I’m beat from trying to copyedit and spend time with my four-year-old grandson all in the same day, so I’ll just toss a couple of links out there to distract you while I catch up on my rest:

A Northwest Pronunciation Guide. I love obscure local pronunciations (see here and here), and this is a treasure trove of them. For some reason the Pacific Northwest has a particular concentration of weird spelling/pronunciation matches like Champoeg sham-POO-ee, Puyallup pyoo-AL-up, and Kalalach CLAY-lock (not to mention geoduck GOO-ey-duck, one of the weirdest in the language). Thanks, mrzarquon!

Hiphop Lx:

Hiphop LX (linguistics) In Hiphop the WORD is the message. Language is a system of sounds and symbols and communication in any language is based on how to use that system. If you know the system, you have power over ideas and imagination. You can build, change, plan, play and destroy. Many words and expressions in hiphop represent regions, neighborhoods and cities. Hiphop Lx is dedicated to representing the words and expressions that represent and serve as a symbol for a region and area. It explores the language system of hiphop and how the word came into being, meanings and the overall development of the word and expression. It challenges everyone to represent their region with true bona fide words and present them to be researched, examined, challenged and celebrated.

Thanks, Kári!


  1. Hey, I just came from Puyallup- very nice place, people pronounce it all sorts of ways. Google pronounes it more like “Pileup.” There are tons of ’em in Washington. Sequim always bugged me since it’s pronouned “Squim.” But my favorite, by far is the Skookumchuck River. It’s the most fun thing to say I’ve ever encountered.

  2. The TV jingle for the Puyallup Fair still runs through my head almost daily years after I last heard it.
    You can do it a trot,
    you can do it at a gallop
    You can do it kind of slow
    So your heart won’t pallup-itate
    Just don’t be late.
    Do the Puyallup!

  3. We lived just up the road for many years, and we called it poo-YALL-up. Though certainly I would have understood pyoo-AL-up to be the same place :-> But cool! Thanks for the link.
    Our biggest shibboleths, of course, are “Oregon” and “Willamette” — that’s a long e in Oregon and a schwa in the final syllable, and Willamette carries its stress on the 2nd syllable. Pronouncing them any other way instantly marks you as a foreigner.

  4. rootlesscosmo says

    Again with the parallelism! You’re trying to copyedit your four-year-old grandson?

  5. I am a Seattle native and I disagree with a few of the items mentioned.
    I say Kuh-LAY-lock, not CLAY-lock; I *do* say pyoo-AL-up; and Oregon is OR-i-gun with a short i.
    One more note. Yakima has become widespread due to the car-top carriers. I had someone in Chicago brag to me that he knew how to pronounce it and said YAK-i-muh. That’s close but I’ve always pronounced it YAK-i-MAH. With the MAH being a secondary stress like Panama.

  6. Bob: That’s how a Yakima native I used to know said it (I remember it more as YAK-i-MAW, but it’s been thirty years or so, so I don’t vouch for the quality of the final vowel).

  7. Odd that they don’t list some of the real problematic ones in Alaska. The most common is probably “Valdez”, which everyone on Earth would expect to be /valˈdɛz/ but which is in fact pronounced /vælˈdiz/. This name is one of the major reasons why you hear about “The Alaska Oil Spill” even from newscasters, where the “Exxon Valdez” is the proper referent.
    There are oodles of names in Alaska Native languages that have peculiar, unpredictable pronunciations. The author must not be familiar with many of them. I like “Chitina” /ˈtʃɪtnə/, “Saganavirktok” /ˌsæɡnəˈviɹtɑk/, and “Taitetlik” /təˈtɪtlɪk/, among others.
    In BC, there is the little town of “Fort St. John”. I was suprised to find that locals referred to it as /ˈfoɹtsɪndʒɑn/, which the stress on the initial syllable.
    “Chinook” is pronounced /tʃɪˈnʊk/ in Alaska, and only refers to the wind. The fish is called “king salmon”, and there’s a town named after it.
    The site doesn’t mention “eulachon” /ˈulɪkən/, which is an interesting one. In Alaska it’s said (and usually spelled) “hooligan”.
    @Dan: “skookumchuck” is Chinook Jargon for “powerful water”.
    I think the final vowel in “Yakima” is indeed either /ɑ/ or /ɒ/ depending on whether the speaker retains the cot-caught distinction.

  8. James: Thanks, I love the extra added value knowledgeable commenters bring to these threads!

  9. The “for some reason” about NW pronunciations is, of course, that this area is studded left and right with Native American tribes, who already had everything around here named before the white man showed up. So what we have around here are a mixture of adopted native names for everything from rivers and streams to towns (some more, some less, unadulterated from their native linguistic forms) and introduced names of European origin.
    And yes, the settlers and immigrants who got here first often did a terrible job of trans-literating the Native American names into roman equivalents that accurately match the pronunciation. IMHO, the problem lies with the spellings, not with the pronunciations themselves.

  10. Well, sure. But it’s the bizarre, unintuitive spellings that create the fun!

  11. I always thought the word spendy was a PNW regionalism. I’ve never heard it elsewhere. However, a tweet map shows it to be much more widespread, especially in the upper Midwest, California, and even the UK.

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