I was googling for something else when I ran across “Pronunciation of Upstate New York Place-Names” in a 1944 issue of American Speech (which I was able to access thanks to the wonders of JSTOR and the Boston Public Library card); this struck me not only because (as regular readers know) I love local pronunciations, but because it was by L. Sprague De Camp, who I knew as a wonderful science fiction writer. Apparently he’d spent a long time making “a collection of the local pronunciations of names of places in the state north of Westchester and Rockland counties. I have obtained my information directly from local inhabitants where possible…”; he includes “(a) names of non-English (Iroquois, Dutch, etc.) origin, and (b) names of English origin whose pronunciation does not follow unequivocally from the spelling.” He uses phonetic transcription, but in my presentation of some of the more striking examples, I will respell them in a way that’s (a) easier on me than cutting-and-pasting special symbols (apart from schwa), and (b) easier on the reader not accustomed to phonetic transcription. (Incidentally, does anyone know if the lovely word “upstate” is used elsewhere than in NY?)

First off, a couple of general observations: foreign names are universally anglicized in what now seems an old-fashioned way (Java = JAY-və, Rheims = REEMZ, Valois = və-LOISS, Versailles = vər-SAYLZ, Medina = me-DYE-nə, Riga = RYE-gə, Borodino = boro-DYE-no, Cairo = KAY-roh, Athens = AY-thənz, Delhi = DELL-high, Faust = FAWST), and British names are Americanized (i.e., pronounced as spelled: Greenwich = GREEN-wich—but Worcester = WOOS-tər).

Arey = AY-v(e)ri
Athol = AY-thawl
Horicon = HOR-i-kən [Footnote: “The inhabitants recently changed the name of this village to the banal one of Brant Lake.”]
Shawangunk Mts = SHONG-(g)um
Plattekill = PLAT-ə-kil [LH: I always thought this was two syllables.]
Ganahgote = ganə-GOAT
Roosagap = ROSE-gap
Mileses = mə-LEE-seez
Chichester = CHY-chester [LH: first syllable rhymes with shy]
Lava = LAY-və
Lochada L. = lo-KAH-də
Kinaquariones H. = kinəkə-ROHN
Gansevoort = GANZ-vərt [LH: I thought this was three syllables.]
Batchelleville = BATCH-(ə)lərvil
Dishaws = DEE-shawz
Sunkauissia = SUN-kən-sə [sic]
Reichard = RYE-kət
Schunemunk Mt. = SHOO-munk
Godeffroy = GOD-free
Skaneateles = skinny-AT-ləs [LH: I already knew this one]
Onativia = ah-nə-TAY-vee-ə
Echota = i-KOH-tə
Stone Arabia = STUN-rah-bee
Chili = CHYE-lye [LH: i.e., rhymes with jai alai]
Schroeppel = SKROO-pəl
Lowville = LOW-vil [LH: first syllable rhymes with cow]
Grieg = GREG
Theresa = thə-REE-sə [LH: voiceless th]
Moulin = moh-LIN
L. Kanacto = kə-NAK-to [Footnote: “Like most of the Iroquois names in this [Herkimer] county, this one was given within recent decades for real-estate purposes]
Towaloondah = too-lə-WAHN-də (sic) [Fn: “This was the only pronunciation my informant knew, but he could not state that some such form as [tow-ə-LOON-də] does not also occur.”]
Coxsackie = cook-SAH-kee, -SACK-ee
Ginseng = JEN-sing (sic)
Basom = BAS-kəm (sic)
Whallonsberg = HWAY-lənz-bərg
Trembleau Pt. = TRAHM [sic]
Stoneco = sto-NECK-oh
Eighmyville = AY-mee-vil
Taghkanick = tə-KAH-nik
Suydam = SIGH-dəm
Chazy = shay-ZEE
Lincklaen = LINK-layn
Arnot = AHR-noh
Kiantone = KIN-tone
Busti = BUS-tie
Degroff = di-GRAFF, -GRAHF (sic)
Aquetuck = ACK-wi-duk [Fn: “Of Iroquoian origin despite its resemblance to ‘aqueduct’.”]
Tioughnioga R. = tie-ə-NOH-gə, tie-nye-OH-gə, tie-off-ni-OH-gə, tee-aff-ni-OH-gə, -AHF-ni-, ‘AWF-ni- [Fn: “Apparently there is no well-established pronunciation for this name.”]


