Here’s your guide to some of Washington’s hard-to-pronounce places.
From Poulsbo to Puyallup, out-of-staters have been known to botch the names of Washington places.
But even longtime Northwesterners can stumble over the occasional Enetai, Chewelah, or Wahkiakum. So we asked the residents themselves to help us get it right.
“Welcome to my town, Sequim,” said realtor Dan Erickson.
Erickson is happy to see you. Just leave your unnecessary “E” sound behind.
“A lot of people call it ‘SEE-quim,” he said, “They’re from out of town.”
The state’s most northeast county, Pend Oreille (pronounced “pond array”) is a place people have had trouble saying and spelling for more than a century.
Sue Mauro from the Pend Oreille County Historical Museum said, “We’ll see a ‘D’ inserted, we’ll see apostrophes inserted.”
Mauro said the French name may have described a local tribe’s jewelry. Translated literally, it’s “ear pendant.”
From Snohomish (sno-HO-mish) to Swinomish (SWIN-oh-mish), keep your accent on the right syllable. And remember not every name sounds the way it looks. Just ask the residents of northeast Washington’s Aeneas Valley, pronounced “EE-knee-iss.”
As the owner of the Aeneas Valley General Store, Rose Isler says people get the name wrong from time to time.
“Most times, actually,” Isler laughed.
Isler would like to leave the most common and most unfortunate mispronunciation, “Anus Valley,” behind.
“When we answer the phone at the store we just say, ‘Country Store,'” she explained.
Your Spanish may be bueno, but the name of the Yakima County town, Buena, is pronounced: “byoo-EN-uh.” There’s cheese in the pronunciation of neighboring Natches (nat-CHEESE), but no coal in Colville, which sounds more like “CALL-ville.” And as for the King County city named after Iowa’s state capital?
“No S,” said the mayor of Des Moines.
Matt Mahoney says it’s pronounced “duh-MOIN,” with no “S” sound at the end. He also says half the town’s residents will disagree.
“Oh, it is split,” Mayor Mahoney said, “Whatever circle we’re in we’ll add the ‘S’ or take it off to avoid conflict. But I think the translation of it’s more important. It means the greatest place to live in Washington state. And that comes directly from the mayor.”
However you pronounce the name of the place where you live, we hope you’re happy to call it home.