In response to a pronuciation question from our November 2012 issue, Dr. Know explains why some people say "Cinicnnat-ee" and others say "Cincinnat-uh."
Why do some citizens say “Cincinnat-ee” and others pronounce the name of the city “Cincinnat-uh”? I have one sister who is firmly in the Cincinnat-uh camp, but no one else in the family talks that way. —Puzzled Indian Hillian Dear Puzzled Person with an Embarrassingly Large Yard:Decades ago the Doctor’s instructor in the history of English explained the coinage of Cincinnat-uh this way: Nervous 19th century midwesterners who did not want to be taken for the kind of country bumpkin who called the parlor settee a “sofy” or who called the Sunshine State “Floridy” carefully reconstructed the i or y at the end of all sorts of names to conform to a supposedly more refined pronunciation, resulting in the Doctor’s distant cousin Naom-uh and the great city of Cincinnat-uh. They of course immediately exposed themselves as the kind of bumpkin who actually believes there is some internal logic in English spelling and pronunciation.The Doctor, who is the furthest thing possible from any kind of bumpkin, enjoys saying Cincinnat-uh as he has discovered that it irritates many listeners who want to correct him but haven’t quite got the nerve.
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