  1. komfo,amonan says

    I have it on good authority that ‘Athens’ is now pronounced like the capital of Greece, and that ‘Coxsackie’ is pronounced more or less as spelled: ‘cock-SACK-ee’.
    ‘Upstate Pennsylvania’ is not unheard of, but as a native Philadelphian I’ve never been clear on the boundary.

  2. “Upstate Vermont” and “Upstate New Hampshire” are permissible, I think (or perhaps I’m confused by eleven years in New York), but the northeast corner of Vermont is more commonly known as the “Northeast Kingdom”. I’m not sure why. I understand Maine to have an east/west contrast instead, as designated by “backwoods”. No “downstate” or “frontwoods”, though.

  3. I’ve heard of “Upstate Pennsylania” but I have never been able to figure out where it is, in that I could not name a single town that is in it. The only thing that’s clear to me (a native Philadelphian) is that Philadelphia is not in it.
    Apparently “the Upstate” is used to describe northwestern South Carolina, which makes sense because this is the part of the state at the highest altitude. (A question — does the “up” in “upstate” denote northerliness or high elevation? In New York State these sort-of-coincide but they don’t everywhere.

  4. @Isabel: I always took the “up” in “upstate New York” to be the opposite of the “down” in “downtown.” I don’t know if that was the intent, though.

  5. In Maine, there’s The County, Down East and everywhere else. Can’t say I’ve heard Backwoods before.
    I’d certainly love such a list of names for Mass, though; does anyone outside the state pronounce Amherst, Billerica, Rehoboth and Woburn correctly?

  6. You’ll be happy to know that Cairo is still KAY-row. I went through on a Trailways bus over Labor Day and the busdriver announced the stop using the traditional pronunciation.
    Bot the Shawangunks ans Schunemunk are hiking destinations. The trail guides all explain the SHONG-gum pronunciation, but they are silent about Schunemunk.

  7. I find these pronunciations fascinating, too, as I grew up surrounded by a whole bunch of strange place names, in Southern Illinois (really all over the state). For instance, we, too, have a Cairo (KAY-roh), as well as Vienna (VYE-a-nuh), New Berlin (New BUR-lin), Athens (AY-thens). Further upstate there’s Marseilles (Mar-SALES), La Grange (luh-GRAYNGE), Mahomet (MAY-o-met).

  8. Here in Baltimore, we pronounce Thames Street “Thaymes,” with a soft “th.” It’s how you tell the locals from the newcomers. Nearby is Aliceanna Street, which, when I first moved to town, I mistakenly pronounced “A-LEES-ee-AH-na.” It is, of course, pronounced “Alice-Anna.” Duh!
    Back home in Washington State, there’s the town Sequim (pronounced “Skwim”) and also Puyallup (which often gets transposed to “Pyoo-allup”), but I don’t think we’ve ever had a scifi author document such stuff.

  9. “Upstate” also seems to be used in South Carolina.
    Note: I believe climbers refer to the Shawangunks as “the Gunks.”
    One sf writer, George R. Stewart, is probably better known as a dialectitian who wrote about place names.

  10. Oh, and in terms of place-names, Vermont has Barre (BARE-ee) and Montpelier (Ma~’-PILL-yer), with ~ representing nasalization and ‘ representing the glottal stop frequently substituted for t’s in the local accent. There’s also Calais (pronounced “callous”, without irony). I was once told that New Hampshire’s Berlin changed its pronunciation to BURR-lin during WWII to distinguish itself from the German namesake. Vermont’s Berlin, though, is still pronounced “burr-LIN”.

  11. Apparently “Callous” is the traditional English pronunciation; after all, the city was originally more English than French, sending representatives to the English Parliament from 1372 until 1558. So it’s not too surprising that the Vermont city (founded 1781) is pronounced that way too.

  12. vər-SAYLZ also applies to Versailles Township, Allegheny County, PA
    I believe all or nearly all British names are Americanized in CT (Green-wich, Thaymes, etc.) but left British in MA.

  13. British people who don’t speak French still habitually refer to Rheims as Reemz.

  14. Right near RYE-gah is BURR-jinn (Bergen). And just south, is A~vawn (Avon). (The ~ is a flat, short A ending in a nasal sound before V)

  15. There’s been lots of discussion of the meaning/use of ‘upstate’ on the American Dialect Society list over the years (at least once or twice starting with me saying to someone from south of Albany that they aren’t TRUE Upstaters! and then people from other states talking about it–if I recall correctly)…a glance at their archives might be informative:
    Right near Chili (suburb of Rochester) is another one that catches people off-guard: Charlotte (shar-LOT).

