How to Talk Like a Texan, Place Names Edition

Kathleen Rice Adams header

 

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
How Texans pronounce place names ’round here.

Southeast Texas mapIn case y’all haven’t noticed, Texans do things our own way. Pronunciation, for example, is always a crapshoot when you’re from out of state. If you ever get lost in Texas, place names are good to know. Depending upon where you are in the state when you ask for directions using a mispronounced name, at best you’ll get a blank look. At worst, you’ll be laughed out of town.

 

First, a few universal basics:

Any name ending in “-boro” is pronounced “[name]buh-ruh”
Any name ending in “-shire” is pronounced “[name]shur.”
Most names ending in “-ville” are pronounced “[name]vuhl.”
Most names ending “-land” are pronounced “[name]lund.”
In Texas, “bayou” most often is pronounced “BI-oh,” not “BI-yoo.”

 

Mispronouncing any of the following is a dead giveaway you ain’t from around here:

Bexar: Bear

Blanco: BLANK-oh

Boerne: BUR-nee

Bosque: BAHS-key

Bowie: BOO-ee (C’mon, folks. Jim Bowie was one of the heroes of the Alamo. The least we can do is say his name right.)

Texas bayou

Texas bayou

Brazos: BRA-zuhs (short A, as in “gas”)

Eldorado: ell-duh-RAY-doh

Gruene: Green

Guadalupe: GWAH-dah-loop

Humble: UHM-buhl (Leave out the H, people!)

Luckenbach: LEW-ken-bahk (There is absolutely no excuse for getting this one wrong. Merle Haggard sang a number-one country hit about the town, for heaven’s sake.)

Manchaca: MAN-shack

Mexia: Muh-HAY-uh

Palacios: puh-LASH-us

Pecos: PAY-cuss

San Marcos: San MAR-cuss

Seguin: Seh-GEEN

Waxahachie: Wawks-uh-HATCH-ee

 

The following are more obscure.

We’ll forgive you for mispronouncing these. Many are spoken nothing like they’re spelled. Some are Texan-ized Spanish, German, or American Indian. Some are settlers’ surnames. The rest came from Lord only knows where.

Alvarado: Al-vuh-RAY-doh

Agua Dulce: Ah-wah DULE-sih

Anahuac: ANN-uh-wack

Aquilla: Uh-KWILL-uh

Balmorhea: Bal-muh-RAY

Banquete: Ban-KETT-ee

Bedias: BEE-dice

Bogata: Buh-GO-duh

Bolivar: BAHL-iv-er

Bronte: Brahnt

Brookshire: BROOK-shur

Buda: BYOO-duh

Bula: BYOO-luh

Buna: BYOO-nuh

Burnet: BURN-it

Texas bluebonnets at sunset

Texas bluebonnets at sunset

Carmine: Kar-MEEN

Celina: Suh-LIE-nuh

Christoval: Chris-TOE-vuhl

Cibolo: SEE-oh-low

Coahoma: Kuh-HO-muh

Colmesneil: COLE-mess-neel

Comal: KOH-muhl

Del Valle: Del VA-lee (like valley)

Erath: EE-rath

Falfurrias: Fal-FURY-us

Farrar: FAR-uh

Flatonia: Flat-TONE-yuh

Floresville: FLOORS-vuhl

Floydada: Floy-DAY-duh

Fredonia: Free-DOHN-yuh

Fulshear: FULL-shur

Grand Saline: Gran Suh-LEEN

Helotes: Hell-OH-tiss

Hico: HIGH-koh

Hochheim: HO-hime

Iraan: EYE-ruh-ANN

Jardin: JAR-duhn

Jermyn: JER-muhn (like German)

Jiba: HEE-buh

Jourdanton: JERD-n-tuhn

Juliff: JEW-liff

Kleberg: CLAY-berg

Knippa: Kuh-NIP-uh

Kountz: KOONTS

Kosciusko: Kuh-SHOOS-koh

Kuykendal: KIRK-en-doll

Lake Buchanan: Lake Buh-CAN-uhn

Lamarque: Luh-MARK

Lamesa: Luh-MEE-suh

Lampasas: Lam-PASS-us

Latexo: Luh-TEX-oh

Leakey: LAY-key

Levita: Luh-VIE-tuh

Lillian: LILL-yun

horses in pasture near Llano, Texas

horses in pasture near Llano, Texas

Llano: LAN-oh

Lorena: Low-REE-nuh

Manor: MAIN-er

Marathon: MARE-uh-thun

Marquez: mar-KAY

Miami: My-AM-uh (Texas ain’t Florida, after all.)

Medina: Muh-DEE-nuh

Montague: Mahn-TAG

Navarro: Nuh-VARE-uh

Nacogdoches: Nack-uh-DOH-chess

New Berlin: Noo BUR-lin

New Braunfels: New BRAWN-fuls

Nocona: Nuh-KOH-nuh

Olney: ALL-nee

Opelika: OPE-uh-LIKE-uh

Palestine: PAL-uh-steen (Nobody gets that one right unless they’re from Texas.)

