CUYAHOGA.

My local public radio station had one of those segments where they respond to messages from listeners, and they acknowledged a flood of complaints from Cleveland about their pronunciation of “Cuyahoga,” in a story about the Cuyahoga River, as /ˌkaɪəˈhɒɡə/ “KYE-ə-HOG-ə”; the listeners insisted that the correct pronunciation was /ˌkaɪəˈhoʊɡə/ “KYE-ə-HOE-gə.” The announcer defended the station’s usage, saying they’d checked with locals; since receiving the complaints, they’d called every official source they could think of and found them pretty much evenly divided: for instance, if I recall correctly, the mayor’s office used -HOE- and the post office -HOG-, though I may have it reversed. At any rate, it was obvious that both were in use. One of their contacts suggested there was a preference for -HOE- on the east side of the city and -HOG- on the west side; the Wikipedia article linked above claims that -HOG- is the preferred current pronunciation, -HOE- being “older.” Does anybody know of any research on this, or have personal convictions on the matter? (We stipulate in advance that yes, the burning river was funny, but the locals are tired of hearing about it—that was a long time ago, and it’s one of the cleanest rivers around these days.)

Comments

  1. Records show that both REM and Randy Newman are on the side of the HOEs (so to speak), and that’s good enough for me.

  2. I grew up in Akron Ohio (from ’56). IIRC it was usually pronounced HOE though the HOG version wasn’t unheard of.
    Some folks living in Cuyahoga Falls (a community north of Akron) claimed one pronunciation was for the river, the other was for the town … but there seemed to be no consensus as to how the pronunciations corresponded to the two entities.

  3. Jan Freeman says:

    I was astonished by that report; I grew up less than an hour west of Cleveland, and went to college in Ohio, and had never heard (or taken in) the -HOG- version; it was -HOE- all the way. But the area is pretty much on an isogloss; we heard lots of variant pronunciations and vocabulary (firefly/lightning bug, seesaw/teeter-totter, wash/warsh), so I probably just never noticed that one.

  4. It might be prudent to pronounce it the way the new sheriff (and the judge who swore him in, about 0:50) does, just in case. (But note the mayor of Bedford at 1:55.)

  5. I’m with Matt. Good enough for Michael Stipe, good enough for me.

  6. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio with parents who grew up in Lorain, Ohio, and I always heard it pronounced HOE.

  7. I moved to the Cuyahoga Falls community a few years ago (from Indiana), and I went through similar difficulties with pronunciation. Granted, my research didn’t go quite as deep. It seems that both are correct, but from casual observation, there seems to be a difference based on social factors such as working class vs. academic. I’m sure that family background and other factors also apply.
    On campus, I mostly hear the -HOE- version.

  8. I say it “HOE”, and greatly prefer it that way, but the “HOG” pronunciation is definitely common here as well.
    > One of their contacts suggested there was a preference for -HOE- on the east side of the city and -HOG- on the west side; […]
    I live on the east side — specifically Solon, in the southeast corner of Cuyahoga County — so technically I accord with this, but this nonetheless seems really unlikely to me. Given that everyone commutes half an hour in a random direction, and people don’t raise their children in the exact same neighborhoods where they were raised, it’s hard to imagine any sort of east-west isogloss forming and surviving.
    > […] the Wikipedia article linked above claims that -HOG- is the preferred current pronunciation, -HOE- being “older.”
    I don’t have this impression at all, personally, though I’ve only lived in this area for eight years, so maybe I’ve not seen the long-term trends.
    I would guess, personally, that we’re just witnessing the universal human tendency to see patterns where none exist: there’s variation in the pronunciation, and people want a simple explanation (or a simple rule: HOE right, HOG wrong), even if there isn’t one.

  9. The river that runs through my hometown is pronounced both /koun/ and /koln/ (I can’t get IPA to work here) by people who’ve lived there all their lives. Probably hypercorrection (it’s spelt Colne) but a bit odd, I’ve always thought.

