Old pronuciation of "Los Angeles"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Sat Jun 25 19:34:09 UTC 2005

On Sat, 25 Jun 2005 12:09:48 -0700, Dave Wilton <dave at WILTON.NET> wrote:

>> The 1935 film _Bordertown_ (with Paul Muni and Betet Davis - fine
>> period performances) is partially set in L.A.  My attention was
>> caught by the fact that a snooty villain pronounced it with a  /
>> g /  rather than the now universal / J /  (if I may use that
>> ad-hoc symbol).
>> The quasi-Spanish origin of the pronunciation isn't the question.
>> (The actor was clearly using an English pronunciation and not
>> trying consciously to imitate Spanish.)
>> To me it sounded bizarre, but I'm pretty sure I've heard it in
>> other old movies. The question is how widespread was this, and
>> when did it go away ?
>The narrator on Firesign Theater's "The Further Adventures of Nick
>Danger" (the flip side of the 1969 album "How Can You Be In Two Places
>At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All") uses the / g / pronunciation.
>He's clearly imitating the style of a 1930s radio serial and part of the
>conceit is that the pronunciation is no longer current (but still
>recognizeable, albeit humorously, to a 1969 audience) [...]

Anjelica Huston used the /g/ pronunciation in _The Grifters_ (1990), which
was a nice neo-noir anachronism. And former the rocker Frank Black (once
and future lead singer of The Pixies) has a tune called "Los Angeles":

"I hear them saying [lOs &Ng at l@s]
In all the black and white movies
And if you think they star-spangled us
How come we say [lOs &ndZ at l@s]?"

Coby (Jacob) Lubliner had this to say in a 2002 sci.lang thread:

I lived there in the 50s, and at the time people couldn't even agree
on how to pronounce "Los Angeles"  -- whether the <g> ought to be
[g] (as Mayor Bowron pronounced it) or [dZ], and whether the final
syllable was [li:z] or [l at s].  It took a City Council resolution to
establish [lO's&ndZ at l@s] as the norm; but still many people, not
only Arlo Guthrie and Chicano activists, pay no heed.

--Ben Zimmer

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