December 18, 2009

Special Report: How to pronounce "Nevada"


The New York Times blog Opinionator just mocked East Coasterners for mispronouncing my home state:

[...] national broadcasters on election night who cannot pronounce Oregon (it’s like gun) or Nevada (it’s not Nev-odda) [...]

Even some of my Californian friends can't get this right. The Nevada Commission on Tourism has a logo (which was on BART ads & elsewhere) with a subtle hint to use the short-A: "nevăda". I was proud to see someone in the Wikipedia had called out non-Westerners for their "imagined pronunciation of the Spanish" (Boom!), & of George W. Bush's learned lesson - - from the Wikiepedia's Etymology and pronunciation for Nevada:

The name Nevada comes from the Spanish "Nevada" [neˈβaða], meaning "snowfall", after the Sierra Nevada ("snow-covered mountains") mountain range.

Most non-Westerners pronounce the name /nəˈvɑːdə/, with the /ɑː/ of "father" after the imagined pronunciation of the Spanish, which annoys locals. The most famous case of this was George W Bush's faux pas during his campaign for the 2004 US Presidential Election. Vindication later came when President Bush campaigned at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center on June 18, 2004. The president opened his talk by proclaiming that "It's great to be here in /nəˈˈvædə/," the crowd roaring its approval when he light-heartedly noted "You didn't think I'd get it right, did ya?"

6 comments:

Brains said...

At the Cop15 opening I heard the Danish prime minister welcome everyone to "Cope n HAY ghin" even though in Danish it's pronounced "Cobhin hOWn" and all Denmark's neighbors pronounce it "Copen HAH ghen."

My point, the prime minister spoke graciously. There's something kind about acknowledging the different ways outsiders pronounce your toponym. Maybe Nevadans need to lighten up?

S. Sandrigon said...

That's a valid, big-hearted point, Mr Aha.
But turn the tables on yourself - how would you feel if someone regularly used the wrong vowel in "Kentucky"? Do you alter your pronunciation of Louisville to appease people?

Sue said...

Sorry, Brains, we will never lighten up about this. It is just like those in San Francisco despise the shortened name of Frisco. We despise it when our state name is mispronounced.

Brains said...

He's the canonized patron saint of animals, damn it you can't just shorten his name to Frisco! :-)

Maybe we need to allow for nuances. E.g., a prime minister pronounces Copenhagen for speakers of different languages, but Nevadans are on a crusade to correct the pronunciation of their linguistic peers. Fazit: It chafes more when your countrymen don't get your toponym right?

I don't give a caca how you pronounce Louisville. There must be ten different ways.

Anonymous said...

I hear most people say "Sierra Nevada" with the short A (ah) when I am visiting Yosemite National Park. I have to catch myself because of that and remember to pronounce the A like "cat" for the state of Nevada. You know people from the state of Oregon (including Ann Curry) get miffed when you pronounce Oregon as "Ora-gone" because "it's not going anywhere." New Yorkers can't even pronounce the name of their own city ("New Yawk") and they don't seem to mind. Why? Because people have regional accents! I don't get mad when Canadians pronounce "out" and "about" differently than me. What gets me miffed is when people boo Michele Obama for a misprounciation of Nevada at a campaign rally. People make mistakes, you know. We don't say it that way because we're snobbish, and if we give that impression, it's not on purpose. I'm from Poughkeepsie, NY - which is pronounced differently (Po-kip-sie) than Poughkeepsie, Arkansas (Pow-keep-sie), but I don't give visitors a hard time for it.

Bob Carroll said...


Pronouncing Oregon and Nevada - Western States for Dummies