Friday, August 12, 2016

Say Whut? How to Pronounce Names of Places in Texas

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
How Texans pronounce place names down here.

In case y’all haven’t noticed, Texans do things their own way. Pronunciation, for example, is always a crapshoot when you’re from out of state. If you ever get lost in Texas, the place names that follow are good to know. Depending upon where you are in the state when you ask for directions, if you say them incorrectly you’ll most likely get snickered at and you may get a blank look.

This list is far from comprehensive.

First, a few universal basics:

Any name ending in “-boro” is pronounced “[name]buh-ruh”
Any name ending in “-shire” is pronounced “[name]sher.”
Most names ending in “-ville” are pronounced “[name]vuhl.”
Most names ending “-land” are pronounced “[name]luhnd.” (You have to listen pretty hard to hear the D.)
In Texas, “bayou” most often is pronounced “BI-oh,” not “BI-yoo.”

Mispronouncing any of these is a dead giveaway you ain’t from around here:

Bexar: Bear
Blanco: BLANK-oh
Boerne: BUR-nee
Bosque: BAHS-key
Bowie: BOO-ee (C’mon, folks. Jim Bowie was one of the brave defenders of the Alamo. The least y’all non-Texans can do is say his name right.)
Brazos: BRA-zuhs (short A, as in “cat”)
Eldorado: ell-duh-RAY-doh
Gruene: Green
Guadalupe: GWAH-dah-loop
Humble: UHM-buhl (The H is silent in this Houston suburb’s name, people! What you do with it any other time is your own bidness.)
Luckenbach: LOO-ken-bahk (There is absolutely no excuse for getting this one wrong. Merle Haggard sang a number-one country hit about the town, for pete’s sake.)
Manchaca: MAN-shack
Mexia: Muh-HAY-uh
Palacios: puh-LASH-us
Pecos: PAY-cuss
San Marcos: San MAR-cuss
Seguin: Seh-GEEN (Named for Juan Seguin, a Tejano hero of the Texas Revolution who wasn't at the Alamo.)
Waxahachie: Wawks-uh-HATCH-ee

The following are more obscure, and we’ll forgive you for mispronouncing them. Many of them are pronounced nothing like they’re spelled. Some are Texan-ized Spanish, German, or American Indian words. Some are settlers’ surnames. Lord only knows where the rest came from.

Alvarado: Al-vuh-RAY-doh
Agua Dulce: Ah-wah DOOL-sih
Anahuac: ANN-uh-wack
Aquilla: Uh-KWILL-uh
Balmorhea: Bal-muh-RAY
Banquete: Ban-KET-ee
Bedias: BEE-dice
Bogata: Buh-GO-duh
Bolivar: BAHL-iv-er
Bronte: Brahnt
Brookshire: BROOK-sher
Buda: BYOO-duh
Bula: BYOO-luh
Buna: BYOO-nuh
Burnet: BURN-it
Carmine: Kar-MEEN
Celina: Suh-LIE-nuh
Christoval: Chris-TOE-vuhl
Cibolo: SEE-oh-low
Coahoma: Kuh-HO-muh
Colmesneil: COLE-mess-neel
Comal: KOH-muhl
Del Valle: Del VA-lee (pronounced like “valley”)
Erath: EE-rath
Falfurrias: Fal-FURY-us
Farrar: FAR-uh
Flatonia: Flat-TONE-yuh
Floresville: FLOORS-vuhl
Floydada: Floy-DAY-duh
Fredonia: Free-DOHN-yuh
Fulshear: FULL-sher
Grand Saline: Gran Suh-LEEN
Helotes: Hell-OH-tiss
Jiba: HEE-buh
Hico: HIGH-koh
Hochheim: HO-hime
Iraan: EYE-ruh-ANN
Jardin: JAR-duhn
Jermyn: JER-muhn (pronounced like “German”)
Jiba: HEE-buh
Jourdanton: JERD-n-tuhn
Juliff: JEW-liff
Kleberg: CLAY-berg
Knippa: Kuh-NIP-uh
Kountz: Koonts
Kosciusko: Kuh-SHOOS-koh
Kuykendal: KIRK-en-doll
Lake Buchanan: Lake Buh-CAN-uhn
Lamarque: Luh-MARK
Lamesa: Luh-MEE-suh
Lampasas: Lam-PASS-us
Latexo: Luh-TEX-oh
Leakey: LAY-key
Levita: Luh-VIE-duh
Lillian: LILL-yun
Llano: LAN-oh
Lorena: Low-REE-nuh
Manor: MAIN-er
Marathon: MARE-uh-thun
Marquez: mar-KAY
Miami: My-AM-uh
Medina: Muh-DEE-nuh
Montague: Mahn-TAG
Navarro: Nuh-VARE-uh
Nacogdoches: Nack-uh-DOH-chess
New Berlin: Noo BUR-lin
New Braunfels: Noo BRAWN-fuls
Nocona: Nuh-KOH-nuh
Olney: ALL-nee
Opelika: OPEH-uh-LIKE-uh
Palestine: PAL-uh-steen (Nobody gets that one right unless they’re from Texas.)
Pedernales: Purr-den-AL-ess
Pflugerville: FLOO-ger-vuhl
Poth: POE-th
Quemado: Kuh-MAH-doh
Quitaque: KITTY-qway
Refugio: Reh-FURY-oh
Salado: Suh-LAY-doh
Salinero: Suh-LEEN-yo
Santa Elena: San-tuh LEE-na
Study Butte: STOO-dee BYOOT
Tawakoni: Tuh-WAHK-uh-nee
Tivoli: Tih-VOH-luh
Tulia: TOOL-yuh
Uvalde: Yoo-VAL-dee
Weesatche: WEE-sash
Weslaco: WESS-luh-koh

Now, place your Stetson over your heart, face Austin, and sing “The Eyes of Texas,” and we just might make you an honorary Texan.

