I'm really not thinking of any other Shawnee town names in Ohio. I should have mentioned them.

  60. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 2:55 pm

    I wondered if Coshocton, Ohio, was Shawnee, but it is, instead, Lenape — so it is more closely related to Nyack than to the Shawnee place names. Wikipedia says:

    Chief Newcomer founded Coshocton, moving his people west from their former principal settlement of Gekelmukpechunk (called Newcomerstown after the chief by the few white traders and settlers there.) Most of the latter's Lenape population of 700 followed Newcomer. Coshocton was across the Tuscarawas River from Conchake, the former site of a Wyandot village. By then the Wyandot had migrated northwest, in part of a movement of numerous tribes. The name Coshocton derives from Lenape Koshaxkink, 'where there is a river crossing,' altered to Koshaxktun 'ferry' (river-crossing device).


    To add to any confusion, there is the very similarly named Conshohocken in Pennsylvania:

    Conshohocken (/ˌkɒnʃəˈhɒkən/ kon-shə-HOK-ən; Lenape: Kanshihàkink)[3] is a borough on the Schuylkill River in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in suburban Philadelphia. Historically a large mill town and industrial and manufacturing center, after the decline of industry in recent years Conshohocken has developed into a center of riverfront commercial and residential development.[4] In the regional slang, it is sometimes referred to by the colloquial nickname Conshy (/ˈkɒnʃi/ KON-shee).[5] The name "Conshohocken" comes from the Unami language, from either Kanshi'hak'ing, meaning "Elegant-ground- place",[6] or, more likely, Chottschinschu'hak'ing, which means "Big-trough-ground-place" or "Large-bowl-ground-place", referring to the big bend in the Tulpe'hanna (Turtle River, or modern Schuylkill River).[7]


  61. Jerry Packard said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 2:57 pm

    San Pedro, California > san-PEE-droh

  62. KeithB said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 3:15 pm

    Not a naive speaker:
    Well, Bruno may be a Spanish surname, at least according to the "We don't talk about Bruno" earworm from Encanto.

    Jerry Packard:
    I grew up in Southern California, and I have heard it both ways.
    It is funny to hear non-natives pronounce La Cienega.

  63. BillR said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 3:34 pm

    Worcestershire in MA is generally pronounced WOUstuh (first syllable like the word, would).

    Then there’s Cotituate which I never did know how to pronounce, but I think something like co SHITS you it.

    In CO there’s Buena Vista, generally called byoonie.

  64. john burke said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 3:36 pm

    San Francisco has Greenwich Street (local version GREEN-witch) and Kearny Street (local version KAR-ny.) These are definitely shibboleths, understood by longtime residents to identify newcomers and tourists. I'm not sure if the next two are shibboleths, but: Coxsackie, near Albany NY, is pronounced by New York Central railroaders "cook-SOCK-y." And Cohoes NY is "ka-HOOZ," which I think is fairly close to the original Dutch name of the town.

  65. RfP said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 4:58 pm

    @ john burke

    My cousins pronounce their name KAR-ny, and I have never, ever heard that pronunciation used by a local for the street in San Francisco. I’m used to hearing either KUR-ny (like gurney) or KIER-ny (as in Kier or pier).

    Having grown up here, I’m wondering why that might be!

    (And everyone I know says “Gren-itch”)

  66. Thomas Rees said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 5:55 pm

    @Jerry Packard
    San Pedro is a shibboleth. Only outsiders say “san PAY-droh”; but Spanish-speaking locals say /samˈpeðro/.
    In Spanish it’s “ciénaga”; it’s also “el puente”.

  67. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 5, 2022 @ 7:05 pm

    Not too many New York Central railroaders left (it merged into Penn Central in '68 with the resultant mess going bankrupt in '70), but Coxsackie, N.Y. is still the location of a maximum-security prison, Coxsackie Correctional Facility, commonly referred to just as "Coxsackie." The N.Y. prison-system staff and prisoners I've heard mention it did not as best as I recall have "cook-SOCK-y" but something closer to a spelling pronunciation. Wikipedia claims /kʊkˈsæki/, so I guess agrees with the railroaders on the first syllable but not the second.

  68. RfP said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 12:30 am

    And then there’s Del Norte county in Northern California, pronounced locally as Del Nort.

  69. RfP said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 12:33 am

    (Not to mention the old-school pronunciation of San Francisco as salmon-cisco, like the fish.)

  70. Philip Anderson said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 6:39 am

    The English town is WOUstuh too, like the surname Wooster, so I guess the pronunciation travelled with the name.