  10. M: pronounce it the way the new sheriff and the judge
    Am I right that both (especially the judge) are talking with strong local accents? I had thought that ‘the midwestern accent’ was the usual example given of a typical American accent, always used by national newsreaders and so on, but these people sounds different.

  11. I grew up in Cuyahoga County.
    Both forms were used. I’ve spent a good half-hour reviewing memories and trying to trick myself into speaking unconsciously in different contexts just now, but I confess I’ve never noticed the distinction before today. It’s real, though.
    My immediate social circle, the -HOE- pronunciation was used in almost every compound phrase (“— River”, “— Falls”), but the short -HOG- form when using the word “by itself” or speaking of the County. I recall distinctly the tornado and storm warnings and other local broadcasters using the -HOG- form when the County came up.

  12. And as late as the mid-80s, the West Side (my homeland) and East Side suburbs never commingled except (as somebody pointed out) at work. Especially in the closer south and west suburbs, there were many 100-year-old Eastern European neighborhood enclaves that survived the onset of sprawl quite handily: all that post-War boom suburban construction was essentially settled en masse by folks fleeing the city proper.
    My grandmother had no problem speaking in Slovak among the neighbors, most of whom had bought their houses new in Fairview Park the 1940s.

  13. This is fascinating—I’m glad I asked!
    I would guess, personally, that we’re just witnessing the universal human tendency to see patterns where none exist
    That’s always a possibility, of course.

  14. I believe (Walter Cronkite would say “b’lieve”) that the national-news accent is intended to sound “bland” or “unaccented” — some kind of average American way of talking that won’t sound too “other” to too many people.
    The judge’s vowel in the word “God” is delightfully jarring to my ear, and reminds me of Dan Ackroyd’s character in “The Blues Brothers”. (“We’re on a mission from God”.)
    People probably mean lots of things by “the Midwest”. Does it include Ohio? I once heard someone refer to Ohio as being on the East Coast, but that was a college student newly arrived there from California. I stopped expecting uniformity in naming the regions a long time ago; in one year of grade school our geography textbook had a chapter about the “Southwest” that covered precisely Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. (No, I don’t think the book dated from before New Mexico and Arizona were admitted to the union!)

  15. I grew up in Cuyahoga county, and I learned the -HOG- pronunciation. I agree that maybe -HOE- was an older pronunciation.

  16. Am I right that both (especially the judge) are talking with strong local accents?
    Yes, I would say so. The judge’s /ar/ in impartially and discharge, for instance.
    I had thought that ‘the midwestern accent’ was the usual example given of a typical American accent, always used by national newsreaders and so on, but these people sounds different.
    Yes, though you still don’t have to go far from its epicenter at the University of Chicago to hear all kinds of variation.
    The judge’s vowel in the word “God” is delightfully jarring to my ear
    I’m also pretty sure she says, “and this I shall do as I shall answer unto God” and he repeats, “under God.” I suppose it’s still binding.

  17. Bloomberg anchor just winging it (0:07).

  18. SnowLeopard says:

    I suppose it’s still binding.
    He probably also had to sign a document to the same effect.

  19. dearieme says:

    OT, I’m afraid, but can anyone tell me what the Americanism “based out of” means?

  20. Based Out Of == Broadcasting from, publishing from, or simply working from; though often, if one’s work is not being transmitted out from where one works, there is perhaps the sense that one is working there with respect to a larger area—so, perhaps, people come from all over to avail themselves of one’s services.

  21. I think that to be based out of, say, the New York office of a firm is to have that office as your home base, or base of operations. That is, “based in” or “working out of”.
    On a related note, many young Americans (including my own son) have taken to saying “based off” or “based off of” where I am used to hearing “based on”, at least in some contexts.

