Pronunciating Stuff

The professional FOX-TV sports announcer was setting the scene at the U.S. Open the other day:
“We are looking over magnificent Chambers Bay golf course—alongside the waters of Puget Sound.” He pronounced the word ‘Sound’ perfectly. But ‘Puget’ was not so good. Instead of PYOO-jit, it was more like ‘Pug It.”
Fortunately, the announcer did not attempt ‘Juan de Fuca.’

There is no surer way for an out-of-towner to engender a Pug It Sound person’s ire than to screw up the name of a local place. You may be a nice person and a humanitarian, but if you call Sequim ‘SEE-kwim’—you might as well pack up.

In the revolving door of local TV news reporters arriving from other markets, eager newbie’s are immediately exposed as frauds if they pronounce ‘geoduck’ based on the way it looks.

It behooves every new arrival to learn how to correctly pronounce every place—from Aberdeen (Gray Harbor County) to Zumwalt (Garfield County). After all, it’s the places in between A and Z that will trip you up.

First of all, a rookie Washingtonian should know we have lots of towns and places with tribal names—and they are pronounced much differently than they might appear at first blush. Words like Wahkiakum, Kittitas, Copalis and Asotin are just waiting to trip someone up.

People who know how to pronounce Skagway, Alaska will think they’ve got Skagit figured out when they first see it—but they’d be wrong.

And when people discover how ‘Pysht’ is pronounced, they sometimes get… well… perturbed.

Yet some names—notably Humptulips—are pronounced exactly the way they look. Unfortunately.
My cousin from Chicago has a penchant for mispronouncing virtually every Washington state name. Puyallup is ‘PEW-al-loop’ to him. Nooksak is ‘NUKES-ack.’ And Guemes is ‘GYOOMES.’ He even pronounces Butte as Butt.

At first, I thought it was all just a regional misunderstanding. But when he called
Bothell “Bought Hell”, I knew I was being played.

Just when a person thinks they’ve got the tribal names figured out—here comes an army of French names like Beaux Arts, Pend Oreille and Roche Harbor. The Chicago cousin insists on pronouncing that last one as Roach Harbor. If he ever comes out to visit, I’ll try to book him in a Roche Motel.

Even French names are not always pronounced like French names. The city of Des Moines is a case in point—pronounced one way in Ohio, another here. At least you can count on Kent to be consistent.

Bryn Mawr is Welsh, but it’s still a head-scratcher for some. It means ‘Big Hill.’ But I guess someone figured why name a place built on a big hill “Big Hill’—when you can call it something more complicated?
There’s a Lincoln county town named Sprague—which I once heard a local news guy call SPRAY-GOO—rhyming it with a brand name for spaghetti sauce. I wonder how he pronounces Prague?

That’s why I like places that tell you exactly what they are—easy to pronounce, no guesswork required. There’s no pretense to Washington towns like Gravel Pit, State Hospital, Apple Yard—and, my favorite, Log Dump.
Gotta love Bacon, Washington too. Who doesn’t?
The small towns of Climax, Relief and Joy would get a lot more state visitors if they traded on their names.

And wouldn’t it be easy to make a quick stop at the Chelan county town of Brief?
Echo Lake is a nice place. Nice place. Nice place.
Our state has a spot called Ben Hur that seems ripe for summer chariot races.
And there’s a place called Cashup just aching for a hot dog stand.
Hempfest ought to think about moving their operations to the Whitman county town of Stoner. Assuming Potlatch isn’t available.

There’s a town in eastern Washington called Plain. So why no Peanut?
And wouldn’t Moclips be a fine name for a haircut place?
I’m afraid I’ve gone off on a tangent—which reminds me there’s a town named Tangent in Oregon. I went off there one time during a car trip.

At least my Chicago cousin does pronounce Skamania correctly. But he defines the word as “a period of euphoria or delusions about ska.”

I really hope he doesn’t move out here.