PDA

View Full Version : Pronouncing "Los Angeles" with a hard G sound.


Interrobang!?
06-16-2004, 01:00 PM
I was watching Hitchcock's Saboteur the other day, and noticed that "Los Angeles" was pronounced two different ways throughout the film:

* The main character, when asked where he's from, always says that he came from "loss ANgle-ese."

* Radio bulletins that discuss the sabotage he's suspected of committing say it took place in "loss ANNjel-ess."

Now I realize that Hitchcock was no documentarian, but I've heard "Los Angeles" pronounced with a hard G before. I always figured it was an affectation or done for humorous effect, but in this movie it's clearly neither.

So what's the straight dope: Was "angle-ese" or "angle-ess" a common alternate pronounciation at one time? You don't hear it these days -- everyone I know uses the soft g sound. Was there a class or regional distinction in who used which pronounciation? Was it arbitrary, with the soft-g use winning out over time?

Fear Itself
06-16-2004, 01:50 PM
Sam Yorty was the mayor of Los Angeles from 1961 to 1973, and he pronounced it with the hard G ("loss ANgle-ese"). No doubt that helped to popularize it as alternative pronunciation.

Interrobang!?
06-16-2004, 03:42 PM
But Saboteur came out in 1942, so the pronunciation was apparently well-known long before the '60s.

Has the hard G pronunciation died out? Or are there still people who use it?

Faldage
06-16-2004, 03:48 PM
The Spanish pronunciation is neither, but slightly closer to the hard G pronunciation. Something like Ahng-hay-layss.

BobT
06-16-2004, 03:49 PM
As a native of L.A., I can say that Sam Yorty was the last public figure who ever used the hard G pronunciation and he was ridiculed for it. We all thought he spoke funny.

Tapioca Dextrin
06-16-2004, 04:10 PM
The hard G was also used in the The Grifters (http://imdb.com/title/tt0099703/). Made in 1990, set in the 80's, but a very 50's feel.

TJdude825
06-16-2004, 04:39 PM
The Spanish pronunciation is a soft G, which sounds like an english H. Ahn-hell-ess. I've always heard it either the correct Spanish way or with a soft English G (An-jell-ess) and I live in the area.

BobT
06-16-2004, 04:47 PM
The hard G was also used in the The Grifters (http://imdb.com/title/tt0099703/). Made in 1990, set in the 80's, but a very 50's feel.

I don't think any of the principal characters in that film were supposed to be natives of L.A.

vd
06-16-2004, 04:56 PM
I've heard the "loss ANgle-ese" variant used by some British actors. Is it common there?

I also seem to recall Russell Crowe use it in "L.A. Confidential". I thought it was a flaw in his accent, but I guess it could just be more common in the period of the movie.

pepperlandgirl
06-16-2004, 07:00 PM
Wes on Angel always used the hard G, but I think that's for two reasons. 1) He had a British accent and 2) He over-enunciated it to differentiate between Angelus (Angel's evil alter-ego) and the city they lived in....

It sounds funny to me too.

Doug Bowe
06-16-2004, 07:49 PM
In the Thames documentary "Hollywood" you'll note that Adela Rogers St. John used the hard G pronunciation in her interview segments and didn't seem to think twice about it. She worked for the L.A. Herald. She retired from newspaper work in 1948, so the hard G seems to have been around and (at least during her time) acceptable.

PigArcher
06-16-2004, 08:13 PM
The Spanish pronunciation is a soft G, which sounds like an english H. Ahn-hell-ess. I've always heard it either the correct Spanish way or with a soft English G (An-jell-ess) and I live in the area.
Isn't that more of a regional thing? I was watching El Crimen de Padre Amaro the other night and whenever a character talked about "the angels" they pronounced it an-ja-les.

Lush Jinks
06-16-2004, 10:54 PM
Faldage pretty much gave the best answer in saying that the correct pronunciation isn't quite either.

Los Angeles, of course, is a Spanish name (meaning "the angels"). In Spanish when a "g" is followed by an "e" or an "i", it makes a sound that, while actually similar to an English "h" as others have commented, is not quite the same thing. It's a scratchy guttural sound pronounced in the throat, a sound commonly found in and associated with Hebrew among many other languages (I don't know anything about Hebrew, but it's the sound I always associate with it), but not found in English. It's also the sound the Spanish "j" makes, an english "h" is just the closest approximation.

Sometimes the throatiness of it is more or less pronounced, depending on the person and the region, and it will even vary every time it's spoken. But yes, if it's throaty enough it tends to resemble a hard "g" more than an "h" at all.

There's a GREAT example of Los Angeles being pronounced the "true" way, in the song "Camelia la Tejana (or Texana)" by Los Tigres del Norte, 1:43 into the song. Unfortunately, I don't have any webspace to post a clip, but if you get that song, listen to it! You'll also hear it in quite a few other words.