  16. Add to your list “BEE-you-na VIS-ta” (Buena Vista — I don’t know how it got a Spanish name), Virginia, LYE-ma, Ohio, and val-pa-RAY-zo, Indiana. Not to mention HOW-stun (Houston) Street in New York City. In Jackson, Miss, there’s a street named Amite (I’m not sure whether there’s supposed to be an accent over the “e”) and pronounced “uh-MITT”. Thames Street in Newport, RI, has a hard “th” and rhymes with “names”, Washington’s Northern Virginia suburbs have a McLean pronounced “McLANE.” Granted, it’s a variant that antedates the place, but it’s also a shibboleth — tourists almost invariably call it McLeen (and whatever happened to that sandwich, anyway?) I’m sure there are many more.

  17. Also, Ovid is OH-vid rather than AH-vid, but I guess that’s just the usual pronunciation.

  18. Note: I believe climbers refer to the Shawangunks as “the Gunks.”
    I know—I used to hang out with one of them. I tried not to get too irritated, because there’s no reason for outsiders to know the local pronunciation, and “Gunks” is a perfectly natural shortening, but it did grate on me a little.
    I have it on good authority that ‘Athens’ is now pronounced like the capital of Greece, and that ‘Coxsackie’ is pronounced more or less as spelled: ‘cock-SACK-ee’.
    Sigh. I was afraid of that. Why can’t people hang on to their quaint folkways?
    Lynneguist: I went to the ADL site, but didn’t see a search function.

  19. Our son, on his first trip alone out of Rochester, called from an airport layover…. “Hi, Mom, I’m in shar-LOTT!” “What are you doing here, you’re supposed to be on your way to Florida! … OH! SHAR-lot!”

  20. Paul Clapham says

    Would any of you Pennsylvanians care to comment on the pronunciation of Wilkes-Barre?

  21. The Chillowacks are another climbers’ destination. Patagonia is still another.

  22. Ohio is a good one for local pronunciations of towns named after famous foreign cities. In addition to its own Meh-DYE-na and of course To-LEE-do (instead of To-LAY-do) and the aforementioned LYE-ma, there’s CAE-dihs (instead of Ca-DIS), Caen-‘un (Canton, which, I guess doesn’t really count since that’s actually Guang-dong) and they simply get lazy when confronted with Toronto (which comes out sort of like Torano) and Burgholz (Burgles). Funny enough, most people who would even have the occasion to say Gnadenhutten probably speak more German than English and so generally pronounce it fairly close to the original.

  23. If Bob L. means Buena Vista, Colorado, that town was named in “developer Spanish,” which is contrasted to actual Spanish. Actual Spanish place names in Colorado are either religious (Trinidad “Trinity”)
    or baldly descriptive (Las Sauces “The Willows). Developer-Spanish names are pseudo-poetic or scenic, like BV.
    Locally, it’s “Boonie” or “Byoonie.”
    On the main post, my wife did her freshman year of college at SUNY-Delhi, and every time she says the name I see it mentally as “Delhigh” or something like that.

  24. I can remember when Vienna, Virginia, and Vienna sausages used to be pronounced VYE-enna. I don’t know about the sausages, but all them furriners who moved into the DC burbs (including my brother) seem to have changed the normal pronunciation of the city to vee-EH-na.
    There’s also a BER-lin down in Southampton County, VA, not too far from Warsaw, I believe. Paris is up at the northern peak of the state.

  25. “Back home in Washington State, there’s the town Sequim (pronounced “Skwim”) and also Puyallup (which often gets transposed to “Pyoo-allup”), but I don’t think we’ve ever had a scifi author document such stuff.”
    “Pyoo-allup” is a shibboleth that newcomers/outsiders routinely screw up.
    What is worth some study is how this or that river name came into English with the -b- or the -m-
    Why do we have “Duwamis`” (

  26. Wilkes-Barre is pronounced “WOOKS-bear-ee” (rhymes with books berry).

  27. In Berlin, oddly enough, when German-speakers speak English they pronounce the name of the city ‘BUR-lin’. Maybe they have been spending time in New Hampshire?

