Johnny Lingo: In the Land of Pronunciation Legend Rules

johnny lingo true west

“When the legend becomes fact… print the legend.”
Maxwell Scott (Carelton Young) The Man Who Shoot Liberty Valance, 1962

Ever wonder why locals of Prescott, Arizona, insist their town is “Press-kit” (rhymes with biscuit)? Historian William Hickling Prescott, whose moniker the former territorial capital has been known as since 1864, was pronounced by his Boston Brahmin contemporaries as “Pres-cot” with an emphasis on the first syllable. By the way, Presottonians don’t know why they pronounce their town’s name like a biscuit either, but if you say “Pres-cot” to a local, they’ll know you are a tourist.

It seems the gaggle of language that erupted in West is a veritable Tower of Babel run through a blender and then presided over by those who never let the facts stand in the way of local idiosyncrasies. If you don’t believe me, how about these other examples: Why is the Spanish named San Jacinto (San Ha-cinto) pronounced San Jah-ceento by Texans? How come Los Feliz in the Los Angeles area is referred to as Los Fee-lez? Or, why is the French-named town of Dubois (Du-b’wah) pronounced Doo-boyce. For that matter why is the New Mexico town named for Henry David Thoreau (Thur-ough) rolls off the tongue of townies as Threw? And tell me why on I-17 north of Phoenix is the name of a prominent geological formation called Table Mesa? I reckon it was so good they named it twice!

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