Texans, what names aren’t on this list? The rest of y’all: What odd place names occur in your thereabouts? Tell us in the comments! I’ll give one commenter a digital copy of the five-author boxed set A Kiss to Remember.

Cheryl Pierson, Tracy Garrett, Tanya Hanson, Livia J. Washburn, and I filled nearly 1,000 pages with western romance stories about San Francisco firefighters (yes, they existed back then), gunmen, preachers, outlaws, con men, and ranchers. (Anybody besides me see a bad-boy theme developing here? Well, except for that hunky preacher, and Lord knows the rest of the alleged "heroes" need him around to keep them somewhere in the general vicinity of the straight-and-narrow.)

I'm a mite biased, but I think there's some excellent reading in this set.

Don't just sit there! Light a shuck on down to the comments and get after it.

A Texan to the bone, Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperadoes. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen’s stories, even the good guys wear black hats.

Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the 2015 Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.

Visit her hideout on the web at


  1. Ohmagosh, I have flunked Texan Pronunciation 101. Who knew I could miss so many of these. It's not like speaking southern, it's just, well, Texican.
    As always, Kathleen, I enjoyed your post and had a few laughs as well.
    I loved "Prodigal Gun" and "Second Best Ranger in Texas."

    1. You know, I'm tempted to believe early Texians got together and plotted to keep out "foreigners" by giving common words strange sounds. "Here's what we'll do: We'll make place names impossible to pronounce by looking at the spelling, and then we'll know when someone's trying to sneak in by pretending to be a Texan." ;-)

      Sarah, I've enjoyed every single one of your books I've read. Can't wait to get a new one in my paws. You've got one in the works, right?

    2. You're sweet to ask, Kathleen. I'm writing Kit Wilding and June Wingate's story (It's Only Make Believe)--but Kyle Red Sky's story keeps bugging me.

  2. How fun this was to read. I'm told I slip into a slight southern accent, but that's probably two of my children of my heart live in the south - Louisiana and Tennessee. I love accents...

    1. I do, too, Paisley. I've been all over the country, and I can pretty much pick out where someone is from based on their accent. Some folks in New Orleans, for example, sound a whole lot like New Yorkers, but there are subtle differences. The same is true for Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama: Folks there all speak "Southern," but it's slightly different in each state. That kind of stuff fascinates me. :-)

  3. I didn'miss a-one. Knew ever dang one of 'em. Yep, Texan to the bone. Born in Men=er Wells and grew up in Lev-ulan.
    (I'm reading the anthology now--and love those stories. What a great group of romances by very talented authors. I'm honored to be in your presence.)

    1. Celia, I'm laughing my butt off over here. I KNEW you'd get every one of these right! Your family's been in Texas since dirt was young. I totally left Mineral Wells off the list. Shame on me! I love that place. And Levelland...the name's appropriate. It's flat as a pancake up there on the Caprock. :-D

      I'm glad you're enjoying the stories! I've always been honored to be in YOUR presence. I learned a lot about writing western historical romance from reading your books and Caroline's. Both of y'all have "Texas flavor" down pat. :-)

    2. I meant to mention how I got started down this names road. The other day someone mentioned Fuqua Street in Houston. Only, they didn't say "FYOO-kway." They said...well, I'm not going to write it the way they said it. Just look at the first two letters in the name and you'll get an idea. :-D

  4. Definitely a fun post! I did know Palacios, though...Thanks to Lyle Lovett's song South Texas Girl.

    1. Wow. How many people know that song? Good on ya, Alisa!

      It occurs to me to wonder whether Texas pronunciations are just Texans being Texans...or the lot of us are illiterate. :-D

  5. You know it's rather alarming how many of these I know...well. I've been studying the Texas culture. After all, I'll be living amongst y'all, soon enough. ;-) As far as strange place names? I figure my hometown is the Capital of strange town-names. Conogogeague is the one no one can spell, let alone pronouce...unless you are a Pennsylvanian. The town of Du-Bois. French-sounding, isn't it? Most people know the correct pronunciation of Du Bois. Nope - wrong. In Du Bois, PA, it is said like it spells....Doooo Boyz. And, then there's the towns where I grew up. Blue Ball, Bird-in-Hand, Cross Keys, Intercourse, Paradise. In that order.
    And people wonder about me.

  6. This is what happens when you get a bunch of different linguistic cultures naming and pronouncing places. Texas (which I sometimes want to call "tayhass") has nothing on Britain. But it does beat out Guelph where Delhi Street is pronounced dell-hi and Macdonell is pronounced mac-DON-ell but otherwise sticks to Anglo-Celtic-Italian pronunciations.

  7. Good grief, I might have got one or two correct but other than that I now want to thank you for the good tongue excercise. Actually I think my tongue is so twisted and exhausted that I may never be able to speak English again. I truly am still laughing because I enjoyed this post so much. You are a Texan through and through and by golly I think I can tell you are mighty proud of it. You and the other Texans are definitely a breed of another kind. And I mean as a compliment. I hope some of it rubs off me.Thanks for a great post.

  8. Love it! I live in Mesquite and even hear that mispronounced often! Driving from Texas to Pennsylvania, I passed the exit for Bull Snot. That's one heck of a town name......almost as good as Bug Tussle! lol

  9. Yes sir, I can believe it. They do silly things like that in Missouri, but we from Illinois and Colorado, well?????

    Loved the post Kathleen. I will keep this for further reference since some friends live down that way. Doris


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