Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Regional Pronunciations

When I lived in Nevada, we could always tell the "outsiders" (otherwise known as tourists, newbies, or transplants) from the "insiders" (otherwise known as locals or natives to the area) by the way they pronounced Nevada and Genoa.

Outsider pronunciations:
Nevada = Second syllable rhymes with "ha ha". Broken up like Nev-ah-dah. (Politicians, CNN and other national news stations pronounced it this way and it made the locals crazy enough to create a snobby bumper sticker telling others how to properly pronounce the state's name.  Check out this news article and video on the subject.  The video will blow you away.)
Genoa = Emphasis on first syllable or "Gen".

Insider pronunciations:
Nevada = Second syllable rhymes with "pad". Broken up like Ne-vad-uh.
Genoa = Emphasis on second syllable or "no".

I'm finding similar regional pronunciations in Arizona.

Outsider pronunciations:
Gila = Ge-lah.
Cholla = Choll-ah.
Saguaro = Sa-guar-oh.
Ocotillo = Ah-ko-till-oh.
Javelina = Jav-vel-leen-a.
Tempe = Emphasis on first syllable or "Tem".
Prescott = "Press" and "Scott".

Insider pronunciations:
(Note that many of the words are just Spanish, so if you are a native speaker of Spanish or took Spanish in school, you're ahead of the game.  The Native American words are a little more difficult.)
Gila = Hee-lah.
Cholla = Choy-uh.
Saguaro = Sa-wah-row.
Ocotillo = Oh-cat-tee-yo.
Javelina = Have-a-leen-ah.
Tempe = Emphasis on second syllable or "pe".
Prescott = Sounds more like "biscuit" with a "pr" at the beginning instead of a "b".

That old west museum we visited a few weeks ago had recordings that you could listen to regarding the displays. We were expecting to be educated on the wildlife behaviors in the area, but instead received a recorded lecture on how to properly pronounce "Gila Monster" and "saguaro".  I still slip up from time to time and get corrected. 

I've always wondered, what makes a person a local anyway?  Is there a certain number of years one has to live somewhere to be called an "insider"?  Or is it more of a behavioral thing?  I know there are laws regarding residency, but I'm just talking about at what point does the attitude of the general public change toward you?

When the farrier was here and we had the rattlesnake incident, my husband said something to him along the lines of, "When I lived in California..."  I cringed, because Californians have offended so many people in so many different states that people respond to "California" like it's a dirty word.  I thought, "Oh crap.  There goes my farrier.  I'll never see him again, because my husband let the cat out of the bag that we were Californian's a long, long time ago."

Fortunately, the farrier did allow me to schedule a second appointment, so perhaps with the downturn in the economy, the populations within the states are getting watered down enough that tolerance is on the rise.  I know that if we mentioned California to any service worker in Nevada at the time we moved there 20-some years ago, we would not receive any service.  I had to learn the local lingo, dress code, behaviors, and attitudes in a hurry if I wanted anyone to make repairs to our home.  Eventually, even though I myself was originally from California, I began seeing how annoying these transplants could be and wondered if I was that obnoxious when I first moved across state lines.

Some days I do feel that I must stick out like a sore thumb here in Arizona.  I've had a few people make snide remarks to me when I had no idea what I did or said to offend them, and one man got threatening toward us when we got in his way.  I already know that some locals have short fuses because of what they call "the snowbirds", or people who live in cold climates who migrate to the Phoenix area every winter to escape the snow.  According to some, the population in my town is only at 40% of its maximum size right now, and once it starts cooling down, the streets and stores will be clogged with people.

Intolerance is usually associated with racism, and sometimes sexism, but there is also regionalism.  It exists.  Hence the old saying, "When in Rome, do what the Romans do."  I'm trying.  It seems that living through a summer here does earn you some respect.  I've met a few natives of the Phoenix area who admit that they are ready to move away because they're not willing to suffer through another summer.  There seems to be a lot of shifting and shuffling going on as people search out better climates, more affordable housing, jobs, and family.  I suspect that soon the only real "natives" will be Native Americans, who I'm sure have a grand old time making fun of everyone else.

I wonder if when every time my horses whinny and one of the local horses down the road whinnies back, it is really saying, "You pronounced that wrong, you dumb ass.  Go back where you belong."


lytha said...

i loved this post! i was happy to realize lately that i can tell when newscasters mispronounce local towns' names. i felt so integrated!!

thanks for the pronunciation help - i had no freakin' idea. but i did not mis-pronounce the state itself!

there are like three ways to say new orleans. the outsider way, the visitor way, and the local way.

the one that stands out to me is when people pronounce oregon with three syllables.

and germans have their very own word for california, but all other states, they call by the english names. why? no idea.

redhorse said...

The people who live in the northern mountains of Arizona call anything south of Prescott the valley, and they call Flagstaff "Flag."