  71. Terry Hunt said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 7:00 am

    " . . . there's a town about five miles from my hometown called Louisville whose residents pronounce the name as Lewisville, not Looeeville."

    I'm reminded that the great jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong usually pronounced his own name "Lewis", not "Looee", despite a great many people using the latter.

    I suspect that, being a consumately professional entertainer, he didn't make any fuss about the matter on the principles that "The customer is always right," and "You can call me anything you like, as long as you don't call me late for dinner."

    Perhaps someone can enlighten this Brit on the preferred pronunciation of the "Louisville Slugger" baseball bat?

  72. Sutasu said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 8:23 am

    How do "Kayro" vs "Kairo" pronunciations differ here (non-native speaker here)?

  73. Rodger C said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 9:50 am

    Correction: Natchitoches is in Louisiana, hence the pronunciation, but it's not very far from Nacogdoches, Texas, which is pronounced nack-a DOACH-us.

  74. Kate Bunting said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 11:06 am

    "I'm reminded that the great jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong usually pronounced his own name "Lewis", not "Looee", despite a great many people using the latter."

    So did Robert Louis Stevenson, who was originally Lewis after one of his grandfathers. Having a cousin Robert, he went by his middle name in private life.

    In England we have the Vale of Belvoir, pronounced 'beaver', and Beaulieu, pronounced 'Bewley'.

  75. Philip Anderson said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 12:55 pm

    @Kate Bunting
    In British place names, Beau- is always (AFAIK) pronounced as in ‘beauty’: Bealieu, Beaumaris (Welsh Biwmaris, written phonetically as Bewmaris <1400), Beauly Firth. Although Beau Repair became Berepper in Cornwall.

  76. Victor Mair said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 2:04 pm

    @Terry Hunt

    I've always and only heard the bat referred to as a "Looeeville Slugger".

  77. Victor Mair said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 2:19 pm


    "Kayro" would sound like the name of the syrup, Karo, or Danny Kaye-row.

    "Kairo" would sound like the name of the Egyptian city, Cairo (/ˈkaɪroʊ/ KY-roh). The "Kai-" part is also like the first part of Kaiser (/ˈkaɪzər).

  78. Victor Mair said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 3:03 pm

    Fittingly for the present post, the conclusion of the current leg of my run across Route 30 (Old / New Lincoln Highway) was Matteson, Illinois. As I drew to within striking distance of that town, I asked indigenes along the way how much farther it was. Strangely, nobody had even heard of it. The more I ran, the more exasperated I became. Lynnwood, Glenwood, Homewood…; I thought I should be getting closer and closer, but people just looked at me with a blank stare when I asked where Matteson was.

    Finally, I met a man at a gas station and asked him very clearly if Matteson /ˌmætɪsən/ (three syllables) was just up ahead. And he said, "Oh, Matson. You've still got a long way to go."

    "Matson?" I asked. I want to go to Matteson /ˌmætɪsən/."

    "Matson, Matteson; it doesn't matter which way you say it. People joke about there being two pronunciations for the name of the town, and they are both right."


    As for never coming to Matteson no matter how far I ran, it turns out that I had been tricked by a dogleg intersection on Routh 30 (Lincoln Highway) that shunted me off onto Route 83 (Glenwood-Dyer Road) northwest toward Midlothian, instead of west on 30 to Matteson. I must have gone 10 miles out of my way before I realized what had happened and corrected my route.

    When I run, I mainly just follow Route 30 / Lincoln Highway westward and don't pay attention to a map unless I get badly lost like today. But the extra running was more than compensated for by the Matteson / Matson conundrum that complements this post so wonderfully well.

  79. ohwilleke said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 4:05 pm

    The local pronunciation of Louisville, Kentucky is Loo-vəl (two syllables), not \ˈlü-i-vil, -vəl as indicated by Jongseong Park citing Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary (3rd ed.).

    I am familiar with this having grown up in Oxford, Ohio near the Ohio-Kentucky border.

  80. ohwilleke said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 4:15 pm

    The local pronunciation of Lima, Ohio is closer to "Lie-ma" not "Laima".

  81. Jonathan Smith said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 7:27 pm

    Re: Louisville, this piece of local news (WDRB, 2018) did an informal survey and gave eye spellings "loo-a-vul" and "loo-a-ville", which I interpret as what I wrote as /ˈluːəvḷ/ above along with same but final syllable /vɪl/. For the first, cf. gentlemen in video at 00:12 and (for me) esp. at 00:21 sec. I don't know how to interpret the two-syllable suggestions above, which don't come up in the video — some sort of newer reinterpretation? Which would make this a shibboleth with at least three layers :D Or I suppose one could argue for /ˈlwəvḷ/, which would get us to 2 syllables…

  82. John Swindle said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 11:19 pm

    @Anthony, regarding Nuh-VAY-duh and MAD-rid in Iowa, the same pronunciations are used in the names of the Missouri towns of Nevada and New Madrid, the latter famous for the New Madrid earthquakes that shook North America in 1811-1812.

