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10 Place Names You’ve Been Pronouncing All Wrong

From Patchogue, NY, to La Jolla, CA, here are the 10 tongue-twisting destination names to say correctly and impress the locals.

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Place-Names-You're-Probably-Pronouncing-All-WrongTatiana Ayazo/

Boise, Idaho

There’s no surer way to mark yourself as an outsider in potato country than by pronouncing it BOY-zee. The locals say BOY-see, thanks very much! They may still let you buy some of their delicious fried potatoes if you use the dreaded Z, but you’ll probably never get a taste of their fry sauce—a combo of mayo and ketchup, with mustard, paprika, and a few tangy extras swished in. Feeling a little hungry now? Check out these food names you’ve been pronouncing wrong.

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Place-Names-You're-Probably-Pronouncing-All-WrongTatiana Ayazo/

Norfolk, Virginia

This charming town is located on the Chesapeake Bay and is home to the largest U.S. Navy base in the world. It’s pretty easy to remember to call it NAW-fock instead of NOR-foke. Just remember the decidedly off-color sports cheer: “We don’t drink! We don’t smoke! Norfolk! Norfolk!” Though if you actually shout that at a sporting event here, the locals might just pack you off to the nearby Appalachian Trail (pronounced Appa-latchan, not Appa-lay-chan, by the way).

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Place-Names-You're-Probably-Pronouncing-All-WrongTatiana Ayazo/

Kissimmee, Florida

Don’t go the Pepe LePew route and call this city in central Florida “KISS-a-me” because none of the bathing beauties here are likely to oblige. You might have better luck dating someone from this town if you pronounce it correctly as “Kiss-SIM-mee.” (But not if you call their state FLAH-rida instead of FLOR-ida.) Here’s a list of company names you’ve been saying wrong.

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Place-Names-You're-Probably-Pronouncing-All-WrongTatiana Ayazo/

Spokane, Washington

The people have spoken. I mean Spoke-KAN. The main thing is, don’t ever call the second largest city in Washington state Spoke-KANE. Not even if you’ve been sampling the justly famous local microbrews, from Budge Brothers’ Orangutan Pale to the tester tray at Iron Gate Brewing. Because the next beer they serve you is sure to be NoLi Brewhouse’s Silent Treatment Pale Ale.

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Place-Names-You're-Probably-Pronouncing-All-WrongTatiana Ayazo/

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Neither a rare form of chronic fatigue syndrome nor an obscure piece of federal legislation, the name of this industrial town located near Scranton is based on two 18th-century British politicians, Wilkes and Barre, who supported the cause of colonial rights. Though Barre was originally pronounced Ber-AY, like the famous French hat, it’s morphed into BEAR-y, like the predator, over the years. Just don’t call it Wilkes-BAR. Or you might find yourself facing a bear (sans beret) in the local bar. Find out some more words even smart people mispronounce.

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Place-Names-You're-Probably-Pronouncing-All-WrongTatiana Ayazo/

Versailles, Kentucky

Versailles, France, is best known as the location of the French royal palace, a place so fancy it helped inspire a revolution. So naming a town Versailles is a little like naming a girl Beauty: it’s a lot to live up to. And apparently it’s not so easy to pronounce either. The French town (and its palace) is known as “Ver-SIGH.” The small dusty town in central Kentucky is “VerSAILS.” And don’t forget that extra “S” or you may just find yourself Ver-sailing off toward France! Speaking of France, check out more city names around the world you’re saying wrong.

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Place-Names-You're-Probably-Pronouncing-All-WrongTatiana Ayazo/

La Jolla, California

Some say La Jolla is a corruption of la joya, the Spanish word for jewel, and this city on the coast of California is certainly sparkling and beautiful. But no one here will be either joyful or jolly if you call it La JOL-la. And you might definitely get some hollering if you call it La Holla. Worse yet, you’ll probably never get the local specialty, fries—potatoes smothered in carne asada, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa. La Jolla—pronounced La-HOY-a—is also known for its picturesque family beaches.

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Place-Names-You're-Probably-Pronouncing-All-WrongTatiana Ayazo/

Worcester, Massachusetts

There are a lot of missing letters in the state of Massachusetts, like the Rs from “pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd.” (They must be hiding out somewhere with their friends from Brooklyn!) But Worcester, which sounds like WUSS-ter, is a special case. The town’s English namesake, south of Manchester, is pronounced the same way, so that missing syllable must have gotten lost before the Puritans ever made it to Plymouth Rock. Doesn’t look like we’ll get it back anytime soon. See if you know how to correctly say the hardest-to-pronounce words in the English language.

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Place-Names-You're-Probably-Pronouncing-All-WrongTatiana Ayazo/

 Helena, Montana

Want a quick and easy way to remember how to say Montana’s state capital? “HELL-ena, Montana, it’s a HELL of a town.” Established as a goldrush community under the unlovely moniker of Crabtown, the place got its current name when a handful of Minnesota miners pushed for it to be renamed St. Helena after their home town in their home state. Somewhere along the way, the saint got lost, leaving the city with its current devil-may-care name.

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Place-Names-You're-Probably-Pronouncing-All-WrongTatiana Ayazo/

Patchogue, New York

The only thing patchy about this adorable beach town 60 miles east of Manhattan is the fog, which does roll in from time to time over all of Long Island. As you might suspect, the name is native American in origin, and comes from a band of the Lenape tribe. What you might not guess is that it’s supposed to be pronounced PATCH-og, and never Patch-o-GOO. Read on for the hardest-to-pronounce town name in every state.