why is Illinois pronounced that way?

Obviously Ill-i-noise isn’t correct, but why Ill-i-noy? If it’s from French, shouldn’t it be “Ill-in-wa”?

It’s a name - people will pronounce it as they please. There are thousands of places and people whose names are pronounced un-phonetically.

Yes, in Illinoy we have Dez Plainz (Des Plaines) and Vur-sails (Versailles) among others. We have much to answer for to the French. :slight_smile:

It’s French. It’s the French way of spelling ilinwe which was the name of a confederation of Native American tribes. French explorers found them and gave them that rendering.

I guess Americans had a different idea on how that spelling should be pronounced. It would have originally been pronounced the way you suggest by the French.

Ask someone from Ar-Kansas (AKA Are-Can-Saw).

Go to Cairo, Illinois. It’s pronounced Kay - Ro, like the corn syrup.

My guess is poor transliteration in French, and even poorer pronounciation by non-French readers. Those same readers read Massachusets and Connecticut right.

Yep. We natives say Mass-a-chu-SAY, just as the French intended. Same with Con-ECT-i-cut.

More like “dih-splains,” in my experience, but, either way, nothing like the French. And there’s also Bourbonnais, which the old time locals from that area will pronounce as bur-BONE-iss, although most others will pronounce it as “bourbonay.”

Well, you get to share opprobrium with Kentuckians who have their own Versailles (pronounced similarly).

One hopes the OP never hears about how Iowans pronounce the names of their towns (i.e. Nevada (ne-VAY-da) and Madrid (Maa-drid)) or has occasion to visit Rio (RY-o) Grande, Ohio*.

home of “exciting events like the annual Bob Evans Farm Festival and Rio Grande Bean Dinner”*
**bring your own mask and air freshener.

Or Gallipolis, Oh. (Gally-police):wink:

The correct pronunciation is: Arr-Kin-Saw, at least in the Possum Kingdom area (40 mi NW of Hot Springs).

It’s a perfectly normal process. When foreign terms are adopted by English speakers they are pronounced as English words. The French do it to us too and it’s common in all languages.

I understand the general process. What’s not clear to me is why would an American, encountering this French word, choose not to pronounce it either the way he heard the French people did, or the way he assumed it should be based on the spelling?

People who are ignorant say “Illinois” with a pronounced S all the time. Locals will know better. The Des Moines in Iowa has a silent S, the Des Moines in Washington State has a pronounced S at the end.

Then there’s Sault Ste. Marie.
And nobody pronounces the second part of the name “San Jose” in California with the “J” as in “Joseph,” or in one syllable, rhyming the word with “dose.”

Probably more people saw the word in print than heard it spoken for a long time, and they didn’t know what the French pronunciation would be, or didn’t care. Plenty of people still pronounce it with an S on the end, the local pronunciation would have been some compromise between the French pronunciation and the Mercan version.

Way back when I lived in Ohio, the city just over the Pennsylvania line was Vienna (VY - anna). When my mom lived in Idaho, the town was Kamiah (KA - me - eye) ((short A, as in cat)), and down the road was Kooskia (KOO - ski).

When I was young, I got the California city of La Jolla mixed up with itself. It’s pronounced La Hoya.

You may as well ask why these places in England have weird pronunciations. Many English people have a hard time with them:

Alnwick – (Pronounced ANNICK /ˈænɪk/)
Althorp – (Pronounced ALLTREP /ˈɔːltrəp/) - Where Diana is buried
Belvoir – (Pronounced BEAVER /ˈbiːvər/) I went to a posh wedding in Belvoir Castle once. I will leave the jokes to your imagination.
Bicester – (Pronounced BISTER /ˈbɪstər/)
Gloucester – (Pronounced GLOSSTER /ˈɡlɒstər/)

Near my home is a small town called Alcester. Locally it can be pronounces Allster or All cester (with a flat ‘A’). The first sound very like Ulster, a province in N Ireland.

The pronunciation of “Texas” doesn’t sound weird, but it was named and spelled by Spanish-speakers, who still call it “TAY-hoss” (like in “MEH-hee-co”).

Seems like a lot of these strange pronunciations serve as shibboleths to tell who’s an out-of-towner. Around the Houston area, we can tell you’re not from around here if you say the H in “Humble,” or if you have no idea how to say “Kuykendahl.”