Here are some places you’ve been mispronouncing

Here are some places you’ve been mispronouncing

It’s bad enough looking like a tourist, but even worse when you open your mouth and totally butcher the name of the place.

And we’re not just talking trip-up-your-tongue foreign destinations, either — plenty are right here in the good old US of A. But not to worry, we’ll help spare you any such embarrassment with this primer to pronouncing places just like a local.

Now you’ll fit in just swell . . . as long as you leave the white sneakers at home.

Detroit, Mich.

Motor City, baby, is pronounced dih-TROYT, not DEE-troyt. And if you’re heading to the upper peninsula for vacation, Mackinac Island is mack-eh-NAW not mack-in-ACK.

Worcester, Peabody, Scituate and Woburn — Mass.

Speaking of Massachusetts, the state seems to have cornered the market on oddly pronounced towns — so much so that there’s even a website to help you out with the endless list.

Here are just a handful:

For Worcester, you have several options: woos-ter, woos-tah or wiss-tah. What’s a no-no: war-chest-er or war-ses-ter.
Peabody:pee-buh-dee, not pee-body — and say it as fast and as close to a single syllable as you can.
Quincy:quin-zee, not quin-see
Woburn:woo-bin, not woe-burn


Norfolk, Va.

Home to the world’s largest naval base, the city is pronounced NOR-fok or NAW-foknot nor-FOLK. And while we’re talking Virginia cities, Staunton is STAN-tun and Gloucester is GLAW-ster.


It’s ne-VAD-ah, not ne-VAH-duh. Yet another thing Brian Williams got wrong.



Another state people always mispronounce. It’s OR-eh-gun, not or-eh-GONE. If there’s not a “Portlandia” skit about this yet, there should be.

New Orleans, La.

OK, so there are as many ways to pronounce this city as there are women flashing themselves on Bourbon Street, but never ever refer to it as NAW-lins. Why? Because only tourists chugging Sazeracs in the French Quarter say it that way. Ditto New OR-lee-inz. Try: New or-LINZ or New or-LEENZ.

San Pedro, San Rafael, La Jolla — California

Some towns you gotta forget about the Spanish you learned: It’s san PEE-dro not san pay-dro and san rah-FELL not san RAH-FA-el. Except when that Spanish would be helpful: La Jolla is la hoy-yah.

Cartagena, Colombia

Do you see a tilde (~) over that “n” in Cartegena? No? That’s right, so don’t pronounce it like “mañana.” It’s simply kahr-tah-hey-NAH. And we’re talking about the South American country here, not Columbia, SC, or the District of Columbia, which, if you’ll note, is spelled — and thus pronounced — differently. Notice that second “o” in Colombia? That means it’s co-LOM-bee-ah not co-LUM-bee-ah.


Nic-ah-ra-GOO-ah not nih-kuh-rah-GWUH. Don’t be like the folks in this SNL skit. Ever.

Now let’s take a look at some of those tricky Caribbean islands . . .

Antigua:an-tee-GAH, not an-tee-gwah
Anguilla:an-gwil-ah (like vanilla) not an-gwee-lah
Curaçao:cur-ah-sow (ç makes an “ess” sound)
St. Lucia:saint loo-shuh not loo-see-ah




Cappadocia, Turkey

Both acceptable: kap-ah-DOK-yah or kap-ah-doe-KEE-ah, but not kap-ah-doe-CHEE-ah.



Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns — Australia

It’s mel-buhne, not mel-born; briz-bin not briss-bane; and though hotly debated, most pronounce Cairns cans or kenz (just don’t drop an “r” in there).


Edinburgh, Scotland

Ed-in-burrah, not ed-in-bore-oh — or, God forbid, ed-in-burg.



Birmingham, Leicester, Berkshire — UK

It’s bur-ming-EM (not bur-ming-HAM), less-ter not lee-sess-ter, and BARK-sure notberk-shy-er.



Berlin, Germany

The German capital is pronounced bear-LIN or bear-LEEN.


Capri, Italy

Don’t say it like those silly, ankle-exposing pants. It’s pronounced CAH-pree.


Reims, Cannes, Aix, Cahors, Rennes — France

Ranse; cann or kenn (throw in an extra “n”); ex; kah-or; ren.


Could be kuh-TAR; others say KUH-tar or cutter. “60 Minutes” even did a segment about it — which still doesn’t clear it up.





Mawl-deevz or mol-deevz.


Reykjavik, Iceland

REY-kyah-vik not RAKE-ah-vik.




We end with Wisconsin, because it’s the only place that has a dedicated website — complete with audio — to help you pronounce the state’s 190 cities, 400 villages, 1,260 towns and more — including all these tongue-tanglers: Kaukauna, Ashwaubenon, Mukwonago and Weyauwega.