Today, the day before Thanksgiving, is typically the busiest travel day of the year in the United States. I'm cautiously optimistic that it won't be this year. As much as we would love to travel and spend Thanksgiving with family, we're staying home. I hope many others make the same sacrifice for the common good. I thought a blog post that is tangentially related to travel would make up for the traveling we and so many others are not doing today.
I was listening to a podcast recently where the host wasn't sure how to pronounce a place name. He gave it his best effort, then commented that listeners were sure to write in and correct him, like when he heard from a thousand people telling him that Helena, Montana is "hell-A-nuh or HELL-uh-nuh... or whichever one is right, because now I can't remember."
I've always said "HELL-uh-nuh" without a second thought, but suddenly wondered if I have been wrong all these years. A quick Google check yielded The Montana Pronunciation Guide. I determined that I'm OK on Helena, but woefully ignorant when it comes to many other Montana locations.
From here, I continued down the Google rabbit hole and came across Reader's Digest's list of the most difficult-to-pronounce town in each state. I knew around ten of them for sure (my parents grew up near Puyallup, Washington) and made some educated guesses (California has Butte County, so I was confident that Crested Butte, Colorado would be pronounced the same way), but I definitely botched most of them.
Then I came to this list by USA Today. Again, a few were really easy for me but most were not. I have some connection or familiarity with the ones I got right, aced the ones with Spanish pronunciations, and lucky-guessed a few others. The rest, nope!
Back in my teaching days, I worked in Vallejo. Vallejo is constantly mispronounced (and misspelled, for that matter). In fact, I pronounced it incorrectly until the year before I started working there, when a friend from Vallejo told me that the way I'd been pronouncing it all my life (vuh-LAY-ho) was definitely wrong. I actually argued with her. (Sorry, Barbara.) I'd grown up hearing the traffic guy on the local radio station pronounce it that way, and it never occurred to me that he (and everyone else who pronounced it that way because of him) might be wrong. Traffic reporters, I hope you know how much power you have! Anyway, Barbara kindly told me that it's pronounced vuh-LAY-oh. Sure enough, that's how everyone there and in all the surrounding cities say it (including our current traffic guy).
Anyone have any interesting city names near you? Let me know how to pronounce them correctly so that I don't sound like a clueless tourist when I eventually visit!
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