The 17 Minnesota cities and streets everyone mispronounces

From where, Minnesota? U.S. Air Force officer's flight bag, circa 1947.
From where, Minnesota? U.S. Air Force officer's flight bag, circa 1947.

The city of Cairo, Illinois, is pronounced "KAY-ro." Missouri has a Nevada called "Ne-VAY-dah." Here in Minnesota, there's New Prague, as in, "Pray-ge." And those are just the homographs.

Every state has them: Places with names that locals and non-locals alike trip up. They can give away a newcomer, be a point of pride for a townie, and shift from generation to generation. In Minnesota, they offer a historical map: the French-Canadian traders who established a trading post in Faribault, the Czechs who settled around New Prague, the Mdewakanton Dakota who lived near Shakopee.

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Other names present a puzzle. How did Edina become "ee-DIE-nuh" and not "ee-DEE-nuh"? Well -- because that's just how we say it.

"However the local inhabitants start pronouncing it, that becomes the way to pronounce it," explains Dan Karvonen, a linguistics professor at the University of Minnesota who once had a gig feeding correct city pronunciations to a speech recognition program. "That can be very different from how someone who's a native English speaker just looking at it tries to pronounce it."

If you've ever mispronounced Wayzata -- or corrected someone else's pronunciation -- here are 17 Minnesota place names for you.

New Prague
Ever been to the capital of the Czech Republic? Good for you. Won't help you in this city southwest of the metro. It's pronounced New Pray-ge.

Alexander Faribault himself might have to settle the pronunciation of this one, as not even Minnesota locals can agree. The two-syllable FAIR-bow flies, and some elder Faribault residents say Fair-ee-BOLT. When in doubt though, go with FAIR-ih-bow.

Not shacks, but shocks: Named for the 17th century Mdewakanton Dakota chief, this southwest-metro city is pronounced Shock-o-pee.

Going to Minnesota's mountain town? It's not Lut-sen, but LOOT-sen.

Mat-toe? For this city between St. Paul and Stillwater, go with Mah-doe-MEE-die.

Again, no mats or toes here. This town near Cloquet is MAD-uh-wuh.

Phonetics fail when it comes to the name of this suburb on Lake Minnetonka: It's not Way-zata. The name comes from a Dakota word meaning "north shore," and is pronounced Why-ZET-a.

Xerxes Avenue, Minneapolis
Xerxes, which runs down the west side of Minneapolis, is easy enough for those familiar with Greek names, but confounding for those who don't know what sound an "x" makes when it starts a word. Go with Zurk-seez.

Head to page two for more mispronounced places.



Not Wa-sek-a, but Wah-SEE-kuh.

Maria Avenue, St. Paul
Easy, right? Maria, Maria, Maria... nope. This little street in east St. Paul is pronounced like a different woman's name, Mariah (Mah-rye-a).

In this city, "sego" doesn't rhyme with Lego. It's Aht-SEE-go.

The Mississippi River's first city gets its name from Ojibwe, and is pronounced Beh-MIJ-ee.

Anne-oka? No. Really, NO. This metro-area city is pronounced Uh-NO-kuh.

Next to Brooklyn Park, this city isn't oh-SAY-oh, but AH-see-oh.

It's eye-SAN-tee, not ee-san-tee.

Non-locals want to say ee-DEE-nuh, but this Minneapolis suburb is ee-DIE-nuh.

Vadnais Heights
Vad-nace sounds nice, but this Ramsey County city goes by VAD-nuhs Heights.

What did we miss? Tell us about your own pronunciation woes in the comments.

-- Tips or comments? Reach Olivia LaVecchia by email or on Twitter at @olavecchia

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