  22. Though I guess ‘working from’ is an Americanism too? I guess it’s pretty similar.

  23. The judge’s and sheriff’s vowels show classic Northern Cities Shift fronting (esp. the judge’s in “God” at 1:02). That said, I’m struck by the fact that these “HOG”-pronouncing Clevelanders are in fact saying something rounder and farther back even than [ɒ] in that syllable – closer to [ɔ] – whereas I’m betting they’d pronounce the vowel in “hog” (=pig) as [a]. Which leads me to wonder: what IS that phoneme in CuyaHOGa? Is the vowel of the HOG-pronouncers a reflex of the long vowel of the HOE-pronouncers? Because it certainly doesn’t seem to behave like you’d expect a short vowel to in the NCS.

  24. many young Americans (including my own son) have taken to saying “based off” or “based off of” where I am used to hearing “based on”, at least in some contexts.
    In an ideal world, I would get this kind of information every night instead of the sports news.

  25. John Emerson says:

    Screw Stipe, Chrystie Hynde has HOE in “My city was gobe”, which has unfortunatley been adopted by Rush Limbaugh.
    Not that they disagree, it’s just that Hynde owns that word.

  26. John Emerson says:

    Gone, unfortunately. I blame the keyboard.

  27. “I had thought that ‘the midwestern accent’ was the usual example given of a typical American accent, always used by national newsreaders and so on, but these people sounds different.”
    tgg makes this point above, but national news anchors tended to be from the Dakotas, like Tom Brokaw – and the Dakotas are almost 1,000 miles away from eastern Ohio.
    What’s more most people in the Dakotas have been speaking English for maybe four generations now at most, with no sizable population of ancestral English speakers to learn the language from in the first place. So apparently we havbe been leading the world to believe that a “typical American accent” is a mash-up of second generation Norwegian, Swedish and Bavarian accents. Come to think of it, that would be very American.
    Aside from the controversy over the HOE and the HOG, I have always heard the name pronounced ‘kuh HOE -guh” in Cuyahoga Falls. That’s how Chrissy Hind pronounces it in her song “Ohio”.

  28. Carin, lots of Americans, including me, have a more rounded vowel for “o” before “g”. “Hog”, “fog”, “dog”, “log” have the vowel of “on” and “lawn”, not the vowel of “hot”. Not that I know that to be true for this guy.

  29. KC, I (a MidAtlanticker) have the pronunciation you speak of, and I see why g would have that effect, but I’m not sure that obtains in NE Ohio. (I lived there for seven years, but I can’t now conjure a reliable auditory memory.) I know there are some dialect areas where rounded o before g occurs in some words but not others. Maybe a native can weigh in.

  30. Ooh, Great Lakes vowels! Where do I start?
    First, cot/caught in the Great Lakes. There is no caught/cot merger in the Great Lakes (Inland Northern) dialect region. Additionally, as KCinDC notes, in this region /og/ is generally pronounced with the “caught” vowel, even where etymologically one would expect a “cot” vowel. Hog, fog, dog, and log are all good examples. An exception (for me at least; I’m a Chicagoan) is “jog.” Anyways, the fact that KCinDC cites “on” as an example of a “caught” word shows that he or she is probably from not too far from Philadelphia. Note that Carin, a self-professed MidAtlanticker, concurs. In short, this is why, for the “hog” informants, the key vowel doesn’t get the same beautiful Great Lakesy. fronting/raising as “God.”
    Second, broadcasters and the Midwest. People say this, but it just ain’t true. Anyways, “Midwest” is vague geographically, and includes many different dialect areas no matter how you slice it; Ohio alone contains Northern, Midland, and Southern dialect areas. But back to broadcasters: I think that the main guideline is that they aren’t supposed to have any features of a dialect that people are conscious of. This leaves room for plenty of dialect and variety. And anyways, Dan Rather always sounded southern (ditto Jim Lehrer) and Peter Jennings was unmistakably Canadian. And, pace Jim, folks from the Dakotas tend to speak Upper Midwestern English, which most other Americans seem to find hilarious.
    But as to the matter at hand, I’d never heard anything but “hoe” in Cuyahoga, but I’m delighted to learn of the alternative. Also, Michael Stipe, Chrissie Hynde, and Randy Newman is a damn fine cohort.

