H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Subject Index > Page 350
H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.

Page 350
correctly, but in St. Louis it is almost always converted into Lewis. The rouge in Baton Rouge is correctly pronuonced, though the baton is commonly boggled. The local pronunciation of Illinois is Illinoy, an attempt to improve upon the vulgar Illin-i.
  For a number of years the Geographic Board has been seeking vainly to reëstablish the correct pronunciation of the name of the Purgatoire river in Colorado. Originally named the Rio de las Animas by the Spaniards, it was renamed the Riviére du Purgatoire by their French successors. The American pioneers changed this to Picketwire, and that remains the local name of the stream to this day, despite the effort of the Geographic Board to compromise on Purgatoire river. Many other French names are being anglicized with its aid and consent. Already half a dozen Bellevues have been changed to Belleviews and Bellviews, and the spelling of nearly all the Belvédéres has been changed to Belvidere. Belair, La., represents the end-product of a process of decay which began with Belle Aire, and then proceeded to Bellaire and Bellair. All these forms are still to be found, together with Bel Air. The Geographic Board’s antipathy to accented letters and to names of more than one word  63 has converted Isle Ste. Thérése, in the St. Lawrence river, to Isle Ste. Therese, a truly abominable barbarism, and La Cygne, in Kansas, to Lacygne, which is even worse.  64 Lamoine, Labelle, Lagrange and Lamonte are among its other improvements; Lafayette, for La Fayette, long antedates the beginning of its labors.
  The Spanish names of the Southwest are undergoing a like process of corruption, though without official aid. San Antonio has changed to San Antone in popular pronunciation and seems likely to go to San Tone; El Paso has acquired a flat American a and a z-sound in place of the Spanish s; Los Angeles presents such difficulties that no two of its inhabitants agree upon the proper pronunciation, and many compromise on simple Los, as the folks of Jacksonville commonly
Note 63.  Vide its fourth report (1890-1916), p. 15. [back]
Note 64.  A correspondent writes: ‘‘The river on which the town is located was named by French explorers, late in the 18th century, Marais des Cygnes. When the town site was bought from the Miami Indians, about 1868, the town was named La Cygne. The railroad, built soon after, put the name in its time tables as Les Cygnes. My father started the Journal there in 1870. He persuaded the railroad people to change their spelling. The Postal Guide still gives it as La Cygne. It is usually pronounced Lay Seen.’’ [back]


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