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Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Presidential hopefuls need to clear all kinds of hurdles. Some are unique to politics, but one is familiar to every Iowan: getting our state's place-names right. While some of them (like Atlantic) are clear from the spelling, others trip newbies up. Louisa County? Not like my cousin's first name. Madrid? Not like the city in Spain. Nevada? Not like that state out west. You can’t take anything for granted. But you're not on your own - Iowa Public Radio has you covered. Below is our handy audio guide to pronouncing Iowa place names. How did these pronunciations gain their current forms? Long story, which we'll get to another time, but meanwhile, scroll down for the list. NOTE: Thanks to digital technology, we can update the entries anytime. Let me know if you have any corrections or suggestions - we could even post YOUR voice up here! UPDATED December 7, 2016 with your feedback, suggestions, and corrections, we've reached the century mark of 100 - please keep 'em coming!

 

 

 

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Adel : Ay- DELL

 

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Allamakee : Aal -uh-muh-KEY [NOTE: Al as in "Call Me Al"]

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Amish: AY-mish

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Arispe: uh-RISS-pee

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Atalissa: at-uh-LISS-uh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Audubon: AW-duh-bin

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Ayrshire: AIR- "sure" ["air" like the stuff we breathe; sure like the sher in "Sherman"]

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Barney: I have no idea how this name is pronounced!

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Bondurant: BONN-durr-RANT

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Bremer: BREE-mer

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Buena Vista : BYOO-nuhVIH-stuh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Calamus : CAAL-uh-muhss ("Cal" as in California or Calvin)

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Calmar : CAAL-mer ("Cal" as in California or Calvin)

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Camanche : cuh- MAANCH

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Chariton : SHARE-ih-ton

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Charlotte: sharr- LOTT

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Cherokee: chair-uh-KEE

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Chillicothe : chill-uh-KAW-thhee

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Churdan : shur-DAAN

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Clermont : Clare - mont

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Clutier : clue - teer

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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De Witt : Most residents say simply Duh WITT, with a schwa vowel in the first syllable; but some say "Dee Witt," as follows:

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Decorah: dih - CORE - uh  or duh-CORE-uh (short "schwa" as the first vowel) - though some residents say dee-CORE-uh as follows:

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Delhi : DELL- high

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Delmar : DELL- mer (although some say DELL- mar)

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Delphos: DELL- fooss [the second syllable rhymes more with "foot" than with "dose"]

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Des Moines: di Moyn (or de moyn - that is, a "schwa" in the first vowel - or deh moyn) [For both the state capital, in the center-west of the state, and Des Moines County, in the far southeast, do not say the letter "s" - that letter is silent. And no vowel in the word should rhyme with "say," But what is the first vowel? I hear a short "schwa" in the county, and a short "ih" in the city - but Wikipedia hears a short "deh," rhyming with "meh," and I sometimes hear that in the city.]

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Dewar : DO -er

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Dubuque: dih-BYOOK

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Dysart : DIE- zert

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Earlham: ERL-uhm

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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East Peru: East Pee-roo

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Elkader: el-KAY-der

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Ely: EEE-lee

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Festina: Fes-TIE-nuh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Froelich: FRAY-lick

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Gerled: JURR-led

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Gowrie: GOW-ree (like cow, with a hard "g")

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Granger: GRAIN-jer (like Hermione, the Muggle-born Gryffindor)

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Guttenberg: GUTTin-burg

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Holstein: Hole-steen

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Hopkinton: This one is under discussion! Many people have told me that natives say the second syllable without the "n" and with an accent on the first syllable - Hop-kitten - but when I call people in Hopkinton, they insist that there is some "n" sound in the second syllable. What's your view? Let us know!

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Houghton: HUFF-tun

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Imogene: IM- uh-jeen

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Ionia: eye- OWN -yuh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Iowa : EYE -o – wuh ... or EYE- uh-wuh.... or EYE -wuh. [Three syllables or two? I've heard all the above used by residents. Many of us use two syllables, but when an announcer says it that way on the radio it can lead to complaints. By the way, I've never personally heard a resident call the state Ioway, although that doesn't prove anything. And off the way, a 1912 pronunciation guide cautions against the mispronunciation "i-OH-wuh," suggesting that some people said it that way.]