Pedernales: Purr-den-AL-ess (Yes, the letters and sounds are all scrambled up. Just go with it.)

Pflugerville: FLOO-ger-ville (One exception to the “-vuhl” rule.)

Poth: POE-th

Quemado: Kuh-MAH-doh

Quitaque: KITTY-qway

Refugio: Reh-FURY-oh

Salado: Suh-LAY-doh

Salinero: Suh-LEEN-yo

Santa Elena: San-tuh LEE-na

Study Butte: STEW-dee BYOOT

Tawakoni: Tuh-WOK-uh-nee

Tivoli: Tih-VOH-luh

Tulia: TOOL-yuh

Uvalde: Yoo-VAL-dee

Weesatche: WEE-sash

Weslaco: WESS-luh-koh

 

Texans, what names aren’t on this list? The rest of y’all: What odd place names occur in your state? Leave a comment and let us know! I’ll give two commenters their choice of the Christmas ebooks Peaches or The Last Three Miles.

 

Peaches, by Kathleen Rice AdamsRunning a ranch and fending off three meddlesome aunts leaves Whit McCandless no time, and even less patience, for the prickly new schoolmarm’s greenhorn carelessness. The teacher needs educating before somebody gets hurt.

Ruth Avery can manage her children and her school just fine without interference from some philistine of a rancher. If he’d pay more attention to his cattle and less to her affairs, they’d both prosper.

He didn’t expect to need rescuing. She never intended to fall in love.

The Last Three Miles, by Kathleen Rice AdamsWhen an accident leaves Hamilton Hollister convinced he’ll never be more than half a man, he abandons construction of a railway spur his lumber mill needs to survive.

Believing no woman shackled by social convention can be complete, railroad heiress Katherine Brashear refuses to let the nearly finished track die.

The magic of Christmas in a small Texas town may help them bridge the distance…if they follow their hearts down The Last Three Miles. (spicy)

 

 

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Kathleen Rice Adams
A Texan to the bone, award-winning author Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperados. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen's tales, even the good guys wear black hats.

Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.

Visit her at the Hole in the Web Gang's hideout, KathleenRiceAdams.com. Or, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Her Amazon author page is here.

28 Comments

  1. Kathleen, this is the best list of names and words I have ever seen. You have done us Texans proud. I have lived in Texas my whole life and we sure have a way with words. De Soto is De So duh and Detroit is Dee troit. Thanks for a great post!

    1. This post was so much fun! How could I have omitted De So duh and Dee troit? Gotta love Texas!

      Thanks for coming by, Melanie. It’s always a pleasure to “see” you. 🙂

  2. Your list is purty near perfect, Kathleen! Only 2 – that aren’t’ well know outside of the Austin area is Palmer: PAR mer.

    1. PARMER! Of course! GAH! Can’t believe I didn’t include that one. Thanks for bringing it up, Glenda!

      It’s always nice to see you in the corral. Hope y’all had a good Thanksgiving!

  3. Thanks so much for the refresher. Lived in Texas as a child but left a long time ago.

    1. Well, come on back, Debra! Once a Texan, always a Texan. 😀

  4. We have our fair share of unusual Amish town names like Bird-in-Hand, Blue Ball, Paradise, Mount Joy, Intercourse, and Fertility. We also have the biblical named Bethlehem and Nazareth. There are also many German names for towns from all of the Germans William Penn brought to Penna.

    Names from the Welsh Tract outside of Phila. for those who settled here include Bala Cynwyd, Bryn Mawr, Berwyn, Caernarvon, Gwynedd, Tredyffrin, Uwchlan, and of course North Wales. King of Prussia was named Frederick II, the actual King of Prussia, and Lititz was named after a castle in Bohemia. We also have towns named California, Indiana, Nebraska, Wyoming, Egypt, Lebanon, Rome, St. Petersburg, Damascus, Athens, Dallas, Houston, Liverpool, and Mars.

    Quite a few towns were based on Lenape Indian words or roots like Allegheny (beautiful waters), Conshohocken (pleasant valley), Lackawanna (fork of a river), Lycoming (sandy stream), Manayunk (place of drinking), Shamokin (place of eels), Susquehanna (muddy water), Wissahickon (Catfish Creek), Passyunk (in the valley) and last but not least Punxsutawney (land of flies and mosquitoes) but also the name of the town where the groundhog comes out each year to see by his shadow how much longer winter will last. The name of the town I live in is named for “cloudy waters” and was also originally Lenape land before it was bought by Quaker William Penn.

    On a different note (literally?), the song about Luckenbach, Texas, was a number one country hit in 1977 by Waylon Jennings, joined in at the end–by happenstance that day–by Willie Nelson. Waylon is and was a longtime favorite I listened to in the car traveling around the country. Funny enough, though, Waylon never set foot in that small town which is about 75 miles west of Austin. Waylon was a West Texan, born in Littlefield, later moving to nearby Lubbock.

    Thanks for the interesting post, Kathleen, since I really love learning local “sounds” & words.
    (Please don’t enter me in the ebook contest.)

