Wednesday, November 05, 2008

How to pronounce "Missouri"

One thing you may have caught last night were all the political pundits saying "Missour-ee" in one sentence and then correcting it with "Missour-uh" the next.
Jim Lehrer on PBS explained this very early on in the evening. The Western half of Missouri says "Missour-uh," and people at the University of Missouri in Columbia swear that's the only way to pronounce it. The eastern half (including St. Louis) say "Missour-ee."

This played out in the gubernatorial election here. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, made sure that he said "Missour-uh" in all of his ads. Ken Hulshof, a Republican congressman who got blown out last night, said "Missour-ee" in his (relatively few) ads. To people on this side of the state, the difference was clear. Nixon was making the point that he was from here, while Hulshof was "out of touch" from spending too much time in Washington.

I say "Missour-ee" when I speak, but I'm always self-conscious about it wondering if people hear that and immediately think "outsider!" If my non-midwestern accent doesn't give me away (I tend to lay a Western Kentucky accent pretty heavily on purpose...sometimes I'll turn it into an East Tennessee one just to annoy people) the way I pronounce Missouri probably tells people all they want to know about me.

1 comment:

Jeff the WoolyRhino said...

Missouri is the French spelling of a word used by Native American tribes to refer to the group of Indians that lived at the junction of the Grand and Missouri rivers near Brunswick, Missouri. The native word ended with the a sound. It is Missoura to those who live where the natives did. It is MissourE to the folks who read the word and pronounce it as the English would.