"New Orleans," pronunciation thereof

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jul 2 00:56:01 UTC 2009

All of my life, I've been under the impression that the "proper," i.e.
local, pronunciation of the name of this city was - eye-dialect is
sufficient unto this post - "New Aw-LEENS." However, I've long since
seen the claim in print that the pronunciation is N'AW-lins. But what
do travel reporters for the NYT know about the Mouth of The South?
However, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I was able to hear
many instances of the local pronunciation of the city's name and lo!
to my astonishment, the locals *did* say, "N'AW-lins"!

Needless to say, since that time, I've wondered where TF did I get the
impression that "New Aw-LEENS" was the local pronunciation. To the
best of my memory, which is, as y'all know, unchallengeable, I learned
that pronunciation down in Texas, about the time that I learned to
understand English. But, in instances wherein my memory clashes with
what even I recognize as the reality, I'm forced to "check myself."

Getting to the point, iTunes has yielded the LC recordings of talk and
piano-playing by Ferdinand Joseph "Jelly-Roll Morton" LaMothe. In a
rap in which he conversates about the difference between ragtime as
played in Saint Louis vs. the manner in which this musical genre is
played in New Orleans, using The Maple-Leaf Rag as his exemplar, he
clearly and consistently pronounces the name of the Crescent City, his
hometown, only as "New Aw-LEENS."

Apparently, we elderly have to concern ourselves with all kinds of
changes in what is considered "correct" speech. Even *descriptive*
grammar can't be relied upon, cross-temporally. Or should the be,
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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