Pronunciation of a Few Proper Nouns
This list is completely arbitrary. I am limiting it to, roughly, proper nouns that native speakers of (American) English might commonly run into or be expected to be familiar with. It may contain items you already know or are not interested in, and not contain items you have always wondered about. As usual, any additions or corrections would be gratefully received, and if you have a question about the pronunciation of something not included in the list, I’ll be happy to do some research to see what I can come up with.
Beaufort, NC: BOH-fert.
Beaufort, SC: BYOO-fert.
Biloxi: Hurricane Katrina brought this city and Pass Christian to national attention, so many more people may now know that it’s pronounced BLUX-ee.
Blenkiron: This is a not-uncommon last name in the British Isles that I first ran across in, I believe, an Agatha Christie mystery. I thought it was pronounced BLENK-iyern (as in, to “iron” clothing). I finally learned that it’s actually blen-KIR-ren.
Carew: In England, CAIR-ree.
Crichton: In England, CRY-ton.
Dalziel: I have it on reasonably good authority that this is actually pronounced DEAL.
Featherstonehaugh: Another of those amazing snares for the unwary that our cousins in the British Isles seem to delight in. I actually have two pronunciations for this one, both reasonably well documented: FEE-ston-hyoo (yes, really) and, believe it or not, FAN-shaw.
Keyes: Frances Parkinson Keyes pronounced her last name KIZE (like “eyes” with a K in front of it). Other persons with this last name pronounce it KEEZ, as you might expect.
Maori: When I asked a woman from New Zealand about the may-OR-ee, she wet her pants laughing. It’s MAU-ree (like “cowrie”).
New Orleans: Never, ever pronounced NEW-er-LEENS except by people who don’t know better. The choices are nyoo (or noo) OR-lins, NYAW-lins, or NAW-lins.
Oregon: Not OR-ree-gawn. The last syllable is –gun and it’s often only two syllables, so OR’-gun or OR-e-gun.
Pass Christian: Pass is pronounced like “pass,” but Christian is pronounced kris-CHAN.
Pathan: Not PAY-than but pah-TAHN.
Saugerties, NY: Socrates. Oh, all right: SOCK-er-teez.
Skaneateles, NY: Skinny atlas.
Talliaferro: This is either TAL (rhymes with “gal”) -ee-a-FER-roh, or TOL-li-ver.
Tuareg: Despite those automobile ads, this is not pronounced TOO-a-reg. It’s TWA-reg.
Willamette, OR: as they say in the place itself, it’s wil-LAM-met, damn it!
Worcester: Between WUS-ter and WOOS-ter; the double O is pronounced as in “book”.