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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