Friday, June 26, 2009

Instant Loss of Credibility

Speaking Austin

It came out of the mouth of a TV reporter during the 6 O’clock news last night (Thursday, June 25). I don’t know what the story was about. I’m not quite sure who the reporter was. I think that I know the station, but it doesn’t matter because I was still hung up on what she said. It caught my attention instantly. My head turned like it was on ball bearings. Longtime Austinites could be heard murmuring, “She ain’t from around here.”

She was referring to the former area formerly known as Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, and the reporter called it, “MULE-ur.” There are members of the Mueller family still living here. The name is pronounced “MILL-er”.

Right then, I knew it was time. It was time to recreate my pronunciation guide for new broadcast news reporters, and for anybody else who hasn’t lived in Austin, Texas very long—a lot of people are in that group. Why is this important? For people on the air, mispronunciation results in immediate distraction from the story at hand and loss of credibility.

Somewhere (probably in the attic where you could bake bread this time of the year), I have the original list. I would give it to new reporters and anchors. Let me say, I don't necessarily agree with these localism, but nobody asked me. So, this is the reconstituted list:

Let’s start with towns and places.

Manor is pronounced MAY-nur, not how it looks.

Elgin is pronounced with a hard “g”, not like the watch, like “begin”.

Mexia is Spanish. So, it’s pronounced Mah-HAY-ah.

San Antonio is located in Bexar County. Like Mexia, it is Spanish, pronounced like the aspirin BAY-er.

Lake Buchanan is said “Lake BUCK-annan”.

Llano is also Spanish, but it isn’t pronounced like the Spanish double L. Say “LAN-oh” instead.

Manchaca, the road and town, is Spanish, but isn’t pronounced in Spanish by most locals. Say MAN-shack instead. (I'm not kidding.)

Menchaca Elementary School is in Manchaca. The school is pronounced the way it looks in Spanish.

Burnet is pronounced BURN-it.

Blanco is not pronounced in Spanish. It’s said, “BLANK-oh”.

San Marcos would seem easy, but locals say, “San MARK-us”, not “ohs”.

Andice is actually the way it looks: AN-dice with a long “I”.

Buda is pronounced BYOU-duh. Not the way you think.

Bastrop is pronounced BASS-strop.

Pedernales - The street, the river, and the state park are pronounced by locals as PURR-di-NAL-es. I don't know why.

Dripping Springs may also be called “Drippin’”

A little background: South Austin is historically looked upon with scorn by North Austinites. Over the years, South Austinites were called “Bubba’s”. South Austinites would never, ever live north of the river because they believe the people there live life in the fast lane, except during rush hour when they just sit in the fast lane. (I’ve lived only in South Austin for, well, er, decades.)

Now, we’ll move to Austin streets.

I – 35 is not IH-35. Longtime locals called it “Interregional Highway”, but most people wouldn’t know what you were talking about if you said that.

The signs for the other north-south thoroughfare say “Loop 1”, but everyone calls it MOPAC, even though the tracks are now owned by Union-Pacific. I keep thinking it will be named after someone famous.

Coming from the east, Texas Highway 71 becomes Ben White Blvd. before it turns in to US 290 West (unless you’re in the wrong lane and have to go straight. If you go straight, you’ll be on Loop 360.) At the “Y” in Oak Hill (Southwest Austin) you’ll have a choice again of 290 West or 71 West.

Guadalupe may be called “The Drag” where it runs past The (with a capital “T”) University of Texas at Austin. Elsewhere, the street is not pronounced in Spanish. Locals say GUA-dah-loop. Really. However, the river and the county are pronounced in Spanish, which is much nicer.

Some streets have different names, depending on where you are. Ranch Road 2222 is Koenig Lane (Pronounced KEY-nig.) It is also Northland near MOPAC and Allendale east of MOPAC.

US 183 is more confusing. Depending on where you are in Austin, it might be Research Blvd or Anderson Lane or Ed Bluestein on the south end. If you go all of the way north to Cedar Park, it’s Bell Blvd.

Airport Blvd. back in Austin used to run parallel to the airport when the airport was Mueller. It still has little signs showing airplanes because if you go south on Airport, you will eventually get to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Manor Road. (See Manor, the town above. Same thing.)

Duval occurs in two places: North of UT and way north off of MOPAC.

Got all of that? I’ve probably left out a few. I welcome additions. Just click on “Comments” and share them with everyone.

© Jim McNabb, 2009


veelive said...

LOVE the pronunciation guide, McNabb!! It's so true - these newbies need to learn the colloquial language. I would suggest, however, that the pronunciation for "Koenig" be changed to "KAY-nig."

Anonymous said...

It only took this boy from Arkansas about a week to learn how to pronunciation Texas name, but I had a good teacher. Thx Jim!

Andrea said...

OK, well, this is a dilemma.

Personally, I have found that most people I know pronounce those words exactly as you describe.

Mueller Airport, however, is a different story.

Many, many people around here never heard that name until the new development came along. And out of the city's million-plus population, how many do you think know the Muellers?

Correct pronunciation, of course, is always ideal. It's respectful and simply right.

But the bottom line is, people say MEW-ler. So who are the TV stations supposed to be communicating to? The few people who know the Muellers or the hundreds of thousands of people who know it by the other "name."

Frankly, this gets to the heart of this old vs. new population debate.

I'm not saying people should say this name wrong. But they do. And I don't think the tv reporter loses credibility to anyone but the 6 natives who hold the newbies in pompous disdain anyway.

Lisa Glass said...

OK, several things:

Since "Mueller" is my official last name, I can say that it is a problematic name no matter where you are. My husband's family chooses to pronounce it with a soft U, as if it were spelled "Muller." I pretty much answer to any pronunciation at this point.

Wouldn't the G in "Elgin" be termed a hard G, and not a soft G?

The weirdness of pronouncing Spanish words around here has always amazed me - half are pronounced as they should be and half are Texan-ized. Actually, if "Mexia" were truly pronounced in proper Spanish, it would be "Meh-HEE-ah."

OK, I'm done now.

Anonymous said...

You know what's funny? I agree with 99 percent of your guide, but my family always said MULE-er! I try to say Miller now that I know what the family prefers.

And we always did say KEY nig as we drove down it from BURNit to go to McCallum High School.

Marked as anonymous because I do not have a dang Google account and need no more dang accounts, but it's Elizabeth here, McNabb. Thanks for the good posting.

Debra said...

my fave: in south texas, the town of Agua Dulce, just spread your vowels, and you'll have the correct pronunciation. Hard g in agua, accent on the "dul". ps, I've always said mule-er.

Anonymous said...

But isn't this all just gross "anglification" of spanish words/names?

Really Jim, just cause the "white folks" couldn't pronounce it, doesn't mean that years of mispronunciation make it correct.

I see your point but aren't you really just qualifying ignorance... and believe it or not, hippies weren't the first folks around here... that was only just a recent blip on the radar of Texas history.

Who REALLY is the authority on how something is pronounced?

NewsMcNabb said...

Editor's note: The points about the curruption of beautiful Spanish names, ie. Guadalupe, are valid. My wife, for one, will never, ever say MAN-chaca, for Manchaca.
In all of the instances where Spanish names are concerned, I attribute the pronunciation to locals or long-time Austinites.

Who decides? Well, the people decide. As Texas more and more becomes a state of Hispanic roots, the people may decide otherwise. We could even pronounce the name of the state differently. It would be OK with me.

The goal here is to clear up misunderstandings. Many of the examples above had to do with the unusual pronunciation of English words.