The United States of America, the great melting pot. We take music, foods, words and traditions from all over the world, shake them up and blend them into something distinctly American. We took "O Sole Mio" and made "It's Now or Never." We took pizza and put cheese inside the crust. We take names from places all over the world to give to our towns and cities, and once they're ours, we'll pronounce them how we want to, thank you very much. Usually we simply use the English version of the word for a place: we don't say Par-EE, Texas, the French way, but PARE-iss, because that's how we say Paris in English. However, some towns that have borrowed city names from elsewhere don't even get the normal English pronunciation. Here are 20 American towns that have really cut the cord from the sources of their names.
1. Athens, IL; Athens, KYWhen we talk about Greece, we talk about Athens, cradle of Western civilization, birthplace of democracy. But these towns in Kentucky and Illinois are called EIGHTH-ens.
2. Berlin, CT; Berlin, MA; New Berlin, NY; Berlin, WIThe German capital Ber-LIN has loaned its name to many an American town, but here we've turned it into BER-lin.
3. Cairo, GA; Cairo, ILIf we're talking Egypt, we're talking KAI-ro. But in Georgia it's KAY-ro, and in Illinois, KEH-ro.
4. Chili, NYThere's a city in New York named after the South American country of Chile, which we would call CHILL-ee or if you want to get fancy, CHEE-lay—but there they call it CHAI-lai.
5. Riga, NYRight over by Chili is Riga, a name shared with REE-ga, the capital of Latvia, but in New York it's RYE-ga.
6. Delhi, NY; Delhi, CADelhi, the capital of India, gets cities named after it in New York and California, but it's hard to tell because while we are used to calling it "Delly" the people in those cities pronounce it DEL-hai.
7. Lebanon, NHLebanon? Not in LEB-nen New Hampshire.
8. Lima, OHThe capital of Peru is Lima (LEE-ma). The town named for it in Ohio? LYE-ma.
9. New Madrid, MOSpain has Madrid (Ma-DRID). But in Missouri they've got New MAD-rid. Or wait, is it Missouruh? I don't think Missourians even agree on that. New MAD-rid though? That they're all cool with.
10. Mantua, OH; Mantua, UTMantua, beautiful Italian city of culture. Opera and Virgil. No wonder we've borrowed its name for towns in Ohio and Utah. Oh, except in those places it's not MAN-tyoo-a, but MAN-a-way.
11. Milan, NY, TN, IL, WAMilan is mi-LAN, or if you're really feeling it, mi-LAHN, and it's another Italian city we pay tribute to in our town names, everywhere from New York to Tennessee to Illinois to Washington State. Except in those places it's MY-lun.
12. Palermo, NDSticking with Italy for a little longer, there's Palermo (Pa-LER-mo), or, as they say in North Dakota, PAL-er-mo.
13. Pompeii, MIMichigan honors the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. It's pom-PAY right? Not in Michigan, where the locals call it pom-pay-eye. What is that extra 'i' doing on the end there anyway? Might as well make sure you pronounce it.
14. Italy, TXTexas has a town named for the whole country of Italy. Itly. Just two syllables.
15. Russia, OHThe country of Russia is represented by a town in Ohio. ROO-shee, Ohio, to be exact.
16. Tripoli, IAFrom the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of … Tri-POH-luh? While the capital city of Libya, has miles of Mediterranean coastline, Iowa's Tripoli has no shore at all. So it goes it's own way name-wise too.
17. Versailles, IL, KY, OH, PAWhen we speak about the palace in France or the treaty that ended WWI, it's ver-SAI. For towns from Pennsylvania to Illinois, it's ver-SAYLES.
18. Montpelier, VT, VA, ID, KY, LA, MD, IAThere are Montpelier's all over the place in the US. How do you pronounce yours? The Vermont way (mont-PEEL-yer) or the more French-style way people sometimes use (mont-pel-YAY)?
19. Vienna, IL; Vienna, SDWhen we talk about the Austrian city, the Chicago all beef hot dog, or even the city in Virginia, vee-EH-nuh is the way to go. But for towns in Illinois and South Dakota, it's vai-EH-nuh.
20. New Prague, MNThe Czech city of Prague is full of old-world charm. The Minnesota city of New Prague has a new-world way of doing things, including pronouncing it PRAYG.
June 6, 2013 - 2:00pm