Don't be fooled by the abundance of vowels and apparently simple syllables ("row," "ya," "hi") — Georgia place names are often deceptively tricky to pronounce; and the question of how best to pronounce them inspires its own fierce debate.
Following the publication of an AJC.com story earlier this week, "Are these 10 of Georgia's hardest-to-pronounce town names?", readers were happy to respond with more names, and to debate the pronunciations that were highlighted, such as "Hey-HI-ra" for the town of Hahira.
"I am convinced past Georgians changed pronunciations just to be different. Thus, Helena = Hey-lee-nah. Italian Milan = My-lun," commenter matt321 wrote. "It is a minor miracle the common pronunciations were kept for Athens and Rome. Poor New London ended up being pronounced Snellville!"
Of particular interest was a very specific question about the town of McDonough, which is commonly pronounced "Mick (or mac)-DUN-a" or "Mac-DONNA."
But which is the right way? It depends on where you live.
Jim Nystrom, "was born and raised here in south DeKalb," wrote in via email: "Until recent years McDonough has NEVER been pronounced Mac-done-a. It has ALWAYS been Mad-donna. Don't know how done-a got in there other than some out of towners who did not know how to pronounce it."
Joan Scott agreed, writing in via email that locals pronounce it "Mac-DON-uh." What's more, Scott included evidence of a significant history of "mispronuciation" of the town name, as well as many comments from other people agreeing with her pronunciation.
Lydia Reeves Hester, who identified herself as a former city councilor in McDonough, wrote in to say that "Mick-DUN-a" is "NOT acceptable to those of us who are natives of the city."
"The first time I remember hearing a TV news person mispronounce the city's name was back in 1994," Hester wrote, "... When he talked about 'Mick-Dun-a,' the entire group gathered around the TV cringed."
Here is a sampling of more place names across the state, along with their pronunciations, submitted by readers:
Adel: "AY-dell" (Noel Brannan)
Alapaha: "A-LAP-uh-ha" or "A-LAP-uh-haw," though there seems to be no clear consensus, one expert said (Elizabeth Neace)
Albany: "All-BINNY" (Mike Burke)
Armuchee: "ar-MER-chee" (Jay Stone)
Chamblee: "SHAM-blee" (Pamela Gore)
DeKalb County: "De-CAB" (Lacey LeCroy)
Helena: "Huh-LEEN-uh" (Derek Mitchell)
Houston County: "HOUSE-ton" (Penny Campbell)
LaFayette: "Luh-FAY-ette" or, controversially, "Lah-FI-ette" (Lacey LeCroy)
Lithonia: "Lie-THONE-ya" (Jim Nystrom)
Lizella: "LIE-zella" (Anna Redding)
Ludowici: "Lude-uh-WISSY" (Deana Calhoun)
Martinez: "MARTIN-ez" (Brandon Dial)
Senoia: "Se-NOY" (Jim Nystrom)
Taliaferro County: "TALL-iver" or "TALL-ifer" (Rodney Owen)
Kathy Fowler, who said she is the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother of the county's namesake, Benjamin Taliaferro, wrote in to say that the pronunciation is actually inherited from the English, "in typical syllable-swallowing style."
Vienna: "VIE-enna" (Noel Brannan)
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Did we forget a place name? Are these pronunciations way off base? Comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion.