Spokane, Washington
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25 Most Mispronounced Places Across America

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Spokane, Washington
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Name Game

The United States of America has a diverse and complicated history. This manifests in the diverse and complicated names of places across the continent, which range in origin from French and Spanish to Choctaw and Algonquian. Since all those languages can get tricky to navigate for the average native-English speaker, we've compiled the following list of commonly mispronounced place names to help clarify your American geographic vocabulary.


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Houston Street, New York City
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Houston Street, New York City

Confusingly, this major street in Lower Manhattan is not pronounced "HUE-stun" like the major Texan city. In fact, it sounds more like it's spelled, with the first syllable pronounced "HOW" or "HOUSE," like the shelter people live in. This disparity is due to the fact that the street and the city were named in honor of different men, William Houstoun and Sam Houston respectively.


Related: 55 Free or Cheap Things to Do in New York City

Carnegie Hall, New York City
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Carnegie Hall, New York City

Even New Yorkers can be split on how to pronounce this world-renowned concert venue in midtown Manhattan, named after steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The commonly assumed way is "CAR-nuh-gee" hall, but the more formally correct, Scottish way would be "car-NAY-gee." But, according to one letter to the New York Times editor, "only classical music radio commentators get it right."


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Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, California
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Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, California

Famed for its luxe shopping and retail attractions, this Beverly Hills thoroughfare isn't pronounced like the cowboy sports events commonly are, with emphasis on the first syllable, "ROW-dee-o." Instead, emphasis goes on the second syllable as in the Spanish pronunciation, "row-DAY-o."


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Yosemite National Park
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Yosemite National Park, California

President Donald Trump isn't the only one who's stumbled in pronouncing this scenic valley in the Sierra Nevadas. Since not everyone has learned from visiting or watching Yosemite Sam cartoons, the correct way to say it is not "Yo-se-MIGHT," as the spelling might imply, but "Yo-sem-mit-TEE," with four syllables and a long "e" ending.


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Mackinac Island, Michigan
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Mackinac Island, Michigan

This resort island between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas derives its name from a shortening of the word for "Big Turtle" from the Native American Ojibwe language. Contrary to how it's spelled, the correct pronunciation has no hard "c" sound at the end, but rather an "aw" sound, as in "MACK-in-awe."

New Orleans
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New Orleans, Louisiana

For as popular a destination as this Gulf Coast city is, there's still quite a bit of confusion over how to pronounce its name. The uninitiated will usually emphasize the long "e" at the end—"New Or-LEENZ"—while those trying too hard to fit in will opt for the combined "NAW-linz." The correct way, however, is using all three syllables, minus the long e, with emphasis in the middle: "New OR-linz."


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Tchoupitoulas Street
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Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Named for a Native American tribe once residing in the area, Tchoupitoulas is perhaps the most tongue-tying street name in a city full of them. The trickiest things to remember in pronouncing it are to ignore the "t" at the start and say the "i" in the middle like an "a," as in, "chop-ah-TOO-lis."

Tchoutacabouffa River
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Tchoutacabouffa River, Mississippi

Knowing Tchoupitoulas Street will give you some clue in pronouncing the name of this Gulf Coast river north of Biloxi, also based on a French spelling of a Native American name. Again, the "t" is silent in the first syllable, and every other one sounds like it ends with an "h," so it sounds like "CHOO-tah-kah-BUH-fuh." Locals just as often cut off the last syllable, making it "CHOO-tah-kah-BUFF."


Related: Travel Back in Time in These Historical Towns Across America

Massachusetts State Route 193
Massachusetts State Route 193 by Doug Kerr (CC BY-SA)

Lake Chaubunagungamaug, Massachusetts

With the longest name of any geographic feature in the US, this lake near the Massachusetts-Connecticut border is sure to trip up most who endeavor to pronounce it. Though unwieldy, it sounds just like it's spelled, and the same goes for its full Algonquian name, Lake Char­gogg­a­gogg­man­chaugg­a­gogg­chau­bun­a­gung­a­maugg. However, when you're not showing off your memorization skills, the more colloquial Lake Webster will also work just fine.


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La Jolla, California
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La Jolla, California

Owing to California's Hispanic heritage, this San Diego-area seaside town is pronounced completely different from how it might look in English. The "La" is as you'd expect, but, as in other Spanish words, the "j" serves as a phonetic "h" and the double "l"s as a "y," making the correct pronunciation, "La-HOY-a."


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Louisville, Kentucky
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Louisville, Kentucky

Kentucky's largest city isn't pronounced like the names Lewis or Louie, but with a slightly lazier-sounding "uh" at the end. The same sound recurs in "ville," like the final syllable in "interval" rather than the first in "village." So altogether, the correct local pronunciation comes to "LOO-uh-vuhl."

