Column: Correct states of pronunciation


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

I grew up in Oklahoma, which is known as “The Sooner State.” Now, I live in Indiana, otherwise known as “The Hoosier State.” Many people outside of these states don’t know what “Sooners” or “Hoosiers” are, but at least people pronounce the states’ names correctly! Today, I’m tackling the most mispronounced state names and how to get them right.

Let’s start in Colorado. This state boasts high elevations from the Rocky Mountain range. Many people incorrectly pronounce Colorado with a short “a” sound, as in “hat.” The short “a” sound is incorrect; instead, the “a” should be pronounced “ah.” To remember this, think about the Rocky Mountains. Colo-rocky. Colo-rah-do.

For some reason, we want to say the word “Nevada” like we’re passing a jar of Grey Poupon out the window of our limo. We say “Ne-vah-duh.” Actually, the correct pronunciation is a short “a”: Ne-va-duh. This is the opposite of Colorado. The way I remember how to say Nevada is by saying “Never-had-a,” like in Cheap Trick’s 1989 song “Never Had A Lot To Lose.” The first line of this song states, “I don’t need no money, honey.” This is kind of like when you leave Las Vegas broke and penniless. Never-had-a. Ne-va-duh.

Take a quick trip up to the Northwest U.S. and we find the state of Oregon. At first glance, I see a place where all the “ore” is “gone.” Don’t be fooled — it isn’t pronounced “or-gon.” In fact, “Oregon” has three syllables: Or-uh-gn. The last syllable, “gon,” is pronounced like “gun” if the “u” was missing. You’re going to have to memorize this one yourself: Or-uh-gn.

Now, let’s jet across to the far Southeastern U.S., where we find the peninsula state of “Florida.” I’ve heard folks say “Flaw-ri-duh,” with a big emphasis on the “flaw.” While it seems as though at least a handful of flawed people live in Florida (based on the “Florida Man” meme), this isn’t how to say the state’s name. In fact, the correct way to say Florida is “Floor-ih-duh.” Think of a floor, just like the Walmart floor a Florida man poured salt on in order to get rid of evil spirits back in 2019. True story.

I almost had time to include Illinois and Arkansas. Since I’m out of words, just remember to leave off the “s” in the pronunciation of each state. With Illinois, that can be kind of “ill-annoying,” while in Arkansas, you simply “saw” off the “s.” Safe travels!