WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Bill Knight - May 27

Macomb, IL – New arrivals in Illinois have more than a daunting state debt and an embarrassing history of political corruption to get used to.

There are the names - more specifically, the pronunciations - of communities to learn.

As my Latin teacher decades ago scolded me, "Bill, you're putting the em-PHA-sis on the wrong Syl-LAB-le."

Many people - even travelers passing through - realize that the southern Illinois town looks like the Egyptian city, but is pronounced KAY-Ro, like the syrup. Another ancient city from Greece is echoed here, but it's AY-thens, not Athens.

More subtly, and in some dispute, Fulton County visitors may be told that the county seat isn't in Lewis-tun, but Lewis-TOWN. Similarly, McDonough County sometimes prefers C-AHL-chester, and sometimes COAL-chester.

St. Augustine is usually pronounced St. Aug-GUST-ine.

Macomb is a given, although in the South it's pronounced MAY-cum.

The best? Maybe San Jose - pronounced as if there are two guys named Joe who are Spanish saints.

In the Princeton area is the village spelled M-A-N-L-I-U-S - and pronounced Man-Luss.

Knox County has a couple of beauts: R-EYE-oh, not Rio, and ORE-iun, like the legendary farm broadcaster, not the constellation.

In Hancock County, a township's name is spelled like the pepper or saucy soup, but C-H-I-L-I is pronounced Ch-EYE-lie, believe it or not.

Across the Mississippi River from St. Louis lies a town spelled S-A-U-G-E-T, and it could be understood that it would be pronounced SAW-gay, or even an Americanized SAW-gut. It's actually pronounced So-Jay, maybe mirroring the state's French influences.

Go figure.

Shakespeare had his Juliet say, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."


But something sort of stinks about never being exactly sure how to pronounce what seem like the simplest of nouns.

A favorite? It looks like its city-limits sign might be prefaced with the word "news," is pronounced Me-DIE-uh, not media.