Willamette Valley, Oregon
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Willamette Valley, Oregon

It seems only natural to emphasize the suffix "-ette" when saying the name of Oregon's most fertile and populous region. Instead, however, the emphasis goes on the "lam" in the middle, making a surprisingly noticeable difference between the mistaken "wil-lam-ET" and the correct "wil-LAM-et."

Worcester Common, Worcester, Massachusetts
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Worcester, Massachusetts

Like its namesake in England, this central Massachusetts town is a lot simpler, if more confusing, to pronounce than it looks. To get it right, you'll need to disregard the first "r" (as New Englanders often do) and condense the first part of the word into one syllable: "WUSS-ter."


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Old town Dauphin, Joachim street, Mobile, Alabama
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Mobile, Alabama

You don't say the name of this Gulf Coast town like the adjective for being on the move (MO-bul) or the British slang for cellphone (MO-byle). Instead, use a long "o" in the first syllable and long "e" in the second, as in the name of the tribe that once resided here: "Mo-beel."

Spokane, Washington
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Spokane, Washington

Don't let that "e" at the end of Spokane fool you. Also named for a Native American tribe, this city in eastern Washington state is pronounced, "Spo-KAN," with a "can" rather than a "cane" at the end, as the spelling would suggest.

Puyallup, Washington
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Puyallup, Washington

From a tribe name meaning "the generous people," you're almost guaranteed to get this Puget Sound-area town's name wrong on the first attempt. The trickiest part is the first syllable, which is pronounced "pew," like the noise a toy gun might make. Altogether, it sounds like "Pyu-al-lup."

Boerne, Texas
Boerne, Texas by Einahpets32 (Stephanie) (CC BY-NC-ND)

Boerne, Texas

With a population under 20,000 in the Texas Hill Country outside San Antonio, non-locals are likely to flub pronouncing the town name of Boerne. It's actually an Anglicized spelling in honor of the German author Karl Ludwig Börne, and is pronounced not as "born" or "born-a," but "BURN-ee," as in the name Bernie. 

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
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Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

This Upper Peninsula town was the first European settlement of the U.S. Midwest, founded by a French Catholic missionary and developed by fur traders. The name means "the rapids of St. Mary," and is pronounced "soo-saint-mah-ree," not "salt-saint" or "soo-stee."

Sequim, Washington
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Sequim, Washington

Guaranteed to trip up first timers, you can essentially ignore the "e" when saying the name of this town on the sunnier side of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula—as in "Squim" or "skwim," not "see-" or "seh-quim."

Schenectady, New York
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Schenectady, New York

Dutch colonists named this upstate city for the Mohawk word "Skahnéhtati," meaning "beyond the pines," which was actually the Mohawks' name for what is now the Albany area. Regardless, it's pronounced with a hard "-ck" sound in the first syllable then otherwise phonetically, like "ske-neck-ta-dee."


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Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
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Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

You can't overlook that ending "e" in Barre when pronouncing this college town. The name was originally in honor of British parliamentary supporters John Wilkes and Isaac Barré, and is pronounced alternately "wilks-BEAR-ee" or "wilks-BEAR-ah."

Lake Kissimmee, Florida
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Kissimmee, Florida

The name of this central Florida city comes from the Kissimmee River, but experts debate which Native American language and meaning the word "Kissimmee" itself derives from. Anyway, it's pronounced not with a kiss and emphasis on the "sim," as in "ka-SIM-mee."

Boca Raton, Florida
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Boca Raton, Florida

The Boca here is easy, but don't say the second word like "ra-TUN" or "RAT-tun." This ritzy Palm Beach city is actually pronounced "bo-cah ra-TONE." Derived from the earlier Spanish name for the bay, it's popularly mistaken to mean "rat's mouth," but the more accurate translation would be "mouth of mouse."


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Helena, Montana
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Helena, Montana

When Helena is a woman's name, it's usually safe to pronounce it "hel-LAY-na," or maybe "hel-LEE-na." When it's the state capital of Montana, however, it's "HEL-a-na." Interestingly, the pronunciation was once a source of heated debate between settlers originating from the North, who said it after Helena Township in Minnesota, and the former Confederacy, who preferred it like the Mississippi River town of Helena in Arkansas. In this case, the South won.

Norfolk, Virginia
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Norfolk, Virginia

There are a few accepted ways to pronounce the name of this port city, known as home to the world's largest naval base. "NAW-fuhk," "NOR-fuhk," and "NAW-fik" are all fine. But you don't want to be caught dead emphasizing a hard "l" in the second syllable ("nor-foLk"), as one locally specific meme goes to demonstrate.


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