But most of us gringos just say it with the soft "g".

Excalibre
06-17-2004, 12:27 PM
Los Angeles, of course, is a Spanish name (meaning "the angels"). In Spanish when a "g" is followed by an "e" or an "i", it makes a sound that, while actually similar to an English "h" as others have commented, is not quite the same thing. It's a scratchy guttural sound pronounced in the throat, a sound commonly found in and associated with Hebrew among many other languages (I don't know anything about Hebrew, but it's the sound I always associate with it), but not found in English. It's also the sound the Spanish "j" makes, an english "h" is just the closest approximation.


Not quite. The traditional Castilian (that is, the 'elevated', prestigious accent of Castile, Spain) accent would have a /x/ there, the sound you describe (it's the ch of loch, Bach, or Channukah.) But that's disappearing in Latin America to the point that the /x/ sound is a distinguishing characteristic of the Spanish spoken in Spain.

In Mexico, as in most of Latin America, it's an /h/ sound, identical (or close to it, anyway) with the English 'h'. If you've heard it otherwise, it may be that very educated speakers tend to imitate the Spanish norm, and I believe that in careful speech, /x/ is sometimes still used. But as a general rule, the place is called /los 'an he les/ (using the SAMPA transcription standard).

Tom Barrister
01-27-2011, 08:24 PM
I realize this is an old thread, but I ran across it while searching for the "hard g" on Google.

In the 1958 Perry Mason episode "The One-Eyed Witness", longtime character actor (or actress, if you prefer) Dorothy Green (1920-2008) pronounced it ANGLE-iss (with a hard "A" and a hard "G"). A nice touch was that when she pronounced it that way under examination by D.A. Hamilton Burger (played by William Talman), Burger (who pronounced it the more common way) also pronounced it ANGLE-iss, as she had. That's the only time I've heard Talman (in or out of character) do that.

Green, who was better known to old-time soap fans for her role of socialite Jennifer Elizabeth Brooks on "The Young and the Restless" for the show's first four years, was born, grew up, and spent her entire life in Southern California, which might suggest that the idea of pronouncing the city's name this way may have had origins with those native to the area.

Crazyhorse
01-27-2011, 08:52 PM
...which might suggest that the idea of pronouncing the city's name this way may have had origins with those native to the area.

According to The LA Almanac (http://www.laalmanac.com/geography/ge13c.htm) there was once a lot of public controversy over whether the correct Spanish pronunciation or the anglicized version should be used officially. For a period of time during the '20s and '30s the LA Times vigorously editorialized their view that the correct Spanish pronunciation was the way to go, and they printed a strange looking attempt at a phonetic spelling of the correct Spanish pronunciation under the masthead of their editorial page for many years: "Los Angeles (Loce Ahng hail ais)".

I could see how some segment of the population who read this could easily have taken a crack at pronouncing it with a hard G.

An Gadaí
01-27-2011, 09:14 PM
Bing Crosby used Los Angle-ees at least once (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvtqGBPb96E), in 1933.

Beware of Doug
01-27-2011, 09:17 PM
The Spanish pronunciation is a soft G, which sounds like an english H. Ahn-hell-ess. I've always heard it either the correct Spanish way or with a soft English G (An-jell-ess) and I live in the area.KHJ, a local radio station, identified itself with the (more or less) Spanish pronunciation in the 1930s, at least on taped broadcasts I've heard.

Kyla
01-27-2011, 09:26 PM
I asked my dad, an LA native, and he immediately gave the Sam Yorty answer (dad says he was from Nebraska), and added that a bunch of people called it that, Back In The Day.

RealityChuck
01-27-2011, 09:41 PM
Los AnGalese -- He walks again by night!

If it's good enough for Nick Danger, it's good enough for me. ;)

Mr Downtown
01-27-2011, 11:54 PM
Crazyhorse beat me to the LA Times story. A few weeks ago I heard the hard G from an (LA-based) announcer on an old-time radio rerun. And I was recently watching an old Perry Mason program where a rich tycoon uses it. So I think it was not uncommon until the early 1960s.

I have also read that Los was a nickname for the city before LA became universal, but I haven't yet found much evidence of that.

kenobi 65
01-27-2011, 11:58 PM
When I hear it with a hard G, I remember a sports announcer in the 1990s who intentionally used it as an unusual pronunciation. I want to say it was Van Earl Wright, who used to do the sports updates on CNN Headline News, but it might've been someone on ESPN's Sportscenter.

The Second Stone
01-28-2011, 12:51 AM
Some of the Warner Bros cartoon characters voiced by Mel Blanc used the funny pronunciation, but in a context that indicated it was an affectation of those villian characters, or the hero (usually Bugs) mocking their pronunciation.

