Regional pronunciations the locals really care about

I lived in Portland, Oregon for about 35 years and one of the eccentricities of the locals is that they can get almost apoplectic about what they view as incorrect pronunciations. 

The first thing you learn about Oregon—probably even before you move there—is that the correct pronunciation of "Oregon" does NOT rhyme with "hexagon." There seems to be a range of good pronunciations, but what they all have in common is that the final syllable is not pronounced like the final syllable of "hexagon." A lot of Oregonians will say it's pronounced or-y-gun, but many Oregonians will just kind of swallow the final vowel in a pronunciation that goes something like OR-uh-gn.

If you move to Portland, the river that runs through it is the Willamette River. Obviously a French word originally, do NOT give it a French pronunciation. No. It's pronounced will-am-it.

Portland street names can be baffling, too. Couch Street is pronouonced "cooch," and Glisan Street is pronounced exactly like the last name of Jackie Gleason. 

In terms of pronunciation, living in Portland, Oregon was a bit like living in an alternative universe.

What makes Oregonians, and Portlanders in particular, so fussy is hard to say. After all, Texans don't correct people when they don't pronounce "Texas" like a Texan. But there are other places where you can be corrected for not a name like the locals. When in New Orleans, Louisiana, you will soon learn to pronounce the combination nawlins, loosiana.

Are there any regional pronunciations that the locals are sensitive about in your area, or in some area you know about? (Let's limit this to English-speaking areas, please.)

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For some reason a lot of old timers in Colorado Springs say "Pee-EBB-low" for Pueblo (which ought to be "PWEB-low") and so far I've never seen a Puebloan really lose it, but I know it irritates them.

Worcestershire Sauce is pronounced "wooster sauce".  Norwich in the UK is "norridge" but over here its "nor-witch".

But the UK has a fantastic array of weirdly spelt words.  My all time favourite surname is pronounced "fanshaw" but spelt "Featheringstonehaugh".

I think with place names, it's reasonably helpful to get the local pronunciation right, as they are physical points that are likely to be referred to in a fixed way.  It also might make a difference as to how 'local' the locals are, inasmuch as if there are many tourists and foreigners in an area, accents or pronunciations take a secondary place to just being able to understand at all.

One hears both pronunciations of Worcestershire in the US, but no doubt so many Americans are dumb when it comes the fine points of language, the literal pronunciation of each syllable is the one most often heard. I think French words fare the worst because the phonetics of French are much different from those of American English. I don't think the Brits do much better and are famed for murdering German as well. 

Oh yes - we absolutely massacre other languages.  Our pub names, such as "Bag o'Nails" from 'Bacchanalia', and "Elephant & Castle" from 'l'enfant en Castille", are legendary!

We mangle our own, too, in a very short period of time.  We have a particular pair of expressions I'm fond of.  "Bog standard" meaning absolutely normal, and "the dog's bollocks" meaning superb, both stem from the children's building toy, "Meccano", which was sold in two sizes, "Box Standard" and "Box Deluxe", only a few decades ago.

If there's a way to mangle a language, the Brits appear to be able to find it :)

Grinning, we did, didn't we, Kris?.  Fantastic :)

One that caught me out briefly, was a very dear American friend typing "Walla!" commenting on the sudden production of something.  Evidently, "Voila" was what they were aiming for.

In the UK we don't seem to use "chipotle" much, but if we do, we pronounce it to rhyme with "bottle".  Here in VT, it appears to be pronounced "chi-pol-tay". 

It's actually, "chip-ot-lay (long "o").

chip-OT-lay (emphasis on the middle syllable and with a nice hard "o," as in "tote," right?)


That seems at least to follow the consonants in the right order

How often do you run into that? I lived down in Portland for 35 years and don't think I ever heard "tortilla" pronounced incorrectly. That even goes in Oho where I Iive now, and where most of the Hispanics are probably Puerto Rican, not Mexican.

Yes, and while most Americans say "Llama" as if it were spelled "Lama" (as in the Dalai guy), in the Spanish speaking part of the world the double-L is pronounced just as in "tortilla": Yama.


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