  31. “Hog”, “fog”, “dog”, “log” have the vowel of “on” and “lawn”, not the vowel of “hot”.
    Maybe for you, KCinDC, but in my little world (i.e. the one inside my head) it’s like this:
    While “dog” and “log” and “frog” do indeed have more or less the same vowel as “lawn”,
    “flog” has the vowel of “hot”,
    and “hog” and “fog” are, sad to say, words that I often pronounce in a less than confident way because I am unsure of which vowel to use.
    Oh, and my “on” has the vowel of “hot”, not “lawn”.
    And I’ve known people (natives of Northeastern Massachusetts) for whom “hot” (and, I imagine, all of these words) has the vowel of “lawn”. You should hear them say “hottop”, which is a local word for blacktop, or asphalt paving material.

  32. I’m from Cleveland–the East Side. I say HOE.

  33. Thanks, Ben! I bow to you and KC. (I didn’t blink at “on” and “caught” at all; I’m from DC, but my mother is from Philly.)
    On the other hand, I think I have a rounded vowel in “dog”, as in “on” and “coffee”, but not in hog, log, blog, bog. But I’m veering away from the Cuyahoga – forgive me.

  34. What is the economic value of bottom-feeding fish? Utah spends $1.5 million to get rid of carp:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30389847/

  35. Oh dear, that belongs on the articles thread.

  36. marie-lucie says:

    “answer under God”: I was not familiar with this phrase and did not understand that part of the judge’s speech until the sheriff repeated it, and even then I would not have understood “under God” if he had not repeated it again. The judge only stressed “an” and “God” and the syllables in between were just a blur.
    I met a linguist who was originally from Texas but had gone to college somewhere in the Northeast. She said she used one vowel in hog, log, frog, dog, etc, but a different one in fog, since there was no fog to speak of in Texas but plenty in the Northeast.

  37. dearieme says:

    My thanks to tgg & ZDS.

  38. I was born in Tennesse with parents who grew up in there also and I always heard it pronounced HOE.

  39. “And, pace Jim, folks from the Dakotas tend to speak Upper Midwestern English, which most other Americans seem to find hilarious.”
    Yeah Ben – but hey, isn’t that what I said? Upper Midwestern English – how English is that? Isn’t that the region where people say “I’m going to the store; are you coming with?” It’s a shibboleth out here in Washington, where presumably it came west with all the “Scandihoovians” that Weyerhaeuser recruited for logging.

  40. David Marjanović says:

    have the vowel of “on” and “lawn”, not the vowel of “hot”.

    And there I was thinking I had finally figured the o-like phonemes of the various Englishes out, if only at the phonological and not the phonetic level…
    <sob>

  41. David Marjanović says:

    Cuyahogga.

  42. Crown: Newscaster accent is deracinated Californian crossed with where the newscaster actually comes from, and it does not function like RP. It’s the accent they teach you if you wish to be an actor, broadcaster, or whatever — sometimes the teaching takes, sometimes it doesn’t.
    American English is inherently polycentric in accent. Cultivated Bostonians do not aspire to speak like cultivated Houstonians, nor vice versa.

  43. marie-lucie says:

    Cuyahogga
    To me the word sounded like Cayhauga (with the vowel of lawn), as in the Canadian name Mississauga (Canadian English has the cot/caught merger). DM’s “hogga” suggests a shorter vowel.

  44. landgrvi says:

    Delurking to provide data from another native Clevelander (east side, born in 1966, left Ohio except for visits in 1984): The HOE variant was common in my surroundings, and is what I use; the HOG variant falls into the “funny but not unheard-of” category to my ear; and while I never get all the way to “kuh HOE -guh”, I do tend to mush the “Cuya” unless I’m carefully enunciating, as when explaining how to pronounce it to someone who’s only seen it in print.
    I’m finding the Great Lakes vowels subthread here fascinating. I use the caught vowel for every word anybody on this thread has mentioned using it for (and then some?) – hog, frog, fog, dog, log, flog, jog, on, lawn – why, it might be one of my favorite vowels.
    Thanks to all for a great blog (also said like “caught”, natch).