  28. British people who don’t speak French still habitually refer to Rheims as Reemz.
    French people habitually spell it Reims

  29. In Berlin, oddly enough, when German-speakers speak English they pronounce the name of the city ‘BUR-lin’.
    Really! How very odd. Hypercorrection, maybe?

  30. Vienna, WV used to be pronounced VYE-en-uh. More recently it is said VEE-en-uh, which, I suppose, says something for the spread of literacy along the Ohio River.
    J. Del Col

  31. @Chas S. Clifton: You seem to know about Colorado place-names; I don’t suppose you’d know why a street in Colorado Springs would be called “Cache la Poudre” (French for “hide the powder”)? When I lived there I could never understand it, but for some reason I never looked into it.

  32. In Massachusetts, Worcester is pronounced Wuss-tah, as in: I’m gonna Wuss-tah to pick up a toast-ah.
    In NYC, Houston Street is pronounced Hows-ton Street. And Athol Mass. sounds very similar to how “asshole” sounds with a Boston accent.
    You haven’t lived till you’ve gone to the poolhall in Athol Mass. and heard “Dueling Banjos” played half a dozen times a night on the jukebox.
    People from New Hampshire refer to Massachusetts residents as Massholes. FWIW.

  33. And closer to home, of course you know that Amherst is pronounced without the “h” — AM-erst.
    I’m from upstate NY (truly upstate — Schenectady), and it seems to me that I say CO-sack — ee, but maybe my memory is failing…

  34. you know that Amherst is pronounced without the “h” — AM-erst.
    Yeah, the saying is that Amherst stole Northampton’s second h.

  35. Here in Michigan, we have the “U-P”, short for “Upper Penninsula”. We don’t call the lower penninsula the “L-P” though.
    We have our share of local pronounciations of towns named after more famous counterparts:
    Pompeii is pronounced “POM-pee-eye”
    Milan is “MY-lin”
    Delhi is “DELL-high”
    and we’ve also got:
    Saline= “suh-LEEN”
    Monroe= “MAHN-roh” and my favorite,
    Sault Ste. Marie= “soo saint mar-EE”.

  36. The Houston Streets in NYC and Atlanta are named after John Houstoun (1744-1796), member of the Continental Congress and two-time Governor of Georgia, and reflect his own pronunciation. I don’t know what happened to the second “u”; lost in the course of time, probably. (On the other hand, the omission of the second “e” from Waverly Place was apparently deliberate and contemporary with the renaming of the street after Scott’s Waverley.) Houston County in central Georgia also preserves Houstoun’s pronunciation.
    How [houst@n] came to be Houstoun’s pronunciation is a question: he was born in America to Scottish immigrants who presumably pronounced their name [hustun] or [hust@n].

  37. “Cache la Poudre” probably means “powder cache,” a place where gunpowder was stored, but French also has “magasin” for that.
    J. Del Col

  38. Doug Sundseth says

    Ran: “@Chas S. Clifton: You seem to know about Colorado place-names; I don’t suppose you’d know why a street in Colorado Springs would be called “Cache la Poudre” (French for “hide the powder”)? When I lived there I could never understand it, but for some reason I never looked into it.”
    While I’m not Mr. Clifton, I’m willing to speculate on this one. First, you need to know that there were French trappers in this part of the country up until the early 19th centuries. These trappers presumably cached their supplies at the highest point accessible by boat in many cases.
    Second, and perhaps more important, there is a river that runs through Laporte (note the additional French-derived name) and Ft. Collins, CO that is also named the Cache la Poudre (and usually just called the “POO-der”).
    I don’t know whether the street name comes directly from a historical cache local to the street or from the river further north, though.

  39. Doug Sundseth pretty well said it.
    General William Palmer’s company, which laid out Colorado Springs, named many streets after creeks and rivers, hence Cache la Poudre Street. In Colorado Springs, it is pronounced “Poo – drah” but in Fort Collins, it’s “Poo – der.”
    The name came from an early 19th-century incident when some French Canadian trappers cached supplies along the stream, or at least that’s the official story.
    Colorado Springs also has a Willamette Street, which is not pronounced as it is in Portand, Oregon.
    Having lived in all those places, I have to think carefully before speaking.