Hari Seldon
01-28-2011, 07:14 AM
How does Arnie say it? In standard German it would have a hard "G". Incidentally, I once saw Brecht's "Happy End" (which takes place in Chicago) at the Edinburgh festival and the British actors consistently pronounced Chicago with the hard "CH" sound (of church). Very disconcerting. But it does remind you that that part of the midwest was originally settled by French.

Tom Barrister
01-28-2011, 07:37 AM
How does Arnie say it? In standard German it would have a hard "G". Incidentally, I once saw Brecht's "Happy End" (which takes place in Chicago) at the Edinburgh festival and the British actors consistently pronounced Chicago with the hard "CH" sound (of church). Very disconcerting. But it does remind you that that part of the midwest was originally settled by French.

I've heard many Scots pronounce "Church" as "Keerk" or similar.

jayjay
01-28-2011, 08:16 AM
I've heard many Scots pronounce "Church" as "Keerk" or similar.

It's not that they're pronouncing "church" with hard "k"s...it's that the Scots English word for it is actually "kirk" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirk).

Markxxx
01-28-2011, 12:42 PM
I am a big fan of old time radio (OTR) and the annoucers on the shows almost without exception pronounce the city "an-GAH-leez." Some even do the double hard "g" with "ang-GAH-leez"

I had a thread on this years and years ago.

Oddly enough the actors in the OTR shows say the city with the soft "G" it's only the announcers at the end that say it with the hard "G".

Such as the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show has been transcribed for broadcasting at a later time zone at studios in KHJ Los "an-GAH-leez"

I like the way they say lees with the half s and half z sound.

I've heard that pronounciation from announcers on almost all OTR shows, but as I said, only by the announcers. The radio actors say it with the soft "G" so I was thinking there may have been some network standard about pronouncing the name of the city. You know like how newspapers have ways of writing things.

President Johnny Gentle
01-28-2011, 12:53 PM
This topic reminds me of my introduction to the concept that there are differing pronunciations. Frank Black's song Los Angeles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXxjQmvbHIs) mentions it. Listening closely, he seems to consistently use a hard G except for one instance where he intentionally uses an exaggerated soft one (for the four lines starting at 1:44).

B. Serum
01-28-2011, 05:05 PM
ehh... Missouri, Missourah.

Tom Barrister
01-28-2011, 05:37 PM
It's not that they're pronouncing "church" with hard "k"s...it's that the Scots English word for it is actually "kirk" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirk).

That would be why it sounded like "Keerk" then.

OhZone
04-06-2011, 07:20 PM
I am a big fan of old time radio (OTR) and the annoucers on the shows almost without exception pronounce the city "an-GAH-leez." Some even do the double hard "g" with "ang-GAH-leez"

I had a thread on this years and years ago.

Oddly enough the actors in the OTR shows say the city with the soft "G" it's only the announcers at the end that say it with the hard "G".

Such as the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show has been transcribed for broadcasting at a later time zone at studios in KHJ Los "an-GAH-leez"

I like the way they say lees with the half s and half z sound.

I've heard that pronounciation from announcers on almost all OTR shows, but as I said, only by the announcers. The radio actors say it with the soft "G" so I was thinking there may have been some network standard about pronouncing the name of the city. You know like how newspapers have ways of writing things.

I, too, listen to a lot of OTR and there are many, many shows where the actors use the hard G. It's on the old Dragnet radio shows, sometimes on the variety shows (Bing Crosby, George Burns, etc.), Mike Waring (The Falcon), Dangerous Assignment, and many others. It seems that I hear it mostly in the 1940s-50s and early 60s programs. But that might be biased by the fact that radio's heyday was 40s-50s before TV was a widely-owned household item.

I just heard a show today on YesterdayUSA.com. Dangerous Assignment (lead character Steve Mitchell played by Brian Donlevy) where one character mentions Los Angeles with a hard G to Mitchell and the latter corrects his pronunciation, saying that the Chamber of Commerce officially voted to go with the soft G.

I don't know if this is a statement of fact, or something the writers just threw in, but I did find it was interesting to be sure.

I do not know the episode date or number.

sco3tt
04-06-2011, 08:41 PM
Frank Black's song Los Angeles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXxjQmvbHIs) mentions it. Listening closely, he seems to consistently use a hard G except for one instance where he intentionally uses an exaggerated soft one (for the four lines starting at 1:44).

But is he referring to the one in south California? Because, you know, they've got one in South Patagonia.

Regarding the one in California, Frank uses the Loss ANgle-iss pronunciation in Ole Mulholland (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1r6FZfb7AYo&feature=player_detailpage#t=183s), where he paraphrases William Mulholland's comments on the LA Aqueduct. Who knows whether Mulholland himself pronounced it that way though.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.