  45. Cultivated Bostonians do not aspire to speak like cultivated Houstonians
    That’s right. It’s how it is in Norwegian and how it ought to be in England. It’s too bad they got into that received pronunciation thing, although there are still interesting nuances, such as the pronunciation ‘hice‘ for ‘house’. I don’t know how such a speaker says ‘mouse’.

  46. marie-lucie: Agreed. Mississauga exactly. That’s what I was getting at in my comment at June 24, 2009 12:46 PM.
    Jim: I always thought “come with” was a Philly-ism!

  47. Speaking of hice, I’ve noticed that some people do not voice the penultimate s in houses. This shocked me at first, but then I realized that I do not voice the penultimate s in spouses or souses. OTOH, I voice the s in housed, and the relevant s in espoused, but not in soused or groused. What gives?

  48. Maybe Philly got “come with” from the “Pennsylvania Dutch”.

  49. John Emerson says:
  50. John Emerson says:

    Not specifically relevant to Cuyahoga, I don’t think. It’s supposed to be one of the best vowel shifts ever, though.

  51. What gives, tgg, is that once there was no phonemic contrast in English between voiced and voiceless fricatives; voiced fricatives /v z ð/ were mere variants of /f s θ/ used between vowels. But what by borrowing, what by sound change, these distinctions have now become phonemic, and we no longer convert /s/ in the stem to /z/ when adding the plural suffix [ɪz].
    House, however, is an exception, making it one of the thirty-odd irregular nouns in English, though it does not look irregular in writing. Some nouns ending in -th are variably irregular depending on accent: Larry Trask recorded that his British students mocked him for his voiced pronunciation of moths.

  52. As a native Clevelander, I’ve always used the HOG pronunciation, although I realize HOE is probably closer to what was intended.
    The neighboring county to the east here is Geauga (which I’ve usually heard pronounced jee-AW-guh)- maybe that’s where the HOG came from ?

  53. … we no longer convert /s/ in the stem to /z/ when adding the plural suffix [ɪz].
    Thank you.
    And about the verbs, I now realize that the addition of -ed or -ing never had any effect on /s/ vs /z/; it’s just that in some but not all cases the basic verb had /z/ where the singular noun had /s/.

  54. chocolatepie says:

    Not that it has any bearing on contemporary pronunciation, but how was it pronounced in Mohawk?

  55. W. Kiernan says:

    Just another data point: when I was growing up in Cleveland in the late ’50s I don’t remember ever hearing “HOG”, it was always “HOE-GUH”.

  56. I grew up in Cleveland Heights (born 1957). I always said HOE and have never heard the HOG pronunciation.

  57. Brian M. Scott says:

    I’ve lived in Cleveland Heights, an inner-ring east-side suburb of Cleveland, since 1975. I’ve always said HOE, but it seems to me that both pronunciations are quite common. If I had to guess, I’d say that the HOE pronunciation is a bit more common, but not with any great confidence. I tend to notice the HOG pronunciation, but I’m not sure whether this is because it’s really significantly less common or merely because it’s not mine. Similarly, I don’t know how much my initial acquisition of the HOE pronunciation is due to what I heard when I first came here and how much to the spelling.