Dreaming said...

Thanks for the education. I knew about some of the pronunciations as I've had family in Arizona.
Your comment about knowing when you're local reminded me of a practice in the south. We lived in a small town and homes were referred to by the name of the owner.... the previous owner or the deceased owner - not the current owner. So, we joked that you didn't become a part of the town until you had moved on!

Cut-N-Jump said...

Don't forget Ajo...

Wait til the snowbirds hit town. Usually around September they start trickling in. By tax day April 15th- they are all gone!

You won't be able to get around town. They average 10-20mph UNDER the speed limit and across all lanes. They make a left from the far right lane & vis-versa with no signals and without looking.

They clog the grocery stores and restaurants, complaining about the lines, having to wait and the prices and are committed to seriously believing we could never survive here without them. Did you know we all hibernate during the summer? It's not a bad idea really...

Cheryl Ann said...

People that live in the mountains call everybody else "flatlanders". And, we here in the desert, call the tourists "snowbirds" because they only come here during the winter months. They all fly away during the summer~

Reddunappy said...

LOL Funny!
Well I pronounce most of those words right! LOL
We have a lot of Native American names around here.
For instance, our town is Washougal.
Can you say that one without help! LOL The name means "rushing water" in Native american.

Mikey said...

5 year small town rule to be considered a local, in my experience. Especially here in AZ. Locals need 5 yrs to see that you're serious about staying and you can hack it, plus they use that time to find out all your secrets. Best to just give them something they can talk about. If you don't, and are a mystery, there's no trusting you. Again, just my personal experience. The good part is you gather their secrets too, and develop a bond that becomes a family.

Snowbirds, hmm. Yes, you will see the difference in traffic for sure. In Wickenburg people are welcoming to the snowbirds, simply for the amount they contribute to the economy.

The CA thing. Oh yes. In MT, I learned to never say I was from CA. People there very much frowned on Californians. I don't know if it's still this way or not, but used to be.

You'll be a local in no time at all :)

K.K. said...

I've found its just safer for me to stay in the Midwest where people don't make fun of me for saying things funny...When I went to California a month ago I was eaten alive for the way I said just about everything. Apparently I talk like they do in the movie Fargo. I don't...but I decided to have fun with it and talk like they do in the movie. Ya sure, ya betcha!
But when North Dakota makes the national news for whatever reason we too pick on people for prononciation for example Minot is pronounced like "my-not" not "minnow-t". Noone is really safe anywhere I suppose

Lauren said...

Believe me, snow birds really suck. I'm from the FL west coast (NOT the inner state or east coast!) but I grew up in Charleston, SC. So we hate snow birds. I cannot count the amount of times I've almost been bloody killed by one of them GOING THE WRONG DIRECTION. Or, when they just stop in the middle of the highway. Really? I also love it when you think the car is driving itself until you see this little bit of white hair, the little old lady can't even see over the wheel. Ugh. Or when they're rude to you because you happened to have almost died when they just blind sided you because they couldn't be bothered to go when they had about 3 MILES to turn on *bangs head*
And now? I live in CA in the mountains and have to deal with the Tahoe and Apple Hill dolts. Shoot me now.

lilyrose said...

Fun post! It kills me when people say Prescott in stead of Preskit...even though it looks like it should be pronounced the way it is spelled.
I have quite a few friends that were born and raised here...they tell me if you stick it out for ten years you are almost considered a native. Over two thirds of the transplants here never make it to the five year mark!
The snowbirds will grate on your nerves. I've discovered the best time to grocery shop during the winter months is after dark-they don't like to drive at night. :)
Some of the old folks ARE really nice though. Oh, and you are going to LOVE the lines at the gas pumps here during the winter. ugh. I find the easiest way to deal with the grumpy ones is just SMILE at them!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I'm getting the impression that most snowbirds are over the age of 65? I know the older we get, the more difficult it is to tolerate extreme temperatures. When I worked in Tahoe, I hated summers because of all the people coming up the mountain to cool off. I could get to work faster in a blizzard slipping on ice the whole way than I could in the summer months on a dry road stuck behind an R.V. going 30 mph under the speed limit. I'd love to know why most transplants into AZ don't last more than 5 years. If it's that their wells run dry, I understand. It's got to be something more than just the heat driving them away. Maybe having to look at the ground every time you take a step may have something to do with it. Hee hee.

achieve1dream said...

Ha! I pronounce Gila Monster right, but that's about it LOL! I know that Nevada is supposed to be pronounced Ne-vad-a, but I just can't do it lol. I still say Ne-va-da lol. Which is weird since there's a Nevada around here and it's pronounced the correct way. So I pronounce our Nevada right, but not the state. Dumb, I know. :D You know what's weird is when I was in Nevada (the state) I never noticed anyone pronouncing anything different lol. I probably just didn't interact much with the locals since I was only there a week. :)