Niagara Falls = "Niffles"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Dec 20 15:40:38 UTC 2006

 _Time_ (Dec. 2, 1929) printed this letter from Robert Withington of Northampton, Mass. :

  Mr. Gallagher's letter (TIME, Nov. 18, p. 8) suggests the story of the American who had been constantly corrected in his pronunciation of English proper names, until his patience was well-nigh exhausted: his English friend happening to refer to Niagara Falls, the American was prompt to correct him. "No, no," he said, "at home we pronounce it Niffles."
  During the War it was an Englishman who said the Americans were worse than the English in the difference between spelling and pronunciation. "You spell it W-i-l-s-o-n and pronounce it 'House,'" he remarked.
  Shades of Enroughly. . . .

  Northampton, Mass.,9171,738151,00.html

  A search shows that residents of N.F. still sometimes refer to it as "Niffles," though I didn't know that when HDAS II was being edited pre-Internet.

  The jest was undoubtedly further popularized by its appearance in the 1933 film, _The Secret of Madame Blanche_.  Informed by Lionel Atwill that the English surname "Saint-John" (sic) is pronounced "Sinjin," Irene Dunne jokingly responds by referring to Niagara Falls as "Niffles."

  The movie is based on the 1923 Broadway play by Martin Brown. The play may contain the joke as well, but I haven't seen the script.


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