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20 Places No One Pronounces Correctly

Arkansas

It is often pronounced "are-Kansas". However, “ar-kan-saw” is its true pronunciation. The name is from a French butchery of a Siouan pronunciation used to describe the Quapaw. Kansas, on the other hand, is named after the Kansa tribe, who were most likely related to the Quapaw. That state retained its English naming and pronunciation. Therefore, the two states are pronounced differently.

While the names might have a similar origin, the two words do not derive from each other (contrary to a popular argument put forth by Kansas residents). After an argument between two of the state's senators on the proper pronunciation, the state general assembly passed a resolution in 1881 that officially codified the pronunciation and declaring the final "s" to be silent. Considering that the state was first organized as the "Territory of Arkansaw," it seems like a no-brainer. 

Worcester, MA

"Worcester" is just "WOO-ster." There is no “ch” sound present here.

Colombia

This South American nation is frequently misspelled (and pronounced) as "Columbia." It’s actually pronounced how it’s spelled, with an “o.” It’s also named after Christopher Columbus, and he would have pronounced his name in Italian (Colombo) on his own stomping grounds. So actually, this country got his name more right than we did.

Kissimmee, FL

Did you think it was KISS-i-me? That would be adorable, but it's not the case. This city shares its name with a nearby river, which derives its name from "Cacema” or "long waters." Unfortunately, the Ais and Calusa peoples, whose language named much of the area, were wiped out by Europeans. Definite answers to the area's linguistic questions are lost.

Spokane, WA

It's pronounced "Spo-CAN," not "Spo-CANE." When trying to pronounce this one, consider the lyrics to Warren Zevon's tale of defrauding housewives in "Mr. Bad Example": "I loaded up their furniture and took it to Spokane/And auctioned off every last naugahyde divan"

(image via Flickr)

Budapest, Hungary

If you want to pronounce Hungary's capital the way the Hungarian's do, pretend you're Sean Connery: "Boo-da-PESHT." While you can find plenty of people duking it out in travel forums as to whether or not to bother with local pronunciation, it seems like a little respect never hurt anyone.

Iraq

Since it figures prominently in the news, you'd think everyone would know how to pronounce it, but no. It's "ee-rock," not "eye-rack." I don’t know what an eye rack would even be, but it doesn't sound pleasant. Let’s try to remove that thought from our brains by pronouncing this one correctly next time. 

River Thames, U.K.

People pronounce this river all sorts of ways. "Thames" and “Thayms” seem to be crowd favorites, but it's actually pronounced "Tems." We think the name came from the Brittonic Celtic name for the river, "Tamesas." However, the language that named it was spoken around 600 or 700 A.D., so the details are a little fuzzy.

Ibiza, Spain

It's not pronounced "i-BEE-zuh." It's more of an "ee-BEE-thuh." Of course, the trickiness doesn't end there. "Ibiza" is the Spanish name for the city. In 1986, they actually voted to go back to the Catalan name, "Eivissa," which is pronounced more like "ee-VEE-thuh.” Somehow the fact that a whole city changed its name didn't really catch on.

Versailles, France

This French palace became a symbol of flaunted wealth under Louis the Sun King, shortly before the French Revolution. World War II buffs know that it's pronounced "ver-SYE," as opposed to "ver-SAILS.” But, there's a catch! There are about eight U.S. states that have towns named Versailles, and most of those actually are pronounced "Ver-SAILS."

Ypsilanti, MI

This is one of those places where people don't always even know where to start. It's "IP-sill-ANN-tee." The locals also call it "Ypsi" for short.

(image via Flickr)

Bangkok

From a young age, you learn to sound out words as they look on the page. As you get older, you learn that is not always the correct way to do things. Bangkok is one of those cases. Most people pronounce it “Bang-kok”, but it actually has more of an h sound mixed in. The correct pronunciation is “Bahng-kok.”

Dubai

It’s easy to try and use English pronunciations to pronounce foreign locations. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of mispronunciations! Dubai is a clear example of this. English rules lead us to pronounce it “Du-bye”, but it’s actually pronounced “Du-Bay.”

Phuket

The English language has some weird grammar rules! One of those is that “ph” is pronounced as an “f.” This is another place we get ourselves in trouble. We start pronouncing places “Fu-ket” instead of “Poo-get.”

Montreal

This one is so close to us and we share a language with part of the country, but we still butcher this city's name! What we like to refer to as “Mon-tree-all” is actually pronounced “Mun-tree-al.”

Qatar

Qs are tricky little letters. We’re never quite sure if they are supposed to sound like “ka” or like “ku.” A clear example is the country of Qatar. Many pronounce it “Kah-tar,” but it’s actually “Kuh-ter.” 

Lafayette, CA

If you know someone from here, you’ve probably been corrected and now pronounce this city correctly. If you don’t, you’re most likely still pronouncing it “Lah-fey-et.” Try “Lah-fee-yet” next time.

(image via Flickr)

Niger

This name looks simple, but its pronunciation is fairly unique. Some may try to pronounce it “Nye-jer,” but its correct pronunciation is “Nee-zhair.”

(image via Flickr)

Mazatzal, AZ

This mountain range has its own pronunciation that the locals use, so don’t blame yourself for pronouncing this one “Ma-ta-zel.” But, now you know that it’s preferable pronunciation is “Ma-zaht-zahl.”

(image via Flickr)

Louisville, KY

This one just isn’t fair. It isn’t pronounced how it’s spelled—and that’s obvious to even those of us who mistakenly say “Looey-ville.” I guess it’s best that we all try to do what’s right and pronounce this city “Loo-a-vull,” even if it goes against everything we think we know about pronunciation.