  40. dorSET Street in Dublin is traditionally stressed on the second syllable, unlike the English county it’s named after. However, lately I hear people (e.g. radio traffic reporters) saying DORset Street. Thing is, the street is in the (working-class) Northside, while the DORset-sayers have Southside (middle-class) accents. So, are they correcting the Northsiders’ ignorance, or displaying their own?
    Newcastle-upon-Tyne in Northeast England is locally newCAStle, but Londoners have generally pronounced it NEWcastle. There seems to be some move towards recognizing the local form among BBC football presenters. For further discussion of whether local is better, consider newfoundLAND vs newFOUNDland

  41. David Marjanović says

    It boggles the mind…

    Really! How very odd. Hypercorrection, maybe?

    Ckearly so. English is oddly willing to stress even rather recent French loans on the first or anyway not the last syllable; that isn’t done in German, where initial stress is restricted to native words (of which Berlin, BTW, isn’t one).
    (I’m too tired to figure out if that’s an invalid overgeneralization, but it should hold most of the time.)

  42. David Marjanović says


  43. David Marjanović says

    I should have mentioned how difficult it is to teach native German speakers to stress “hotel” on the last syllable. That’s how it’s done in German, and everyone knows (I think) that that’s also how it’s done in the original French — but to carry that over into English makes the result sound not English, and we already know that English speakers mercilessly pronounce everything as if it were English (which is not consciously done in German).
    Is it true that (Charles) Lyell, one of the founders of geology, is stressed on his last syllable, too? I’ve heard at least one American professor of geology consistently pronouncing him that way, and I remember thinking “What? He isn’t French!” all the time.

  44. British people who don’t speak French still habitually refer to Rheims as Reemz.
    French people habitually spell it Reims.
    The city is indeed Reims in French and Rheims in English. I suppose that the h was added at a time when it was fashionable in both languages to complicate the spelling, probably under the influence of the river names le Rhône and le Rhin (the Rhine).
    Reims, where the kings of France used to be crowned, was a very well-known and important city centuries ago. As with many words borrowed from Old French, the English pronunciation preserves in part the OF pronunciation, which must have been [reymz], before English changed its [ey] sound to [ee]. On the other hand, the French name is now pronounced exactly as in rince (a form of the verb meaning “to rinse”).
    As for Calais pronounced like “callous”, the final s was pronounced in French at the time also. English speakers stressed the word on the first rather than the final syllable and reduced the unstressed vowel, just as they still do now. This would be true whether the Vermont Calais was settled by French or English people originally – English speakers were familiar with the name in its English pronunciation, just as French people are familiar with Londres as the French name of London.
    I should add that I see nothing wrong with continuing to use a pronunciation of foreign names that is established in one’s own language, rather than trying to ape the foreign pronunciation, especially if one is not familiar with the language. I would much rather hear “PARE-iS” than “Puh-REE” from an English speaker.
    In America there is also New Orleans pronounced as New OR-linnz, a translation of La Nouvelle-Orléans, the latter a word of three syllables: OR-LÉ-ANs, the name of a French city where Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) won a decisive victory over the English occupiers.
    Washington’s Northern Virginia suburbs have a McLean pronounced “McLANE.”
    Here in Nova Scotia there are lots of people of Scottish origin and McLean is always pronounced “McLANE”, never “McLEEN”. This is also the pronunciation of the Canadian news magazine “Mclean’s”.
    Sault Ste. Marie= “soo saint mar-EE”:
    This is the way the name is pronounced in Canadian English as well, on the other side of the river and border, as an adaptation of the French pronunciation. Locally the place is called “The Soo”, a half-translation of the French le saut meaning “the jump” (of the waters, i.e. “the falls”). So the meaning is ‘St Mary’s Falls’.
    I guess that English speakers learned that sault was not pronounced with an l as in assault, nor did it sound like the word saw as said in North America, so the French vowel was approximated as [oo].
    “Cache la Poudre” probably means “powder cache,” a place where gunpowder was stored, but French also has “magasin” for that.
    I agree with the translation here (although the expression seems to come from a simplified form of French), but la cache and le magasin are not quite the same. A cache could store anything one wants hidden from predators (human or animal), and it could be improvised on the spot, for instance by the French trappers who “presumably cached their supplies at the highest point accessible by boat”. A magasin for gunpowder would be specially built or at least dedicated to the purpose, as part of a military installation. It is possible that the name Cache la poudre refers to such an installation, since the trappers etc might not have known the specific military terminology, nor have a need to store enormous amounts of gunpowder themselves.
    (In Washington State) What is worth some study is how this or that river name came into English with the -b- or the -m-
    Why do we have “Duwamis`” ?

