The Point Where Compassion And Mispronunciation Meet

I’ll tell you straight up that I did not correct this young woman’s pronunciation.

The whole conversation happened so quickly, and I was so slow to understand what she was talking about, that the chance never came in the moment for me to tell her: “that’s not how you say it.”

Plus she was so happy about what she was telling me that I didn’t want to rain on her parade, so I said nothing even after I figured it out.

I’ll also tell you that this young woman is a high school graduate from one of the better high schools in the region.  And that she speaks using perfect grammar + polysyllabic words.  And that she is quite bright about the logic of things.

But here’s the thing, the situation that I found myself in, where I did not know what to do. 

She was talking about her vacation plans, in detail.  She had found a deal on airfare by watching the prices online.  When she saw that she could travel to her western destination with just one stopover in the midwest, she jumped on that ticket because the price was right.

As she had never been to that part of the midwest [and I guess that she missed school the days when the teacher talked about it], she was mispronouncing this city’s name.  At first I didn’t understand where she was going, and then when I did it was– well, re-read my second paragraph.

So here is what she said to me.  She was going to change flights in: my knee A poe Lis

Care to guess where she was going?  And any suggestions about how to handle a similar situation should it arise in my lifetime again?

I await your comments below.

24 thoughts on “The Point Where Compassion And Mispronunciation Meet

  1. Even I know how that’s said! But I have to admit to being a bit confused by Arkansas (surely Kansas with a bit on the front) until I’d heard it said (with captions) on the news. Probably something to do with Bill Clinton. But that was years ago and I’m not a native. I think just smile inwardly if it happens again. 🙂


    • Well Polly, you’d get into trouble in R-Can-Zass, Kansas, or Ver-Sails, Missouri. But I’ve never heard Minneapolis pronounced any other way. I don’t know, Ally. Some people would be glad if you said – “Oh, by the way, that’s pronounced like this” while others would be grossly insulted.


      • I used to know an Australian who (correctly for the Australian street she was talking about) prounounced Versailles as Ver-say-lees instead of Ver-sigh. That’s just how they did things round where she was from. I would correct a tourist, and expect to be corrected myself if abroad, rather than continue to make a prat of myself, but I imagine it’s much more difficult with one’s own countrymen/women. I have friends who say “pronounciation” instead of pronunciation, and it’s such a fundamental error that I don’t have the heart to correct them. It would make me look too big for my boots. Which maybe I am of course. 🙂 Interesting topic!


      • Zazzy, there is a Ver-Sails in OH, too. I wonder if every state has one?

        You’ve hit upon the issue: I didn’t want to insult her, but I didn’t want her to appear to be stupid when she spoke with other people. It was the dumbest situation to be in– and I’ve thought about it way too much since it happened.


    • Polly, I was so confused at the beginning of this conversation until I figured out what she was saying. I cannot imagine why her pronunciation was off, but it was.

      I like your smile inwardly approach. I can always do that with ease. 😉


  2. Good thing she wasn’t going through Saguache, Colorado. 🙂

    When I was in college they put the name of everyone’s home town on their dorm room door and one girl from out of state stopped at one door and asked, “Where is Sagoochy, Colorado?”
    Sagoochy, Colorado? I had never heard of Sagoochy, Colorado so I went to look. The town’s name was Saguache and it is pronounced Sa (like the su in the word sudden)-watch.
    Saguache is a Ute Indian word meaning, “Water at the Blue Earth.”

    And I agree with Zazamataz, your young lady may have heard of Minneapolis but may not have ever seen it written down.


    • la p, I’ve never heard of that city. No surprise. There are so many Native American words that turn up in US geography. I’m sure that if given an oral test, I’d mispronounce most of them.

      I agree. I think that Zazzy figured it out.


  3. I used to deal with the general public all over the country in sales. I’m really good at figuring out what the word is even when mispronounced. As long as I understood what information they were trying to relay, I just blew it off. (the point was to relay info and I got it, so what did it matter….and why upset people)
    A while back I would have put it down to regional dialects, but now so much common basic language is garbled even on major network new ( used to hold to a neutral standard English) all I can do is shake my head. Actually it’s hard to blame “kids” when some of the teachers aren’t much better.
    Will we end up with pointing at signs…Oopsie..pointing at pictures? – few actually write/read anymore! (giggles)


    • I’m glad that I eventually figured out what she was saying. I agree with you that as long as the info was conveyed, communication happened. She’s a smart woman & I’m sure that eventually she’ll learn how to say where she’s going!


  4. When I was very young, I pronounced Chile as Chile instead of Chee lay. My dad laughed his head off, but I felt embarrassed. I’m glad he told me though. My issue is that Minneapolis has a relatively logical phonetic pronunciation. “Mine” only has one n–did she never learn her vowel sounds?


    • Margaret, I only know that this is the first time I’ve ever heard this woman say anything that wasn’t perfect– pronunciation & grammar. That’s why it struck me as so weird.

      I wonder if she, somehow, was thinking that the first two syllables of Minneapolis were like the end of Hermione from the Harry Potter books? A guess, to be sure.


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