why is Illinois pronounced that way?


These names got their Mercan pronunciations a long time ago, so yes, but not really different than the similar lack of regard by all people for other languages, it’s just that French pronunciation has so little to do with the way things are spelled. We don’t have that much regard for our own language and it’s dumb spellings either.

In an earlier thread, it seems William Webster is one of the truly great Americans. He simplified word spellings to erase 1,600 years of confusion in the old country:

‘tire’ instead of ‘tyre’
‘saber’ instead of ‘sabre’
‘color’ instead of ‘colour’
‘harbor’ instead of ‘harbour’

…and so on.

Um, Noah Webster?

That’s the old spelling.

Yep, Noah.

Fucking racist. Don’t get me started on Kleist.

The Germans have much to answer for.

Why Americans? Every country pronounces other countries’ places “wrong”. The English call Livorno, Italy “Leghorn”, Calais, France is pronoucned as “Callous”. How do you pronounce the capital of Italy?

“Callous”? I’ve only ever hear “cal-ay.”

Well, “lack of regard” sounds a bit pejorative. I think one of the linguistic conventions that the US developed, as a society that took a lot of immigrants from a lot of different cultures, was a convention that foreign proper names - of both places and people - get Americanised in pronunciation. Life and language become very confusing otherwise. So an Italian name like “Campanati” is pronounced Campan-eighty, an Irish name like “Mulcahy” becomes Mul-cay-hee and a German name like “Adolf” (before it inexplicably fell out of fashion;)) becomes Ay-dolf. And something similar happens with place-names borrowed from the old world.

This isn’t a lack of regard, more a making-one’s-own, I think.

It’s my understanding Callous is the general English pronunciation.

I’ve spend a lot of time in England, and have travelled the Dover/Calais route several times, and have never heard it pronounced that way.

Bear in mind that for several centuries French was widely spoken in England, especially among the ruling classes, and for all that time Calais was in fact an English possession, and so presumably came up in conversation a bit more often than most other French towns. So a reasonable approximation of the French pronunciation had plenty of time to become well-entrenched.

In fact, with the single exception of Paris, the English names of French towns are generally pronounced with at least a token resemblance to the French pronunciation (though they do struggle with Boulogne). So enamoured are the English of French nomenclature, in fact, that the generally refer to Italian towns by their names in French - Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice, Naples and Turin being just a few examples.

I’m rusty on my French rules: would Des Moines be pronounced duh mwahn? (with uh being the French schwa, of course.)

No, it would be pronounced more like “day mwahn.”

No idea where you got that from. Your point is valid, but I don’t think this is a valid example of it.

Deviating a bit, from the pronunciation topic: I’ve always found the name of this city, if literally translated from French, endearingly odd: “Some monks”, or “Of the monks”. Actually looking it up just now, for the first time: according to Wiki, various suggested derivations. One such, is that the city is named after the Des Moines River, on which it lies – river thus named by French explorers a few centuries ago, Riviere des Moines: River of the Monks (which monks, is not known). An alternative suggestion, involves a settlement of Trappist monks a couple of hundred miles to the south. Yet others put forward the possibility of corruptions of words / expressions in Native American languages – more than one explanation re more than one language.

You are wrong.

Rick, you have confused the American pronunciation of Calais, Maine, USA, http://bangordailynews.com/2015/08/27/living/award-winning-artist-painting-mural-in-calais/ at 0:16, with the English pronunciation of Calais, France, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35686209 at 2:05.

Muffin, who has spent much time at his maternal family’s home on the other side of the river from Calais, Maine, and who on the paternal side is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the “onder m’shall of the town of Calays.” Note how the spelling in his will reflected the English pronunciation of the town. At that time, Europeans had not yet visited what eventually would be named Calais, Maine, who’s namesake was Calais, France. The American pronunciation is what changed, whereas the English pronunciation remained the same.

As far American pronunciation goes, we won’t go down the Brule River, which would be a be a bad thing and all that.

For the same reason the border city of Calais, Maine is pronounced exactly like callus, and not cal-AY.

Chicago has a street named after Goethe – the German poet, not the school board member :slight_smile: – and almost nobody (but the CTA robot) pronounces it Ger-tuh. The Germans in Chicago have, of course, doubled down by calling their local cultural center the Goethe-Institut. :stuck_out_tongue: