Arizona November 21, 2016
10 Words New Comers To Arizona Almost Always Say Wrong
New to Arizona? You might have noticed that some of the words around here look – and sound – a little different from those in your hometown. Here are ten words that you might want to practice before you travel or move to the Grand Canyon State.
Used to name a canyon, creek, and preserve, most sources state that the word derives from one of the local Indigenous languages. The most common translation is “laughing waters,” although other sources claim it means “little wells” or “girls.”
2. Canyon de Chelly
de-shay This northern Arizona find is one beautiful location. The original name comes from the Navajo word tséyi, a word for canyon that literally translates to “inside the rock.” The Spaniards called it chelly, which sounds similar to the original Navajo name, and Americans began saying this word in a sort of French-like pronunciation.
3. Casa Grande
caw-suh grawn-day OR cass-uh grand
There’s two ways of saying this phrase and we can tell which place you’re talking about by how you say it. The traditional Spanish pronunciation is used for the old Puebloan ruins while the very American way is for the city that sits halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. However, you might find some locals prefer the Spanish pronunciation.
Mountains, wilderness, and a casino all share this name. A couple of semesters in a Spanish class while have you thinking this is pronounced maw-zaw-tsal but...you’re wrong. Arizonans for decades have been saying this as mat-uh-zel, kind of like you’re saying that you’re “mad as hell.”
I know of at least three or four different ways of saying this word so what you see above (with a hard “g” like “goat”) is just one way that won’t make you seem too much like an outsider. However, if you want to avoid saying this when traveling through Rim Country, just say you’re going to the Rim and we’ll know what you’re talking about.
Okay, this one is going to sound nitpicky but I’ve only heard non-Navajos (and non-American Indians) say the word with a soft “a,” like “raw.” That sounds a little hoity-toity. 🙂 Instead, we tend to say this as a hard “a,” like “ant.”
Part of the traditional name for a couple of Indigenous tribes, many people tend to mispronounce the word as it looks like it may sound: oh-oh-dam. Not quite!
Remember: the “g” is silent!
Occasionally, we’ll hear people say tuck-son which, oddly enough, is incorrect but also closer to the original pronunciation than you might think. The city name comes from the Tohono O’odham word cuk ṣon, which refers to the place now known as Sentinel Peak. The Spaniards use the word to call the area Tucsón, preserving the hard “k” sound.
haw-vee-air OR ex-aye-vee-er
Talking about the beautiful mission in Tucson? Use the first pronunciation provided for Misión San Xavier del Bac. For other places like Xavier College Preparatory, use the latter.
Are there any other words you find commonly mispronounced here in Arizona?
Now that you know how to pronounce some unique words in Arizona, it’s time to learn about some crazy events that have happened in our state’s past! Read a select few events in our article,
8 Unusual Things You Probably Didn’t Know Happened In Arizona.