Saturday, October 13, 2012

MissouRUH or MissouREE?

Missouruh, if you please
There's an interesting piece in the New York Times today discussing how the state name of Missouri should be pronounced. Find it here.

The Times accuses, at least in a left-handed fashion, the local politicians of pandering to specific audiences, which considering my experience is unfair, in spite of there being a region fixation on how to pronounce the state name.

I've been recalling some conversations I have had via telephone with people out of state, and it seems I often say Missou-ruh. Yes, I know. It looks like Missou-ree. It simply seems more natural to say ruh.

Of course, I live in the southern part of the state, and I was raised by people who were raised by natives of Tennessee. And so I'm southern. I also realize that speaking with even a slight southern accent means a listener will subtract 15-points from your assumed IQ. I still do it, but I can turn it off, and I choose to do so when the situation suits. 

All life is theater anyway. It's not good judgment to wear a Rolex or a piece of expensive jewelry when interviewing with a person who may be charging you a fee. It helps to wear blue jeans and a old t-shirt as well.

Back to Missouruh.

The funny thing about Missouruh, though, is that this southern part of the state, at least the southwestern part, was generally isolationist or Unionist during the Civil War. The hotbed of Confederate sympathy was along the Missouruh River where more slaveholders held land. The New York Times article marks Interstate 70 (which generally follows the river across the state) as the demarcation line for the ree and ruh factions, ree being more common to the north. In other words, southern sympathizers generally spoke with a northern inflection when naming the state.

It can grow even more confusing. I was raised on military bases around the world, and so it was a surprise to have been with my family at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane (spo-KAN), Washington, and then move to Missouruh where there was a town in the next county named Spokane (spo-CANE). And even though my folks weren't that enthusiastic about gambling, we had stopped several times in Las Vegas, Nevada (na-VAD-da) in our travels. Now I live about sixty miles east of a town here in Missouruh named Nevada (ne-VADE-a). 

You'll be happy to know, though, there is a California, Missouruh, and no one here has managed to warp its pronunciation into something unique to the state. 

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