Chicago’s Mispronounced Street Names

I recently ran across a post about street names that Chicagoans typically mispronounce.  Actually, I’ve run across several posts on this subject.  Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, the same nine street names are cited in just about all of them.

It’s impossible to determine who first drew up the list.  I recall reading stuff like this when I was in my teens, back in the 1960s.  Many of the same names were cited then.

I do have a few quibbles about those nine street names—are we really pronouncing some of them incorrectly?  I also have a couple more that were overlooked.

(1) Devon.  Like those posts note—and like most Chicagoans I know—I pronounce it dee-VAHN.

(2) Leavitt.  Forget the part that looks like “leave.”  It’s LEV-itt.

(3) Paulina.  Not pronounced like the girl’s name.  The street is pull-EYE-nuh.

(4) Armitage.  Locally pronounced ARM-a-tudj, slurring the last syllable.

(5) Honore.  Supposedly, most Chicagoans eschew the French pronunciation, and say HON-or-ee.

Here are a couple that are supposedly mispronounced, but might not be—

(6) Clybourn.  It’s CLY-born locally.  What else could it be?

(7) Wabansia.  We say wuh-BAN-see-uh.  How’s that a local mistake?

Now, two special cases—

(8) Throop.  Yes, my dad always said TROOP.  But I grew up pronouncing the “h” in the name, and I rarely hear it as TROOP any more. (Then again, people tell me that Saint Thecla Church is Saint TECK-la)

(9) Goethe.  The posts say Chicagoans mispronounce it as GO-ith.  I learned how to mispronounce it as GO-thee.  So which wrong way is the right wrong way?

Finally, I have two additions to the list—

(10) Des Plaines.  Like Honore, we forget the French and say des-PLAINS.

(11) Laramie.  I grew up near this street, and we all said LAR-mee.

Anybody else have more additions to the list?


11 Responses to “Chicago’s Mispronounced Street Names”

  1. 1 Garry September 14, 2017 at 8:35 am

    I’ve heard people say Deer-burn, for Dearborn. Some, like the Mr. CTA guy from Milwaukee say Brin-mahr, instead of Brin-more. He also says Gerta, which is ridiculous, as the way he says it, actually sounds like Burton on a crowded & noisy bus, which is just two stops away on the Clark or Broadway buses. I read that’s because that incompetent Frank Kreusi wanted it pronounced that way due to being of German descent.

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt September 14, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      The “Goethe” business you mention sounds like a needless pomposity. I’m reminded of a prof who always made sure to distinguish the pronunciation of Teddy ROSE-a-velt from Franklin D. RUUS-a-velt—he claimed that the different branches of the family pronounced the family name differently. (Or maybe it was a Republican vs. Democrat thing.)

      • 3 Garry September 14, 2017 at 9:58 pm

        I believe that prof had it wrong. It was Teddy Ruus-a-velt & Franklin Rose-a-velt.

      • 4 J.R. Schmidt September 15, 2017 at 6:47 am

        You could be right. I just recall that he made a distinction between the two. Since I thought the prof was being too picky about the pronunciation business, his OCD had the opposite effect on me—I didn’t bother to remember which Roosevelt was which.

  2. 5 Wendy Bright September 14, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Couch Place. I’ve heard two pronunciations and am not clear as to which is correct: cowch or kooch.

  3. 7 bassbarile September 21, 2017 at 11:39 am

    It is TROOP. No one who lives in the neighborhood calls it THROOP. It’s TROOP.

  4. 9 Alzo September 21, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Chicagoans say KLY-born and KILL-born instead of the Scottish KLY-burn and KILL-burn. They say ROO-zeh-velt instead of ROE-zeh-velt. Then there’s Nina street, pronounced NINE-uh because there is a Neenah street.

    • 10 J.R. Schmidt September 22, 2017 at 8:39 am

      Good one! All these years, and I never stopped to think we were mispronouncing Nina Avenue as NINE-uh, though it makes sense. Why didn’t they change one of them in the great street-renaming of the 1930s? As for Roosevelt, either pronunciation is okay—check out Garry’s COMMENTS.

  5. 11 Eric October 23, 2017 at 1:28 am

    Racine Avenue would be interesting as it is French.

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