Folk Awareness oif Dialect

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Tue Dec 5 13:04:06 UTC 2000


Not even what state or even town. The Applachian in-migrants to MI call
their town MON-roe; the old-timey Michiganders who live there call it
mon-ROE of course. I am chucklin' thinking of some of my old respondents
from Buena Vista and Versailles (IN) with Spanish and French pronunications
of their town names.

Some years ago (for the journal Indiana Names) I did a piece on the folk
etymology of Southern IN names and included many which were of foreign
origins. These often produced some of the nicest stories. Buena Vista is
thought to be Latin and named by a priest who was impresssed by the good
view there. Palmyra, however, is the all time winner. Ignoring biblical
tradition, the locals (at least when I collected) belived it to be a
Shawnee word for "sink-hole," since it is in Southen IN limestone-cave
country, and there are many such sinkholes about. The folk onomastics was
elaborated on by showing off a sinhole where a cow had simply diappeared
one day.

Well, maybe that's not my favcorite. I was also told that the towm of Paoli
got its name from a toll road collector of Scandinavian origin. Poor
Pasquali! A forgotten man.


>Would you want Missourians who live in the towns of Paris and Mexico to
>use the "correct"
>contemporary French and Mexican pronunciations of the names of their proud
>seats of
>government in the counties of Monroe and Audrain?  Then don't fuss about
>Missourians from
>Versailles, county seat of Morgan County, saying the name of their town
>the way their
>Kentucky forebears did.
>The Buena Vista in Colorado also has the Byu-ena and Byu-eena
>pronunciations, I
>understand.  And is it MONroe, or MonROE?  Depends on whether you're
>related to an uncle
>or a president, and which state you're in or where you're at, I suppose.
>"David M. Robertson" wrote:
>> Drew Danielson wrote:
>> > Virginia also has a Buena /bjuna/ Vista, the pronunciation of which is
>> > probably a nativism due to the fact that people have been calling it by
>> > that pronunciation for about 120 years.  Ironically, there's a city
>> > called Staunton not too far up the road from Buena Vista, but they
>> > pronounce that name /stan t'n/ as in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, rather than
>> > /stahn t'n/ as one would expect based on the spelling.  Maybe
>> > Appalachian Virginians have some confusion over the phonetic value of
>> > the letter U... :)
>> Well, I don't think the "u" in Buena Vista has any relationship to the
>>"u" in
>> Staunton.
>> In Virginia we say "my ahnt lives in Stanton," while a typical yankee
>>would say "my
>> ant lives in Stahnton." Nobody is consistent, except maybe in Boston.
>> Moving right along to "incorrect" pronunciation of place names derived
>>from other
>> languages, I have always found this a fascinating subject, and not just
>>confined to
>> those of us who were so "unfortunate" as to be born and raised in the
>>Sahara of the
>> Bozart. There are the places such as Buena Vista and Lafayette
>>(luh-FAY-ut) in
>> Virginia. But then there is also Schuyler, for which the locals use the
>> Dutch pronunciation and laugh about yankee tourists who ask for
>>directions to
>> "Shooler." And we all know how to pronounce Monticello "correctly."
>> Two of my own personal favorite Virginia place name pronunciations are
>>Ceres (as if
>> "Roebuck" is coming next) and Dante (sort of rhymes with "saint"). And
>>then we have
>> Botetourt County, which really separates the men from the boys.
>> But the rule to remember is that the pronuncation of a place name by the
>>people who
>> acually live there is NEVER "incorrect;" funny, maybe, but not incorrect.

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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