  58. Since reading this entry, I’ve been paying more attention. Obviously this isn’t scientific at all, but here are my observations:
    1. The word “Cuyahoga” comes up way more often in a week than I would have expected!
    2. The “hog” pronunciation seems to correlate with what I consider a more colloquial speaking style, using words like “buddy” and “gonna”, whereas the “hoe” pronunciation seems to correlate with a more formal speaking style, like the hosts of local public radio programs. (I know I’m blending concepts here — any competent speaker can switch between true colloquial and formal speaking styles, but probably won’t change his/her pronunciation of “Cuyahoga” to match — but hopefully you understand what I’m trying ineptly to convey.)
    3. Some of the public-radio speakers use something in between, an /o/-like vowel that I find phonologically impossible in that environment: it’s what I use in the first part of “oy” or “or” or “own” or “old”, but I think for me it only occurs in rising diphthongs, before /r/ or /l/, and in the word “only”. I haven’t heard this in real life, though, only on the radio, so it might be some sort of weird hypercorrection on the part of public-radio-icans. (Or, maybe they allow that vowel in many more environments than I do, and I just don’t usually notice it.)
    I think #2 accounts for why some NPR-listening locals might write in to complain about “hog”.

  59. Excellent research—thanks!

  60. These are all written out phonetically. I’ve lived in this county my whole life, and I pronounce it:

    ky (like KAyak) – yuh (like DUH) – hoe (like the garden tool) – guh (like GUtter)

    This is absolutely because my parents said it that way, and at 49 it would take a lot of effort for me to change that. However, there have been many other ways I’ve heard it:

    “koi-yuh-hoe-guh”, “ky-uh-haw-guh”, or even the two-syllable version, “kaw-gwuh”.

    But here’s a new one. I went to get my e-check last month (it’s 2014). The guy that took care of the ID part was Latino, and he pronounced it “koi-yuh-ho-HAH”. THAT was a first!

  61. Heh. Thanks for sharing that!

  62. I spent the last part of 1975 and early 1976 at Case Western Reserve University, and heard the HOE variant there and then, picking it up myself.

    I hear the mayor above saying something like /kaıəwə/; if the context didn’t cue me properly, I’d think he was saying Kiowa.

  63. marie-lucie says:

    chocolatepie: how was it pronounced in Mohawk?

    According to Wikipedia, Mohawk does not have many distinctive vowels, so the exact pronunciation of the “o” in “Cayuhoga” should not make a big difference. However, some of the examples suggest that Mohawk would have something closer to HOE rather than to HOG in an open syllable such as -ho-, and HOG in a closed syllable wuch as -hog- (as in English and French). The syllable decomposition of the name in Mohawk was probably Ca-yu-ho-ga.

  64. marie-lucie says:

    OOOPS! Very sorry! I misspelled the name of the town. Of course it is CUYAhoga. All the time I kept thinking of the name of CAYUGA Lake, near which I lived while attending Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Cayuga and the other Finger Lakes are also in Mohawk territory.

    The mistake does not invalidate my point, but tere is the corrected paragraph:

    According to Wikipedia, Mohawk does not have many distinctive vowels, so the exact pronunciation of the “o” in “Cuyahoga” should not make a big difference. However, some of the examples suggest that Mohawk would have something closer to HOE rather than to HOG in an open syllable such as -ho-, and HOG in a closed syllable wuch as -hog- (as in English and French). The syllable decomposition of the name in Mohawk was probably Cu-ya-ho-ga.

  65. Wikipedia glosses Cuyahoga as ‘crooked river’ and says it comes from an Iroquoian language, but exactly which one is not known.

  66. marie-lucie says:

    Cuyahoga origin
    As in many compact language families, or languages with several closely related languages, there can be many identical words which (especially if considered in isolation) cannot be attributed with certainty to a single specific language or dialect although the latter can be identified at part of a larger group. Examples are Italian vino, Spanish vino, both ‘wine’, or monte ‘mount’ in both Italian and Spanish names of mountains and villages or towns built on mountains, along with many other pairs of identical words. These words are very obviously from Romance languages, still recognizable as descended from Latin, but they cannot be attributed specifically to either Italian or Spanish if considered without a larger context. I suspect that this is the type of reason why the Iroquian language that Cuyahoga is from cannot be determined further, although it can be securely identified as belonging to the Iroquoian family.

  67. marie-lucie says:

    Another mistake!

    I meant languages with several closely related dialects.

Speak Your Mind

*