    It is because of the variation in the local native languages. Lots of place names in Washington and British Columbia end in -mis(h), but in some of the languages where the names come from, the sounds m and n have been replaced in all words by b and d respectively. For instance, in B.C. there is the language known as Nitinat, which is called Ditidaht by the people who speak it. It is because of this overall change in some of the languages that place names originating in those languages end in -bis(h) rather than the more common -mis(h).

  45. I think I’ve also heard Pulaski NY pronounced pə-LASS-sky, but that’s not really my part of the world, so I don’t know if that’s common. I was born in new MADrid, Missouri, but I grew up in Florida and Georgia, so I know place names like awlBANny (Albany), KAYro (Cairo), MARE-ə-etter (Marietta), and K(y)EERLT’n (Carrollton), all in Georgia, and HAYvanna (Havana) in Florida. In the Jacksonville FL area, there’s a bunch of stuff named for Jean Ribault, whose name is now pronounced “Gene REEballt”. He was a 16th century French explorer/colonist/Huguenot (which is pronounced “HYOO-gə-naut”, of course).
    I live in Western Mass now, so I’m used to CHICKəpee (Chicopee), NORTfeel (Northfield), BERnerdstən (Bernardston), and PARmer (Palmer), but no one I’ve asked knows how to pronounce Poquonock, CT.

  46. oxlahun, yes, puh-LASS-sky is the only way to pronounce Pulaski, NY. Another upstate town name I like is Chaumont, pronounced shuh-MOE (sounds like “shmo” if you say it fast).

  47. Sault Ste. Marie= “soo saint mar-EE”:
    cf. beauty vs beauté
    According to Wikipedia:

    Newfoundlanders pronounce Newfoundland to rhyme with ‘understand,’ placing emphasis on -LAND, not New or found-. It sounds something like “newfin-LAND.” Canadians outside of the Atlantic provinces (therefore, discluding Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as well as Newfoundland) and tourists are noted for their pronunciation of Newfoundland as “new-FOUND-lind”, “NEW-fin-lind” or “NEW-found-lind.”

    Not sure I trust a source that uses the word “disclude”, but still.

  48. This article was written in 1944, and some of the pronunciations seem to have changed. Komfo,amonan is right about Coxsackie, and I have heard “Linklaen” pronounced LINK-lay-in. Syracuse, where I lived as a child, was always SAIR-a-cuse back then, and I think it still is. The “Berlin” in New Berlin and its neighbors (like “South New Berlin”) is BURR-lin.

  49. I don’t know where Wikipedia got the i in various pronunciations of the land in Newfoundland. I have not been everywhere in Canada, but I have heard the name many, many times and the land part never thymed with wind (the weather term). I personally would say NEW-fun-land which seems to be the most common pronunciation. A person from Newfoundland is a New-fun-LAND-er. New-FOUND-land sounds British to me (rightly or wrongly), or at least foreign, not Canadian of any local origin.

  50. [Correction: it was actually Wikitravel, not Wikipedia.] I assume the is in “NEW-fin-lind” etc. are intended as schwas.

  51. (I meant rhymed not thymed)
    mollymooly: even if the i‘s are intended as schwas, they are incorrect – the LAND part does not have a schwa, as it is not unstressed as in the words England and Netherlands but has at least a secondary stress, preserving the vowel.

  52. marie-lucie: I guess this illustrates the limitations of adhoc respelling schemes. I’m quite happy to imagine the author faithfully representing two consecutive unstressed syllables [ˈnjuːfənlənd], while you imagine a failed attempt to represent [ˈnjuːfənˌlænd]. I guess the author would regard each as an erroneous tourist pronunciation, but which one was intended we may never know.

  53. “I’m quite happy to imagine the author faithfully representing two consecutive unstressed syllables […], while you imagine a failed attempt to represent […land].” (Sorry, the schwas won’t reproduce).
    I am not imagining a failed attempt at representing a genuine pronunciation (with secondary stress on LAND), but an attempt at representing an imagined pronunciation (with this element unstressed) on the basis of words with similar morphological makeup but different stress pattern. Canadian readers, let me know if I am wrong.

  54. Charles Perry says

    I can add one upstate New York place name: my grandfather’s Rensselaer County birthplace, Schaghticoke, pronounced skatticook.

  55. In Haida Gwai (known to atlases as the Queen Charlotte Islands, in Canada not too far from the Alaska panhandle) one of the towns is Skidegate, pronounced SKID-igget.

