Pronouncing "Los Angeles" with a hard G sound.

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?

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.

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?

The Spanish pronunciation is neither, but slightly closer to the hard G pronunciation. Something like Ahng-hay-layss.

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.

The hard G was also used in the The Grifters. Made in 1990, set in the 80’s, but a very 50’s feel.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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).

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.

According to The LA Almanac 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.

Bing Crosby used Los Angle-ees at leastonce, in 1933.

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.

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.

Los AnGalese – He walks again by night!

If it’s good enough for Nick Danger, it’s good enough for me. :wink: