The 17 Minnesota cities and streets everyone mispronounces

Categories: How We Live, Lists
WayzataBag_MNHistoricalSociety.jpg
Minnesota Historical Society
From where, Minnesota? U.S. Air Force officer's flight bag, circa 1947.
The city of Cairo, Illinois, is pronounced "KAY-ro." Missouri has a Nevada called "Ne-VAY-dah." Here in Minnesota, there's New Prague, as in, "Pray-ge." And those are just the homographs.

Every state has them: Places with names that locals and non-locals alike trip up. They can give away a newcomer, be a point of pride for a townie, and shift from generation to generation. In Minnesota, they offer a historical map: the French-Canadian traders who established a trading post in Faribault, the Czechs who settled around New Prague, the Mdewakanton Dakota who lived near Shakopee.

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Other names present a puzzle. How did Edina become "ee-DIE-nuh" and not "ee-DEE-nuh"? Well -- because that's just how we say it.

"However the local inhabitants start pronouncing it, that becomes the way to pronounce it," explains Dan Karvonen, a linguistics professor at the University of Minnesota who once had a gig feeding correct city pronunciations to a speech recognition program. "That can be very different from how someone who's a native English speaker just looking at it tries to pronounce it."

If you've ever mispronounced Wayzata -- or corrected someone else's pronunciation -- here are 17 Minnesota place names for you.

New Prague
Ever been to the capital of the Czech Republic? Good for you. Won't help you in this city southwest of the metro. It's pronounced New Pray-ge.

Faribault
Alexander Faribault himself might have to settle the pronunciation of this one, as not even Minnesota locals can agree. The two-syllable FAIR-bow flies, and some elder Faribault residents say Fair-ee-BOLT. When in doubt though, go with FAIR-ih-bow.

Shakopee
Not shacks, but shocks: Named for the 17th century Mdewakanton Dakota chief, this southwest-metro city is pronounced Shock-o-pee.

Lutsen
Going to Minnesota's mountain town? It's not Lut-sen, but LOOT-sen.

Mahtomedi
Mat-toe? For this city between St. Paul and Stillwater, go with Mah-doe-MEE-die.

Mahtowa
Again, no mats or toes here. This town near Cloquet is MAD-uh-wuh.

Wayzata
Phonetics fail when it comes to the name of this suburb on Lake Minnetonka: It's not Way-zata. The name comes from a Dakota word meaning "north shore," and is pronounced Why-ZET-a.

Xerxes Avenue, Minneapolis
Xerxes, which runs down the west side of Minneapolis, is easy enough for those familiar with Greek names, but confounding for those who don't know what sound an "x" makes when it starts a word. Go with Zurk-seez.

Head to page two for more mispronounced places.



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102 comments
anthonyme12
anthonyme12

Another mispronunciation I've heard more than once: People pronouncing the city of Excelsior as "eck-sell-shure", when it's pronounced, "eck-sell-see-or". 

Alirox
Alirox

The small, northwest Minnesota town of ''Intents and Purposes" always seems to get called "Intensive Purposes" by illegals and other interlopers.

azimiga
azimiga

Some of these are from the Dakota language which of course is indigenous to this area. Ask any Dakota speaker and they would tell you they are all pronounced wrong. 

jcbbgrl
jcbbgrl

Im not from around here so I was surprised to know Hamline is not Ham-line but Hamlin(why the E?!)

tuibguy1
tuibguy1

Hallock.  It drives me crazy when I hear the weather broadcasters pronounce the name of my hometown (often as cold as International Falls,) as HALL-ek.  It is pronounced "Hal-Lock."  How could it be any more plain?


Owly Byrd
Owly Byrd

Being that English is my second language, I think it is fine to correct pronunciation if done with tact. I think its important to recognize regional dialect and learn some pronunciation too, ya knooooow. If someone continues to butcher your name, you would correct them, or at least feel silently negative about it.

StinkySteve
StinkySteve

If you want to piss off someone from Bemidji (bem-MID-jee), pronounce it BER-MIJJY.

stevekranz75
stevekranz75

When I First Moved Here I Had A ProbleM With Pokegama Ave In Grand Rapids... Pronounced "Poh-Kay-gama"

Dawn Conwell
Dawn Conwell

I used to work directory assistance...out of towners used to slaughter Shakopee and Owatonna. It was Shake-o-pee and O-watt-na.

OJackie
OJackie

There is a small township outside Hutchinson named Biscay. Most people over pronounce it as Bis-KAY. That's wrong. It's BIS-kee.

Jack Daw
Jack Daw

A lot of good suggestions in the comments here so far. I would like to add Kandiyohi, which I only learned to pronounce thanks to an old Honeydogs song.

emohr
emohr

I've got two: 

1. Prairie Du Chien. In French, the final word is pronounced SHE-en (it means dog). But here, we pronounce it "sheen." 

2. Staring Lake in Eden Prairie. The locals pronounce it "starring."

Nate Johnson
Nate Johnson

Pronunciation is the absolute last thing anyone should be criticized for. Pronunciation is not a real thing if you learn to think abstractly. They are just noises that convey an idea. And in a state as Multicultural as MN why would you even bring this up? I'm trying to create an Ultra-Liberal agenda here... But most people don't think about how little importance there is on how a word is spoken. If you correct a persons pronunciation in public... you look like an asshole. and there's a good reason for it. because you are. Think forward, for the Future is not looking back.

phatj1111
phatj1111

Lino Lakes get pronounced Lin-O instead of Line-O quite often.

Mary Ferdinande Carruth
Mary Ferdinande Carruth

I was watching a program about Dairy Queen, which first opened in Edina. They pronounced it E-DEE-NA through the entire show. :)

Larry Eckert
Larry Eckert

And it's not pronounced WesKonsin either.

Michael Kelly Sr
Michael Kelly Sr

Some of the folks here in Io-WAY! I've heard several folks say Ed-ee-nuh!! too!! ʕ·ᴥ·ʔ

olavecchia
olavecchia

@WentRogue I missed this one! Oddly, Nick-let vs Ni-cole-let debate didn't come up while I was researching (I've only ever heard the latter)

Preston Saari
Preston Saari

You guys are grasping at this one. Unless your out of state, most people pronounce these correct except Faribault

elmhaven2008
elmhaven2008

@citypages On "Beverly Hills 90210" MN natives Brenda and Brandon Walsh pronounced Wayzata as Why-zot-a

tahsha2001
tahsha2001

Seward. Is it sue-ward or sea-ward?

Vanessa Grausam
Vanessa Grausam

I'm surprised Winona isn't on this list. I've heard it pronounced WHY NO nuh and Wih NO nuh. I've been told Wih is the correct way to say it but I'm still not positive.

Theresa St. Aoro
Theresa St. Aoro

Hamline Avenue. People not from here pronounce it HAM-line instead oh HAM-lin.

Thelma Rue
Thelma Rue

It is funny when we get a new newscaster on Tv how they mess up pronouncing some cities in Mn. Love Nana

Forwardpride
Forwardpride

There's a town in southern Arkansas spelled "El Dorado" and pronounced "El DerAYder."

charlierybak
charlierybak

@WentRogue my all-time favorite was my Swedish friend's pronunciation of Hiawatha (ee-uh-WATT-uh).

Joe Maffei
Joe Maffei

Iowa has a couple of goofy ones as well: Peru (pron. pee-roo) and Madrid (MAD-rid)

Dave Hines
Dave Hines

Biscay (BISS-key, to the locals)

Joe Maffei
Joe Maffei

Funky Cold Medina? No, here it's mid-EYE-na.

WentRogue
WentRogue

@olavecchia Apparently (if my twitter mentions are any measure), it's a longstanding source of disagreement and there's NO RIGHT ANSWER!

StinkySteve
StinkySteve

@amityf @hclib@citypages it is BlaisDELL and if you can READ, there should be no confusion! It says DELL right there in the goddamn word! Not DALE! I can't stand when people say it wrong!

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