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Articles tagged with: pronunciation


Talkin’ Yat

Talkin’ Yat

Every city has its unique pronunciations of street names, like Houston (called HOW ston) in NYC. Locals everywhere love to watch tourists trip over the strange place names that roll off the tongues of the natives. Oddly, much of the confusion in New Orleans comes when you TRY to pronounce names with a French flair. It works fairly well in some cases, like Vieux Carre (Voo kah RAY,) the Old Square or French Quarter and Treme and Dauphine.

But unlike the city in France, Chartres is pronounced "CHAR ters."
Carondelet is pronounced "Car ON duh LET," not "Car on duh LAY."
Burgundy is "Bur GUN dee."
Calliope is "KA lee ope."
Conti is "CON tye."
And I swear I'm not lying, in Algiers across the river, Socrates is "SO krayts."

As for the city itself, most residents say "New OR luhns" or possibly "New OR lee uhns," but never "N'AW lins" unless they're kidding around. It's only pronounced "Or LEENS" if you're rhyming in a song or if you're talking about the street or the parish (county, to us.)

Occasionally a syllable gets lost in the local dialect, like "MET ry" for Metairie or "VET ruhns" for Veterans Blvd. While we're talking about shortening things, CBD is the Central Business District – across Canal from the Quarter. Oh, and that median in the middle? It's a neutral ground, which goes all the way back to when the tiny strip of grass down Canal St. was deemed a safe meeting place for the French Quarter Catholic Creoles on one side and the Protestants on the other to conduct business without conflict.

Here's your lagniappe (LAN yap) or the little something extra you often get in the city:

A couple of food tips for ya. You'll hear muffaletta (the yummy sandwich) pronounced "Muf ah LOT a" instead of "Muf ah LET a," and if you ask for pralines, please don't say "PRAY leens." It's fingernails on a chalkboard. "PRAH leens," "dooah lihn," please! (That's as close as I can get to darlin; it's tricky - not dah-lin or daw-lin exactly.) You'll want to order your po-boy "dressed" which means lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise (sometimes pronounced MY nez.) And if anyone asks if you want "ersters," say yes if you like oysters. : )

It's fun to try to keep up with all the variations, but don't get wigged out about it. There's always someone to help you out, and people are very friendly. Don't be surprised if a total stranger asks, "How's ya mama?" as a way of saying hello. It's part of the local charm.

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Names from the Horse’s Mouth

Don't you HATE stumbling over the pronunciation of authors' names? And then you finally see a pronunciation guide and you make an effort to commit the correct pronunciation to memory - only to see ANOTHER website later that shows a totally DIFFERENT "correct" pronunciation. Raise your hand if you've heard "Elie Wiesel" pronounced at least three different ways by fairly knowledgeable people. Wanna take a stab at Louis Sachar? And which of you brave hearts wants to try Justine Larbalestier?

If you've been in this boat with me, here's a life raft you'll like - a site with authors pronouncing their own names! Not only will you learn the correct pronunciation for tricky ones like Neil Gaiman (Gay-man or Guy-man?), you'll also learn some cool facts from the horses' mouths - like Walter Dean Anderson's adoption of the name Dean to honor the foster family he grew up in, and Maya Angelou's becoming Maya when her brother couldn't say Marguerite and thought ancient Mayan tribes were cool. Interesting Anderson facts: Laurie Halse Anderson's middle name rhymes with "waltz," and M.T. Anderson uses Tobin in "real life" but claims he liked the ability to disavow authorship of any book people happened not to like - besides which a book called Thirsty by a guy named M.T. (empty) was too much fun to walk away from. If you're a poetry fan, you'll learn that Naomi Shihab Nye's middle name is her maiden name, which means "shooting star" in Arabic, and Sherman Alexie will answer folks who think his name doesn't sound Native American.

So have fun. Names are important to "word people." It drives me crazy if I ask a student how to pronounce his name and he says, "Either way is fine." Either way is NOT fine. I pride myself on working hard to get it right, which can be challenging in a high tech town with people from all over the world - and I do love my Dahagham's and Dasarathy's and Adeshiyan's. I mangled Heidi Siegrest's once, but I apologized profusely, and i think she forgave me ("sea", not "sigh.")

If I can just learn Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, I'll be happy. Thank God for abbreviations.

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Posted in April, 2010