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Kamrar: KAAM - rahr

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Keokuk: Residents pronounce it more than one way. Common options include KEE-uh-Kuck and  KYOH-kuck. Some residents include an "l" sound in the second syllable: KEE-uhl-kuck  and kee-UHL-kuck.

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Keosauqua : Residents differ, but the most common is kee-uh -SAH- kwuh. (But residents also report hearing kee-oh-SAH-kwuh, kee-uh-SAW-kwuh, and Kuh-saw-kwa.)

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Lake Ahquabi : uh-KWAH -bee

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Lamoni : Luh-MOE-ni [Last syllable like eye, the organ of sight]

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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La Porte City: Luh PORT City (not "Lah" Port - the "le" is a schwa)

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Leighton : LIE -tuhn

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Leon: LEE-ahn

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Loess Hills : Luss Hills

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Lorimor: LORE-ih-mur

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Louisa  : Loo-EYE-za [Middle syllable like the organ of sight]

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Lowden : LOUD-in

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Luana: lu-WAY-nuh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

  

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Madrid : MAA-drid

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Maharishi Vedic City: Muh-HUHRSH-ee VAY-dik City [Hindi/Sanskrit-like pronunciation, preferred by some residents] or MA-ha-REE-shee VAY-dik city [Americanized pronunciation, most often used]

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Maloy : Muh-LOY

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Maquoketa : Muh-KOKE-uh-tuh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Mediapolis : Mee-dee-AAH-poh-liss

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Milan : MY  –laan (also heard: MY-lin)

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Milo: MY-low

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Mondamin : mahn-DAY-muhn

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Monticello  : Mon-tih- SELL –o

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Moravia : More-RAY-vee-uh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Moscow: You say MUSS-cow, you say MAHSS-cow - I've heard both from residents.

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Nashua : NAAH- shoe–uh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Nevada : neh-VAY –duh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Ocheyedan: oh-CHEE-din

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Odebolt: Oh-de-Bolt

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Oelwein: OLE-wine

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Okoboji: oh-kuh-BO-jee (although some old-timers said oh--kuh-BO-juh)

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Osceola: OH-see-OH-luh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

  

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Ossian: AW-shen or AH-shen

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Owasa: oh-WAH-sah

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Palo: PAY-low

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Peoria: Residents say Peoria (like the town in Illlinois) - or PURE-ree or PEER-ree

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Peosta: Pee-AHSS-tuh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Pisgah: Pizz-guh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Quasqueton: Residents say either kwass-KWEE-ton or KWASS-kwih-Ton

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Readlyn: REED-lin

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Rolfe: Rawlf (that is, one syllable)

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Sabula: Suh-BYOO-luh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Sherman Township: I'm not even gonna take a chance on this one!

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Sigourney : SIH-gurney

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Tabor : TAY-burr

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Tama : TAY-muh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Titonka : tie-TAHN-kuh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Traer : Trare (rhymes with "rare")

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Tripoli : trih- POE- luh

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Vining : VINE – ing

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Viola : VAI-oh-luh (first syllable gets the accent and rhymes with "eye")

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Wapello : WAAH–puh-lo

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Wapsipinicon :   wahp-si-PIN-ih-con [final syllable is often a "schwa"]

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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Wever: WEE-ver (like "Weaver")

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

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What Cheer :   I have heard four variants from current residents in September, 2015: 1) whuh-cheer (no "t" sound, syllables connected); 2) What Cheer (WITH the "t" sound, as in the ordinary pronunciation); (3) Wah- cheer (first syllable almost like "wha-wha"), 4) WAT cheer

Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

FOOTNOTE: Thanks for the continuing input! And once again: please keep it coming!

UPDATE: Dec. 6: the following are in process, thanks to your input:

 

Avon Lake

Bode [e is silent, one syllable]

Carlisle

Corydon

Cumming

Giard

Goodell [guh-DELL?]

Hawarden [HAY-warden]

Jesup [JESS-up]

Kilbourn [KILL-burn?]

Kiron [KEYE- ruhn]

Knoke [kuh-NOKE]

Lamoille

Lycurgus [lih-SIR-jus]

Maurice

Moingona

Orilla

Otho

Prole [Silent e]

Protivin

Pulaski [pyoo-LASS-kee?]

Swea City [Sway]

Tara

Valeria

Ventura

Zaneta

Zenorsville

 

 

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Barney Sherman is a Senior Music Producer and Classical Music Host