H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
more distinctly than the English shows itself in geographical names. White, in 1880,68 recorded the increasing habit of giving full value to the syllables of such borrowed English names as Worcester and Warwick. I have frequently noted the same thing. In Worcester county, Maryland, the name is usually pronounced Wooster, but on the Western Shore of the state one hears Worcest-r. Norwich is another such name; one hears Nor-wich quite as often as Norrich. Another is Delhi; one often hears Del-high. Another is Warwick. Yet another is Birmingham; it is pronounced as spelled in the United States, and never in the English manner. White said that in his youth the name of the Shawangunk mountains, in New York, was pronounced Shongo, but that the custom of pronouncing it as spelled had arisen during his manhood.69 So with Winnipiseogee, the name of a lake; once Winipisaukie, it gradually came to be pronounced as spelled. There is frequently a considerable difference between the pronunciation of a name by natives of a place and its pronunciation by those who are familiar with it only in print. Baltimore offers an example. The natives always drop the medial i and so reduce the name to two syllables; in addition, they substitute a neutral vowel, very short, for the o. Anne Arundel, the name of a county in Maryland, is usually pronounced Annranl by its people. Arkansas, as everyone knows, is pronounced Arkansaw by the Arkansans.70 The local pronunciation of Illinois is Illinoy. Iowa, at home, is Ioway.71 Many American geographical names offer great difficulty to Englishmen. One of my English acquaintances tells me that he was taught at school to accent Massachusetts on the second syllable, to rhyme the second
Note 68. Every-Day English, p. 100. See also Tucker: American English, p. 33. [back]
Note 69. This pedantry seems to have disappeared. The local pronunciation today is Shongum. I have often noted that Americans, in speaking of the familiar Worcestershire sauce, commonly pronounce every syllable and enunciate shire distinctly. In England it is always Woostershr. The English have a great number of decayed pronunciations, e. g., Maudlin for Magdalen College, Sister for Cirencester, Merrybone for Marylebone. Their geographical nomenclature shows many corruptions due to faulty pronunciation and the law of Hobson-Jobson, e. g., Leighton Buzzard for the Norman Leiton Beau Desart. [back]
Note 70.Vide Proceedings of the Legislature and of the Historical Society of the State of Arkansas, and the Eclectic Society, of Little Rock, Ark., Fixing the Pronunciation of the Name Arkansas; Little Rock, 1881. [back]
Note 71. Curiously enough, Americans always use the broad a in the first syllable of Albany, whereas Englishmen rhyme the syllable with pal. The Londoners pronounce Pall Mall as if it were spelled pell-mell. Americans commonly give it two broad as. [back]