  56. Just to document the use of “upstate” in South Carolina…here’s the online version of the Greenville News with the headline [url=]Thompson adds to Upstate support[/url]

  57. Well, really I chose today because of this post…and it’s tee-aff-ni-OH-gə. Everybody knows that!

  58. First off, I find the pronunciation of the foreign names you give quite gross, to be honest, except Faust. I have rarely heard any of them. You might have called them americanized rather than anglicized. It has long seemed to me that Americans most usually pronounced their vowels like the names of vowels.
    OTOH, having been a working toponymist, I find the local pronunciations of the upstate NY names absolutely delightful. I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. (Was it Emerson who said that?)
    I hope I haven’t terminally offended with my first paragraph because I want to know if you recommend Sprague de Camp’s novels of Alexander the so-called Great’s time. I never ran across them waybackwhen.

  59. You might have called them americanized rather than anglicized. It has long seemed to me that Americans most usually pronounced their vowels like the names of vowels.
    You must be kidding. Where do you think we got it from? It’s the Brits who started saying MY-lan and CAL-lis; we just kept their pronunciations for our eponymous localities.
    I want to know if you recommend Sprague de Camp’s novels of Alexander the so-called Great’s time. I never ran across them waybackwhen.
    I’m afraid I haven’t read them either, but I’ll bet John Cowan has; perhaps he’ll make a recommendation.

  60. I think my exhaustion caused me to revert to an old prejudice. Now I recall that when reading this thread that I was beginning to feel that I too pronounce vowels sometimes as their names are pronounced.
    It’s amazing how understanding can rise and fall like the tide. Perhaps because we are approaching a full moon.

  61. No need to apologize; retaining understanding is a constant struggle for all of us. Just reading these old posts and threads is reminding me of things I (obviously) once knew but had completely forgotten. I guess this blog is serving as an external memory chip for my brain.

  62. There are five de Camp historical novels: he probably would have written more, but the market for them collapsed and he quit. Which is not to say that his sf and fantasy is not often historically tinged; it certainly is.
    I have read The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate, about a Persian expedition to the Congo, and An Elephant for Aristotle, about Alexander sending an elephant home for study by his old tutor, quite recently. I recommend them, if you can get past the use of Funny Homothexual as a representation of Attic dialect in the latter. (Remember, it was 1958: to talk so openly and plainly about the subject in American popular fiction was itself extraordinary, particularly since it is not in any way thematic, but simply historically appropriate background.) Both reflect events which must (in the former) and probably did (in the latter) take place, though we have no specific record of them.
    The Arrows of Hercules I read longer ago, and my recall is less vivid, but I also liked it very much at the time. If I read The Bronze God of Rhodes it was as a (precocious) child, and I don’t recall it. I definitely have not read The Golden Wind. I once bit the bullet and ordered it from a used-book dealer for $50; fortunately, he warned me that what he had was the book cover only, and I backed off on the order.
    Looking on now….

  63. Thanks JC. Right on the day I discovered Sprague de Camp on Wikipedia (as I wrote on another thread), you provide a recommendation! Talk about synchronicity!

  64. I have read The Golden Wind now, and I don’t think it nearly as good as the rest. Eudoxus, who discovered (from a Greek point of view) how to ride the monsoon winds to India and back, and may have circumnavigated Africa (in the novel, he does) is an interesting person, but de Camp’s version of him comes across as a chronic whiner. Some of this problem infects The Bronze God of Rhodes too.

    On the other hand, I continue to recommend Dragon and Elephant and can now add The Arrows of Hercules to that list.

  65. Not synchronicity, but response. I was preparing a comment to all Lest Darkness Fall and de Camp references on LH (now in Hat’s moderation queue for this post) and added this one separately.

  66. Well, that could still be synchronicity!

  67. I just met a resident of Athens, NY, who says that AYthens is now the pronunciation of the over-70 set, or rather they still remember when it was the usual pronunciation. He also speaks with nearly continuous vocal fry and a certain amount of uptalk: I judge him (though I am not very good at this) to be in his mid-twenties.

  68. AYthens is now the pronunciation of the over-70 set, or rather they still remember when it was the usual pronunciation.

    Sigh. Sad but inevitable.