    1. Wow! You have a lot of interesting and unusual place names up there, Eliza. How fun! I especially love the American Indian names. The names they gave places give us a view into how they saw the world.

      You’ve been to Luckenbach! It’s barely a wide spot in the road, but Waylon and Willie sure made it famous.

      Thanks for stopping by, Eliza!

  5. Oh wow. Now that is a great list! I love that drawl in reading the words. 🙂

    1. You can hear it too, huh? Gotta love Texas-speak! 🙂

  6. I appreciate your pronunciation guide, Kathleen. All of my books are set in Texas, but not being raised here, I often mispronounce town names in my head, and occasionally – gasp! – out loud, which is very embarrassing.

    I’ll never forget the time I was speaking to a library group in Cross Plains, and I was introducing my new series with a family ranch set outside Palestine, TX. I pronounced it Palest(eye)n (long I sound) just like the place in the middle east. One gentleman in the back kindly asked if I had ever been to Palesteen (long E sound). I quickly picked up on the difference and admitted my ignorance as well as thanking him for correcting my pronunciation. It might be spelled the same as the middle eastern city, but Texans are famous for giving things their own spin. In that same book, I had a horse named Bexar (in honor of the Alamo) and all this time I’ve been thinking it was pronounced phonetically Bex-ar. Glad I didn’t stick my foot in my mouth further with that one. Thankfully, I did know about Jim Bowie’s name. One out of three is still pretty shameful, though.

    1. At least you had a friendly audience! Most Texans will politely correct pronunciation, but they may give you one of those side-of-the-eye, “isn’t she just adorable?” looks that means “that poor child is too stupid to live.” 😀

      Even those of us who are genetic Texans get pronunciations wrong sometimes. Manchaca was an eye-opener for me. I’d heard the word in conversation long before I saw it spelled, and being one of those kids who mothers always told them to “sound out” unfamiliar words, I couldn’t believe that spelling went with that name. 😀

  7. Oh boy! I have lived in Texas 40 years and I still mispronounce some of these words.

    1. All of us do! Every time I see “Lake Buchanan” in print, I read “Lake BYOO-can-uhn.” It’s alarming, really. 😀

  8. Butts, Skinquarter, and Assawoman, all in Virginia.

    1. Y’all have some sassy names up yonder! That last one sounds like an insult. 😉

  9. Holey Buckets of I’m-not-a-Texan, because I got most of those pronunciations wrong. 0_o One of the odd location pronunciations here in southeastern Colorado is “Picketwire” for the Purgatory River.

    1. We’ll forgive you for not being a Texan, but only if you behave yourself… Never mind. That’s not gonna happen.

      How on earth did they get “Picketwire” out of Purgatory?

  10. Kathleen, what a fun and helpful list. I need to copy this list and keep it handy. I’m embarrassed to say I got Jim Bowie’s name wrong, but did pretty good with the Spanish words. That’s because I live in California and boy do we have some humdingers here. Question: does your GPS pronounce the names right? The GPS here in California sometimes butchers the names and we all get a kick out of that.

    1. The GPS NEVER gets the names right here. It’s hilarious.

      You got Jim Bowie’s name wrong? Margaret, shame on you! Go stand in the corner and sing “The Eyes of Texas” three times. 😉

  11. What a great post, Kathleen. I’ve always said Bowie BOOie, but when I was in San Antonio, I realize how I mispronounced, well, practically everything LOL. The weirdest name I can think of around here comes from a Chumash princess, Hueneme, only it’s pronounced WY-NEE-MEE.

    I once worked for an insurance company that is based in Wisconsin…you should have heard how THEY pronounced it. Hugs….

    1. I would never have guessed that pronunciation, Tanya. I probably would’ve tried to figure out another way to refer to the place the first time I saw it spelled, so I didn’t embarrass myself in public! 😀

  12. Where I grew up there were towns named Suffern and Monsey… we pronounced them Suf frin and Mun See

    1. Now see? Texans aren’t the only ones who scramble up the letters! 😀

      Nice to see you, Colleen!

  13. That was a great list. I’m from Texas but I have to live in Kansas due to my work and I fell down laughing at this thank you I needed a good laugh at the end of my day. I’m from EE rath county in Texas. Stephen vuhl, so I truly related. I was also born in Hico, High koh. But these crazy people up here in Kansas call the Arkansas River Ar-Kansas river. It’s the craziest thing I have ever heard, I Still pronounce it the way it good Texan would pronounce it, Arr KAN saw.

    1. LOL! Tonya, you had me laughing so hard I spit iced tea on my monitor. Those crazy Kansans probably think everything with “kansas” in it is based on their state, so OF COURSE it’s pronounced “Ar-Kansas.” 😀

  14. How about Frostproof, FL and Christmas, FL. Yup, they’re real. Frostproof is in Polk, County and .Christmas is in Orange County.

    1. I love “Frostproof”! What a perfect name for a town in Florida…most of the time, anyway.

      Good to see you, Alisa!

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