    Nevada City, California, however, gets the same pronunciation as the state of Nevada.

  83. Peter Grubtal said,

    July 6, 2022 @ 11:34 pm

    Kate Bunting : in Saxton's 1575 map of Hampshire, the place is spelt "Bewley". I wonder if "Beaulieu" is a later historicising spelling.

  84. Kate Bunting said,

    July 7, 2022 @ 11:24 am

    @Philip Anderson
    Although Beau Repair became Berepper in Cornwall.

    I didn't know of that one, but there is Belper near here (Derbyshire) which is said to have the same origin.
    Neither did I know the correct pronunciation of Beaumaris, although I did once visit the castle!

  85. Victor Mair said,

    July 7, 2022 @ 5:10 pm

    From Zhenzhen Lu:

    There are also lots of funny places in Maine! I live right next to Poland and Minot (pronounced Mine-nut). Bates is in Lewiston but that pronunciation is not controversial….

  86. Corey Bramblett said,

    July 8, 2022 @ 12:26 pm

    Just to add to the state reports… here in Georgia, there's a HOWston and a CAYro too, as well as a VYE-enna, a la-FAY-ette, and of course Ponce de LEE-on Avenue in Atlanta :)

  87. Ralph J Hickok said,

    July 9, 2022 @ 7:21 am

    Defiance, Ohio, is so named because it contains the site of "Mad Anthony" Wayne's Fort Defiance.

  88. Chas Belov said,

    July 9, 2022 @ 10:57 pm

    I've lived in San Francisco (which sounds more like Sampinsisko) and have never heard KAR-nee, only KUR-nee for Kearny Street, although I've been aware of that supposed pronunciation. We also have nearby South San Francisco (pronounced "South City") and Brisbane (pronounced BRIZ-bayne).

    In Connecticut, we had the Thames ("[unvoiced th] Thaymz") River.

  89. David Marjanović said,

    July 10, 2022 @ 3:38 pm

    If the Viennese say /vɛɐ̯n/, is the English name, even its Maine variety, closer to the local pronunciation than to the Standard German?

    I wouldn't say so. Three syllables instead of one, and the diphthong goes "in the wrong direction"…

    (The IPA under-arch means "this vowel does not form a syllable, but a di- or triphthong together with an adjacent vowel".)

  90. Steve Griffin said,

    July 10, 2022 @ 11:03 pm

    I won't break the Internet by listing all of the towns in Illinois with warped pronunciations; Athens is pronounced with a long A to make sure people driving through don't bother looking for the Parthenon, and pronouncing San Jose "San Joe's" really messes up the old Dionne Warwick hit. I'm surprised we pronounce Springfield right..

  91. Rodger C said,

    July 11, 2022 @ 10:11 am

    To Anglo Californians, San Jose is, of course, Sannizay.

  92. Michael Watts said,

    July 12, 2022 @ 11:19 am

    The biggest city in Northern California is "SAnozay"

    Speaking as someone who has been familiar with the city my entire life, and spent much of that time living nearby, I would say the name has ultimate stress, not antepenultimate. That is also the opinion of Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster.

  93. David Udin said,

    July 23, 2022 @ 11:11 am

    @Sophie speculated that a word may have picked up a Portuguese pronunciation in New Bedford, Mass. It seems unlikely since those same Portuguese-descended New Bedfordians pronounce the common last name Lopes as one syllable with a long o.

    Also, I knew a fellow from Indiana who pronounced his last name Sojer. It was spelled Choissir.

  94. Speedwell said,

    July 24, 2022 @ 7:12 am

    I'm a former resident of Houston (hyoo-sten), Texas. I used to work in commercial real estate and oil tool brokerage industries as an executive assistant. The executives were overwhelmingly Anglo. I got the distinct impression that those who wished to be regarded as upper-crust and "old money" (of which there is none in Houston) deliberately affected a complete inability to properly pronounce Spanish. Instead, it comes off as purposely crass.

    Anyway, my old boss, one of the top three office space brokers in the city, not only would deliberately mispronounce simple food items when we had Mexican food for lunch (taycos? really?), but was the first person I ever heard pronounce the major uptown road "San Felipe Street" as"Sen Flippy". Unfortunately he was far from the last. It would make a cat laugh.

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