  69. I often think of the start of Godard’s Helas pour moi. Voiceover:

    When my father’s father’s father had a difficult task to accomplish, he went to a certain place in the forest, lit a fire, and immersed himself in silent prayer. And what had to be done was done. When my father’s father was confronted with the same task, he went to the same place in the forest and said; ‘”We no longer know how to light the fire, but we still know the prayer.” And what had to be done was done. Later, he too went into the forest and said: “We no longer know how to light the fire, we no longer know the mysteries of prayer, but we still know the exact place in the forest where it occurred. And that should do.” And that did do. But when I was faced with the same task, I stayed home and I said; “We no longer know how to light the fire, we no longer know the prayers. We don’t even know the place in the forest. But we do know how to tell the story.”


    Quand le père du père de mon père avait une tache difficile à accomplir, il se rendait à un certain endroit dans la forêt, allumait un feu et il se plongeait dans une prière silencieuse. Et ce qu’il avait à accomplir se réalisait. Quand, plus tard, le père de mon père se trouva confronté à la même tache, il se rendit à ce même endroit dans la forêt et dit : “nous ne savons plus allumer le feu mais nous savons encore dire la prière”. Et ce qu’il avait à accomplir se réalisa. Plus tard, mon père (…) lui aussi alla dans la forêt et dit : “nous ne savons plus allumer le feu, nous ne connaissons plus les mystères de la prière mais nous connaissons encore l’endroit précis dans la forêt ou cela se passait et cela doit suffire”. Et cela fut suffisant (…) Mais quand, à mon tour, j’eux à faire face à la même tâche, je suis resté à la maison et j’ai dit : “nous ne savons plus allumer le feu, nous ne savons plus dire les prières, nous ne connaissons même plus l’endroit dans la forêt, mais nous savons encore raconter l’histoire”.

    Update (Feb. 22, 2022). I have discovered the source of this passage; it’s from the end of Gershom Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism:

    When the Baal Shem had a difficult task before him, he would go to a certain place in the woods, light a fire and meditate in prayer—and what he had set out to perform was done. When a generation later the “Maggid” of Meseritz was faced with the same task he would go to the same place in the woods and say: We can no longer light the fire, but we can still speak the prayers—and what he wanted done became reality. Again a generation later Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov had to perform this task. And he too went into the woods and said: We can no longer light a fire, nor do we know the secret meditations belonging to the prayer, but we do know the place in the woods to which it all belongs—and that must be sufficient; and sufficient it was. But when another generation had passed and Rabbi Israel of Rishin was called upon to perform the task, he sat down on his golden chair in his castle and said: We cannot light the fire, we cannot speak the prayers, we do not know the place, but we can tell the story of how it was done. And, the story-teller adds, the story which he told had the same effect as the actions of the other three.

  70. J. W. Brewer says

    to answer one of the questions in the original post many years later, my native Delaware is another US jurisdiction where “upstate” is an idiom in use, although my sense is that it’s used less often than the contrasting “downstate.” Because upstate has the majority of the population (although not of the square miles) and/or because it’s where I myself grew up, it’s probably at least in my idiolect the default/unmarked portion of the state, so “downstate” as the marked variant might more often be made explicit. Although “downstate” is not the only or necessarily the most common way to describe that area, which is also known as “Lower Delaware” (jocularly, “Slower Delaware”) or “below the canal.” The symmetric “above the canal” definitely exists but I’m not sure that there’s anything symmetric to lower/slower, because “upper” sounds pretty unidiomatic. (The canal in question is

  71. I live on the Tioughnioga River. NEVER, ever, have I heard a local pronounce this river anything other than TYE-uff-nee-OH-ga. When I moved here, I tried TEE-uff-nee-OH-ga and was quickly corrected. It’s also called the “Ti”, to keep things simpler.

  72. Thomas Regan says

    If someone could check I had heard (from a Local living in that area) that Ganahgote (American Indian name) was pronounced “Guh-naa-git”. Not sure however.

  73. How about the many places in Florida that are named after the famous explorer Ponce De Leon? When I was studying history (as most Northerners) I was told his name wa Ponsay-day-lee-on. When any one calls a boulevard, street or anything else with that name from Atlanta southward, you will hear giggles or outright snorts! It’s pronounced by the locals as Pons-Deleon!

  74. marie-lucie says

    MM: Ponce De Leon

    He was a Spaniard, and Northerners pronounce his name based on its Spanish pronunciation.

    He is known in French as Ponce de Léon, and Southerners pronounce his name based on the French pronunciation which was probably the one current in la Louisiane when it was French territory.

  75. Excellent point!

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