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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You don’t say

The days are long past when I reviewed my kids’ essays, striking out extraneous apostrophes and adjectives. I also recall using mispronounced words correctly in a return sentence to see if they “got it.”  I wince internally when a perfectly lovely young person says “Me and Jane went there”.

Like the concentric circles of a stone tossed in a pond, my problem extends way beyond myself.  There are place names with either incorrect spelling or incorrect pronunciation.  But instead of saying “listen to yourself,” I mentally roll my eyes and suck it up.

There is a lovely town in southwestern Ohio, Bellfontaine.  Pronounced Bell-fountain.  They claim it’s “Americanized.”  That’s fifty percent accurate.  The spelling hasn’t been touched.  A Bellfonte, in Pennsylvania, completely disregards the e. 

Back in Ohio, again in the southwest, is a town called LaFeet.  One wonders how the citizens can write LaFayette as their return address. Over in Fort Lar-me,  Laramie goes in the return address.

Then in central Ohio, in Holmes county, we have Berlin, named both for Germany’s Berlin and for Berlin, Pennsylvania, the other former home of founding settlers.  If you ask directions to the Ber-LIN hardware store, you may be immediately corrected: BER-lin, or told BER-lin hardware is two blocks down.  To their credit, there is a local story given out the pronunciation changed during World War II.  Be that as it may, there are probably only 5,000 people responding BER-lin when a million visitors a year to Amish country say Ber-LIN.  When do you give it up?

It’s quite understandable that brand new local newscasters twist their tongues around some local names.  We know the next time they have to say Tuscarawas, someone will have set them straight.   I actually applaud the newbie who goes straight for the French in Portage.

And, speaking of those sadly mangled French and Indian names, I had the wonderful idea to look up my Harry Potter house in Versailles, Indiana on Google Earth and get a screen shot to show you.  A little house of turrets.  Maybe they made it of an old silo.

I was there only ten years ago.  And now it’s the Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning and Development Offices.  At least they built a reasonably non-governmental looking building.

15 comments:

  1. We have a Belfountain in Ontario....lots of different ways to pronounce it...whatever gets you there.

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  2. Our little village is called Aby - it has the shortest place name in Lincolnshire and it is the first in alphabetical listings for the county. Such a short name, so much confusion on pronunciation! (Drop the "H" in hay then add on "B" and you've got it.
    PS How much would you charge to check my 'essays' for me? ;)

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    1. It's all OK over there, just not here!

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  3. Ah, you should read the book "Eats Shoots and Leaves" !!

    We suffer here because those who recorded the place names for the (English)government Ordnance Survey didn't speak Welsh, as a rule....so Welsh place names got written down with English spelling ....we're gradually getting them back!!

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    1. Hysterical book. I actually received it from someone who commiserates with me. Getting the real names back is good.

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  4. I have a very unusual surname... you should see how that gets mangled!
    Jane x
    PS I've never been there with Me!

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  5. We have that same problem here in Minnesota. There are dozens of place names derived from various languages. It's only a big deal when they are mispronounced on the national TV. I cringe when I hear Bemidji (buh-midge-ee) pronounced bem-idge-eye!
    Fortunately, most news rooms have a place name directory with the proper pronounciation.

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  6. They tore down the cool house, and built a brick boring house "Building a better community"? Something is wrong there.

    Coming from the Midwest, communities with a world of different names were common. I mispronounced them all.

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  7. It is apostrophes that get my back up. Adding them in, leaving them out. At random.
    And yes, there is a name of six that gets mangled over here as well.

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  8. So in the U.K. we have place names from the French - The Belvoir valley - Beevor; Beaulieu - Bewley....and if anyone can tell me why Happisburgh should be pronounced as Haisbro' I should be most grateful.

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  9. I'm awful with pronunciation but even I can spot abuse with place names. Much of it goes back to the local accent. Many New Englander and British put 'r' on the ends of names like "Cubar".
    While in Arkansas (why ar-kin-saw ?) I really enjoyed the town names. They have a town named Eros. They pronounce it ee-ross.
    If you are not British you might not know how to pronounce Lisle.

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  10. Dear Lord, do not come South we would cause you to despair over our names not to mention how we say them. My camera is a Canon Rebel T2i. Recently got it at Costco-or rather Joe saw I longed for it and would never buy it while CC is in school and he bought it for me.

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  11. Bell-fountain: what a beautiful sounding name. Does it like up to it though?

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  12. Wandering apostrophes drive me nuts!
    Spelling and grammar mistakes too, although not so much because I probably make a few of those myself.

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  13. My daughter married a man with the last name, Boutilier. Boo-til-ee-ay. Beautiful French name. Everyone around us (and remember, we live in Canada where one of the official languages is French) pronounces it Boot-i-leer. It makes my Paris-educated husby cringe. But I'm afraid I am guilty of mispronunciation. Often. I thought Pseudo was sway-do. And who would name their little girl Shlow (Chloe)? But punctuation is a pet peeve. (Let's eat, Grampa! Let's Eat Grampa! Punctuation saves lives!)

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