New Mexico: Abiquiú
The correct pronunciation is AB-ick-you, which you might know if you were a fan of television’s Breaking Bad. Abiquiú was also mentioned in Willa Cather’s 1927 novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop. It is also the actual location for the opening shot of the film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Other notable films shot in Abiquiú include City Slickers and Wyatt Earp. If you’re into pop culture references, check out which iconic movies were shot in which states.
New York: Schenectady
There are a LOT of New York municipalities that are hard to pronounce, but we chose Schenectady, New York, for slightly selfish reasons. First, one of us word nerds, and we’re not saying who, is a big fan of the film, Synechdoche, New York, whose title is a play on “Schenectady, New York,” where most of the film is set (along with the concept of “synechdoche,” wherein a part of something represents the whole or vice versa). Second, that same word nerd’s dad went to high school in Schenectady County, New York, and the name of that high school is quite a whopper, itself: Niskayuna (pronounced Niss-kee-YOU-nuh).
By the way, Schenectady is pronounced Skin-ECK-tah-DEE.
North Carolina: Schley
Trying to be Sly, are we, Schley, North Carolina? Or is that just the way you’re pronounced?In fact, it’s the latter.
North Dakota: Palermo
Chalk another one up to the foreign cities that don’t translate. Palermo, North Dakota, is not pronounced like its Italian counterpart (Pah-LAIR-Mo), but rather, as PAL-er-mo.
The village of Gnadehutten, Ohio is in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, and is Ohio’s oldest existing settlement, having been founded in October 1772 by German-Americans. And that goes a long way toward explaining the name and its pronunciation: It’s derived directly from the German word, gnadenhütten, which means “huts of grace,” and it’s basically unspellable in the English language, although we give those founders an A for effort.
The closest we can get you is ji-NAY-dun-huh-tehn. According to non-native English-speakers, these are the hardest words to pronounce in the English language.
What makes Pawhuska, Oklahoma, so hard to pronounce is that it kind of feels like something’s missing between the W and the H. Once you get past that urge to stick another sound in there, you’re left with Paw-HUS-Kuh, which is more a challenge to the mouth and the tongue than to phonetics. Here are some words that don’t mean anything like what they look like they mean.
Yachats, Oregon, is a small coastal city in Lincoln County. The name derives from the Siletz language and means “dark water at the foot of the mountain.” In 2007, Budget Travel magazine named Yachats one of the “Ten Coolest Small Towns of the U.S.A.,” and Yachats was chosen among the top 10 U.S. up-and-coming vacation destinations by VirtualTourist.Now, about that pronunciation. Forget that there’s a C in there at all and just say “YA-hahts.”And speaking of amazing Oregon beaches, check out why Bandon, Oregon should be on your bucket list.
Shickshinny, Pennsylvania is a small municipality located in Luzerne County. It’s named after the Shickshinny Creek, which runs through it. And according to the Shickshinny Historical Society, Shickshinny means “five mountains.” While Shickshinny may not be the hardest Pennsylvania place-name to pronounce (for that, think: Lititz, Ephrata, Quakake, and Versailles, among others), Shickshinny sure does make for a fun tongue twister.But if you’re looking for a fun family weekend in Pennsylvania, look no further than this weekend itinerary in Bucks County, PA.
Rhode Island: Quonochontaug
South Carolina: Chechessee River
So many places in South Carolina are frequently mispronounced, that the South Carolina Information Highway (SCIWAY, which is pronounced “sky-way”) has developed a comprehensive guide to pronouncing South Carolinian places. As we scanned the hundreds of entries, we realized that while many were provided by South Carolinians, many were also requested by South Carolinians. In other words, even people who live in South Carolina don’t necessarily know how to pronounce some of these more hard-to-pronounce places.
For example, a reader named “Kate” requested the official pronunciation of the Chechessee River after having lived alongside it for more than six years because she had “never heard it pronounced.” Here’s what Kate was told by SCIWAY:
The Chechesee River is pronounced Chu-CHESSEE, with the last two syllables “sort of run together” such that really all the syllables end up “soft-sounding and fluid, just like the river that bears its name!” Now if that isn’t an example of Southern hospitality, then we don’t know what is.