Languages Magazine

When Place Names Get Anglicized: How LA Says 'Los Feliz'

By Expectlabs @ExpectLabs

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We’ve all sped through difficult-to-pronounce place names, secretly wishing no one will stop us to judge. This kind of pronunciation anxiety is reaching a tipping point in Southern California, where authentic Spanish name pronunciations are undergoing a revival.

Nearly all neighborhood and roadway names in the region come from Native Americans and Spanish settlers. English speakers have also helped shape the pronunciations over the years by adding a Midwestern flair to the “romantic feel" of the Spanish:

Rancho Los Feliz became Los FEE-lus. La bahía de San Pedro, San PEE-dro. El Segundo, Elsie Gunndo. And when left to Sam Yorty, a Nebraska native who served as L.A. mayor four decades ago, “Los An-gel-lus" — already a big jump from el pueblo de los Ángeles — got a sort-of nasal pronunciation with a hard-g “Law SANG-lus."

The LA pronunciation wars are the strongest in Los Feliz, a trendy neighborhood east of Hollywood. Residents waver between both the Spanish “Los Fey-LEASE," and the Americanized, “Los FEE-lus," depending on when they moved into the neighborhood, what they grew up with, and who they are talking to. Los Angelenos struggling with pronunciations can easily be pigeonholed as either pretentious or culturally insensitive, depending on which side they fall. 

Confession time: How do you say the names of LA?

(via LA Times, Image via mondolind)



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