Wednesday, 2 September 2015


This blog received a visit this evening from somebody in Patchogue, NY. I'd never heard of Patchogue before; I doubt many people have; even Blogger's spell check (which is avowedly American in its view of right and wrongness) reached for the red pencil.

So then I wondered how it would be pronounced. Pa'chog maybe? Pa'choh'gee? America has a lot of places with strange names, and the rest of the world is often quite at a loss to know how they're pronounced since the convention of the originating language is usually ignored. Take Decatur and Des Moines as examples.

And this post is going absolutely nowhere so I'm going for a shower. Mistress Maddie may quote Gloucestershire by was of indignant riposte if she so wishes, although Belvoir might be even better.


Madeline said...

I would be inclined to say Pa'chog, but I don't know for sure. The native people of Long Island were Algonquian-speaking so I'm assuming that's the language family the name comes from. And yes, the US (though I can really only speak for the Northeast) has a strange mixture of American Indian and English place names.

I have always been confused by all the inconsistencies in pronunciation, especially between the Old and New Worlds. Perhaps the most egregious example is a street in Newport that's actually pronounced Thames Street. Not Tems, Thames. Newport was the site of a lot of Revolutionary activity, most famously the landing of Rochambeau's troops (after which they marched to Mount Kisco) so I assume that in this case the obnoxiously defiant pronunciation is shorthand for "Up yours, England."

JJ Beazley said...

So would De'moin be shorthand for 'Up yours, France?'

This could be the start of a long conversation. When I was in New Orleans I confused one poor chap by asking for directions to Decatur Street, which I pronounced the French way (having been in the French Quarter and having assumed, probably correctly, that Decatur was a French word.) And then there was the woman who said she couldn't understand why the Canadians spelt 'quay' the way they did. 'I was up there once and asked 'em: "What's a kway?"' It did, however, give me the clue as to why the Florida Keys are so called, since I'd always assumed, evidently incorrectly, that it had something to do with keys. And I had occasion to research a small town in Pennsylvania recently, where all the street names had been lifted straight out of the English suburbs. What a disappointment.