28 December 2018


by O'Neil De Noux

After reading an interesting article on why we pronounce Arkansas and Kansas differently, my mind moved home to our unique pronunciations in New Orleans. Many are secret handshakes – pronouncing a word correctly shows you are a New Orleanian, not a tourist or an ex-patriot American who moved here from Cleveland and never left. (that's a joke fellas).

Some of our secret handshakes are:

Burgundy Street is pronounced is not pronounced Bur-gun-dy like the wine – but is Bur-gun-dy.
Milan Street is not pronounced like the city in Italy but My-lin.
Beaucaire is Bo-care.
Chalmette is Chal-met.
Chartres Street is Char-ters.
Calliope Street is Cal-ee-ope.
Farbourg Marigny is Fa-berg Mare-a-nee.
Metairie is Met-a-ree.
Palquemines is Plack-a-mins.
Pontchartrain is Ponch-a-train.

There are two proper ways to pronounce our city's name. New Awlins (sometimes New Awlun) or New Aw-lee-uns, although Orleans Avenue is pronounced Or-leens. It is acceptable to call the city New Or-leens in a song or in a poem in order to match a rhyme as in "Do you know what it means to miss New Or-leens?"

Uptown dillitantes are known to pronounce the city's name as New Aw-al-yuns and Tulane University as Ta-lane instead of the proper Too-lane.

Here is a link to how the fat man pronounced the city. In my generation, Fat Domino was the Man. Here is his wonderful WALKING TO NEW ORLEANS:


In north Louisiana (we never call it upstate), our state name is often pronounced Looziana, where down here in the south we call it what most people call it - Louise-e-ana. It was named after King Louis XIV, the Sun King.

Article about Arkansas and Kansas can be found here:


When we read books, it is not important we pronounce things correctly but if we read them aloud or if we writers have our books on audio, the narrator has to know colloquial pronunciations or you get your audio book to have a "Street Charles Avenue" instead of "Saint Charles Avenue" because the narrator thought St. Charles Avenue was ... you get the drift.

Happy New Year, y'all.


  1. Brings me memories of the wonderful tour you gave us when we visited your city in September. Glad I didn't have to take a quiz on all those names. The favorite shibboleth (i.e. secret handshake) in Washington state where I live is Puyallup. That is pronounced Pyoo-OLL-up. The city's founder, Ezra Meeker, apologized in writing for giving it that name. Meeker was a fascinating guy for many reasons, for example, he invented the national trail system.

  2. Fun piece, O'Neil. Now hopefully I can sneak in as a real New Orleanian next time I'm there. Maybe get a better table at Commander's Palace.

  3. Enjoyed this, O'Neil! I knew most of the "handshakes," but not all of them. Though I should've, since I've been back and forth down there all my life. What a great place!!

  4. Happy New Year, O'Neil. Like the "handshakes" - we have a couple of them in South Dakota, beginning with our capital. It helps to know who's not from around here.

  5. O'Neil, when I was a kid in Wichita, Kansas, several of us canoed from the John Mack Bridge in Wichita down to Ark City on the AR-Kansas River. But once the same water left Kansas, it became the Arkansaw River. Interesting you brought it up.

    As for Eve's remark about the capital of South Dakota and being a native or an outsider, the city of Pierre is pronounced Pier by the native South Dakotans and Pee-Air by the visitors to the state.

  6. Oh, R.T. - you just gave the game away!

  7. Here in Kansas, we pronounce the name of the Arkansas River "Our-Kansas." The same with Arkansas City. Go figure! (Oh, R.T., I just read your post!)

  8. Can never get enough Fats Domino. Thanks O'Neil!


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