How do you pronounce that?

Get ahead of the game

I was reading captions for the POYi judging last week and was having the hardest time pronouncing these foreign cities and names. It was rather embarrassing, but luckily no one expected me to know how to say everything exactly correct. If I was broadcasting live on television or radio, however, that would be a different story.  You lose the audience’s trust and respect if you can’t pronounce local towns or the mayor’s last name.  You sound like an outsider who could care less about the people you’re reporting about.

To save your reputation, it is best to really know who, what, and where you are talking about so it doesn’t sound like you were handed a script five minutes ago. What may be a minor slip of pronunciation in casual conversation, could cost you your job and credibility as a journalist.  It’s better to ask beforehand than look stupid after. Or, better yet, start preparing now! When I came to Missouri for school, I knew nothing about the state — the people, the places, the catch phrases. It would have been nice to get some sort of pronunciation guide with phonetic spelling of local places, streets and towns. Instead, I took it upon myself to do some research and put together one of those “state projects” we used to do in elementary school. I looked up everything from the state representatives to the state flower. It made me feel like a 5th grader all over again…

I compiled a short list of places people often mispronounce, in hopes of enlightening English speakers far and wide. Please comment below with any additions to this list (you can include people, places and any other words!)


Beijing, China – Americans usually pronounce the name of the Chinese capital city something like beige·ing, but the correct pronunciation is in fact bay·jing.

Edinburgh, Scotland – ed·in·burr·ah, or ed·in·bra, in the local style.

Gloucester, England – glos·ter. Also goes for the city of the same name in Mass.

Iraq – let’s clear this one up once and for all. ir·ock (not eye·rack).

Papua New Guinea – pa·pew·a noo gi·nee, with emphasis on the first syllable in Papua.

Qatar – kah·tar, with emphasis on the second syllable.

Spokane, Wash. – spo·can (not spo·cane)

Versailles, KY – ver·sails (on the other hand, Versailles, France is pronounced ver·sigh; best not to confuse the two).

Tucson, Arizona – too·sahn Arizona

Cayce, South Carolina – kay·see in South Carolina

Des Moines, Iowa – dih·moyn

Leicester, Massachusetts – less·tur


Also see: 100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases


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