"Berlin is rather a part of the world than a city"
August 20, 2010 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Postcards from Berlin is a call from a Berlin (Germany) design studio for virtual postcards from all of the places in the US named Berlin.
posted by mkb (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Is there a pronunciation guide for all these? One of my favorite things about American towns named after places in other countries is how badly they're pronounced.

If I remember right, the one in Maryland is pronounced BUHR-lin.
posted by empath at 8:47 AM on August 20, 2010


Yeah, that's how New Berlin, WI is pronounced as well. Wikipedia has a whole list.
posted by jedicus at 8:52 AM on August 20, 2010


New Berlin, WI is the same way. I think a lot of them went this way around WWI, the anti-german hysteria made the brief posy-9/11 anti-french thing look like nothing. I have a friend named Overhouse, and his family has been in the area well over a century. You can go to the cemetary, and see that their last name of Uberhouse, changed to Overhouse around WWI. A lot of time it isn't ignorance, just a way of distancing themselves from the source.
posted by Badgermann at 8:53 AM on August 20, 2010


I'm wondering how much of that will shift back as newer generations learn the 'right' way to say these names.

I visited my ex-gf's family in upstate New York and flat refused to say half the names of the towns the way they're 'supposed' to be pronounced.
posted by empath at 8:56 AM on August 20, 2010


I have a fond memory of driving into Berlin, NH with my parents and my dad saying "Finally, we reach Berlin!" in a Russian accent.

Is there a pronunciation guide for all these? One of my favorite things about American towns named after places in other countries is how badly they're pronounced.

Calais, Maine is my favorite-- pronounced "CAL-liss," the "cal" like "California"
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:13 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Berlins in Vermont and New Hampshire are both pronounced as Burlin' thanks to WWI sensitivities as well.

And the way that locals refer to towns IS the 'right' way to pronounce, IMHO. Of course, I live in Massachusetts, where the spelling of a town name is really a mere suggestion of how to say it. (Leicester = Lester. Quincy = Quinzy. Billerica=Billricka. Etc.)
posted by maryr at 9:17 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you were to add a comment with the correct pronunciation to a city on the site, you get a virtual sticker. For some reason you need to use up one of your virtual stickers to post a new photo, which I don't understand. In fact, their whole scoring system is weird.
posted by mkb at 9:25 AM on August 20, 2010


Of course, I live in Massachusetts, where the spelling of a town name is really a mere suggestion of how to say it.

You forgot the "Hams" which would be much cooler if they were pronounced as spelled. For example, Dedham. "Dead Ham?" Awesome! "Ded-um," not so much.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:29 AM on August 20, 2010


My boyfriend's from Berlin, NH (Bur-lin) which is very very close to Milan, NH (My-lan). As a European, this cracks me up. Show some imagination, USA, come on!

PS. Obligatory Eddie Izzard quote: "He said he was a donut!"
posted by lydhre at 9:45 AM on August 20, 2010


I think it's a shame they didn't ask for real-life postcards.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:54 AM on August 20, 2010


Yeah- they really changed the pronunciation of Berlin, Ontario after WWI as well.
It's pronounced 'Kitchener' now. I wonder how many Berlins in total just disappeared after the war.
posted by Casimir at 9:54 AM on August 20, 2010


My boyfriend's from Berlin, NH (Bur-lin) which is very very close to Milan, NH (My-lan). As a European, this cracks me up. Show some imagination, USA, come on!

You'll love Arkansas, then. They've got London, Dover, Paris, Moscow, Ulm, Hamburg, Oxford, and Stuttgart. There's also a town named England. Non-European runners-up include Havana, Manila, Jerusalem, and Melbourne.
posted by jedicus at 9:56 AM on August 20, 2010


"I visited my ex-gf's family in upstate New York and flat refused to say half the names of the towns the way they're 'supposed' to be pronounced."

I do the same whenever I'm in Massachusetts. Which is where I've lived for the past 4? years. (Just remember, wherever you are in Massachusetts, it could be Worcester!)
posted by Eideteker at 10:06 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love saying "Skaneateles," btw. Skinny-atlas? Ska-neat-tellys? Skane-at-ellis? It's fun to try to pronounce it a different way each time.

"And the way that locals refer to towns IS the 'right' way to pronounce, IMHO."

By that logic, my interpretation is just as valid as anyone else's.

But the conversation usually goes like this:

"That's not how you say it."
"Au contraire*, that's exactly how I say it."
"You know it's pronounced [______]."
"And you know what I meant! Which is what matters."


* can be pronounce OW CONTRA EAR for comedic effect in this instance

(not actually that insufferable in real life)
posted by Eideteker at 10:13 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering how much of that will shift back as newer generations learn the 'right' way to say these names.

I don't really see it happening. I moved up here to Connecticut and you still get corrected immediately if you don't pronounce Berlin right. "Huh? Oh, you mean Berlin."
posted by smackfu at 10:25 AM on August 20, 2010


> You'll love Arkansas, then.

My wife and I have been talking about taking a road trip Around The World In Ontario one summer: London, Perth, Moscow, Melbourne, Paris, Glasgow, Dehli, Stratford, Dublin, Woodstock, Princeton, Carthage, Baltimore, Limerick, Damascus, Warsaw....
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:39 AM on August 20, 2010


Billerica=Billricka

Friends and I call it "Williamrecia." We call Haverill, "Haverhill." And Worchester, "Warchester." Pisses some people off.
posted by ericb at 10:55 AM on August 20, 2010


That would indeed be: Worcester.
posted by ericb at 10:56 AM on August 20, 2010


Whenever someone tries to correct your pronunciation of "Berlin," just hush them and say, "No More Words."
posted by Eideteker at 11:36 AM on August 20, 2010


I visited my ex-gf's family in upstate New York and flat refused to say half the names of the towns the way they're 'supposed' to be pronounced.

If you want to irritate a Newfoundlander, just pronounce the name of their home island "New-FOUND-land." They prefer you to pronounce it "New-f'nd-LAND."
posted by dry white toast at 11:51 AM on August 20, 2010


And the way that locals refer to towns IS the 'right' way to pronounce, IMHO.

That seems a lot to ask. Most outsiders wouldn't call Boston "Bah-ston" simply because they don't have the local lilt to their speech.

Similarly, in Toronto, you can always spot an outsider (particularly Americans) because the hit the second "T" hard (ToronTo), whereas locals smooth it out (Toron'o). But I don't go around correcting people when I encounter visitors. How would they know?
posted by dry white toast at 11:58 AM on August 20, 2010


Eh, I call the CT one Berlin like in Europe. I didn't live there but I did live for a while close enough that the cinema there was my local theater. Of course, now that the cinemas changed their name, I could legitimately say I'm going out in the evening to a Rave in Berlin.

yes with silly accent I can't help it
posted by cobaltnine at 12:57 PM on August 20, 2010


We Yanks are just carrying on the longstanding English tradition of mispronouncing words from other languages. If you keep doing it long enough, it actually becomes correct to say Paris like PAAriss, not paREE.

I like Cairo (kayro), Illinois, myself. Heck, even Illinoy itself is kinda funny. And don't get me started on Kanzuss versus Arkansaw.
posted by Quietgal at 1:09 PM on August 20, 2010


Don't forget that Mizzurah. Growing up in Illinois, hearing the s pronounced is like nails on a blackboard, but then again, the accepted pronunciation is only a half-assed attempt to anglicize the original french. Then again it is Des Plaines, IL, but de moyne, IA.
posted by Badgermann at 1:27 PM on August 20, 2010


Versailles, Kentucky is a howler. And a street in downtown Mobile, Alabama, "Joachim." I'll let y'all guess how that one's pronounced.

One great shibboleth: Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Folks from WI know what I mean.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:27 PM on August 20, 2010


dry white toast, "ToronTo" can't be "corrected" because that's the correct bloody pronunciation. Listen to Peter Mansbridge. The fact that locals "smooth it out" doesn't suddenly make that "correct" no matter how much arrogant TO'ers want to declare it. What you're distinguishing between is the way the name is uttered outside versus inside the GTA. Both are completely correct.

Your example is nothing like mispronunciations of "Houston Street," "Kearney (Nebraska)" or most of the other things we're discussing here.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:32 PM on August 20, 2010


Calais, Maine is my favorite-- pronounced "CAL-liss," the "cal" like "California"

That's a normal Anglophone pronunciation of the word. Calais was English — the Calais on the French coast, that is — for more than 200 years, the last remnant of Plantagenet possessions on the continent. Its English-ified pronunciation is long-established in the language.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:24 PM on August 20, 2010


That's a normal Anglophone pronunciation of the word.

Mainers aren't anglophones in the traditional sense.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:24 AM on August 21, 2010


That seems a lot to ask. Most outsiders wouldn't call Boston "Bah-ston" simply because they don't have the local lilt to their speech.

That seems like a lot to ask? *Really*?

Anyway, I didn't say that you should trying to adopt the accent the locals use. Locals aren't necessarily natives.

And, on that note, most of the Boston natives I know don't have the accent. Just an abnormal love of the Kennedys.
posted by maryr at 11:12 AM on August 22, 2010


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