The South Dakota Pronunciation Guide

So I noticed that recently I have been mentioning my great home state in a lot of my posts.  I decided that I should start occasionally posting about interesting things about the Rushmore State (interestingly enough, when I was a kid we went by the Sunshine State.   Who where they trying to kid?).

For the first post, I decided to included a handy-dandy, perhaps unintentionally humorous pronunciation guide.  In the great tradition of States on the upper great plains, we don’t pronounce things like they should be pronounced.  Nebraska has Beatrice (bee-AT-riss) and Norfolk (NOR-fork), while Iowa has Madrid (MAD-rid) and Nevada (nuh-VAY-duh).  It’s a strange phenomena, of which South Dakota is not immune.

The first is our state capitol, Pierre.  Raise your hand if you pronounce it (PEE-air).  You’re killing me, Smalls.  The correct pronunciation is (PEER).  Now go to your closest fourth grader and sheepishly admit that they were right.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  Oh, and if you did have it right, feel free to smugly gloat.  You are probably from around here.

English: I took this photo on July 12, 1999 at...

Image via Wikipedia

Next is Belle Fourche.  This could go so many ways, couldn’t it?  But I bet that you weren’t expecting it to be (bell FOOSH).  Yeah, I don’t get it either.

How about Sinai?  In an odd manner of vowel juxtaposition, this is pronounced (SIGH-nee-eye).  It doesn’t have to make sense.  It’s South Dakota.

Lake Andes.  Sounds like a beautiful mountain vista in South America, no?  rearranging the syllabic emphasis, it is pronounced (lake an-DEES).  And it is located on the flat side of the state.

While we are on the subject of emphases, let’s talk about Aberdeen.  The truth is, a lot of South Dakotans get this one wrong.  A true Aberdonian would pronounce this (ABER-deen).

If you get thirsty, consider a trip to Beresford (BEERS-furd).

Hayti might make you stop to think that this is pronounced like the country, albeit with an alternate spelling.  Nope.  It’s (HAY-tie).

Last but not least is Jefferson.  It is in fact pronounced Jefferson.  But once upon a time it went by Adelescat.  You might find it interesting to know that it was named after a girls missing cat.  That’s right.  Adele’s cat.


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2 responses to “The South Dakota Pronunciation Guide

  1. Hello,

    Haha, Belle Fourche is French. Just an FYI. I noticed you following my blog and didn’t realize that I had a new reader, so welcome.
    I have been prusing your posts and had to comment on Bell Fourche as, being a Canadian, I took French in school and consequently read this right! And I totally did have a smug smile on my face! 😛
    I am going to keep reading but, if by some crazy chance, you don’t mention your back surgery, would you be willing to tell me a bit about your experience? I am nine months out of a two level L4-S1 spinal fusion, lamenectomy and some other procedure I can not pronounce nor remember, that as of Dec had no growth to speak of. I am feeling quite let down and depressed about the whole thing and was wondering if you have any words of advice for me?
    I hope that you are feeling less pain than I am today… Ice and spinal fusions don’t mix well!
    – S.

  2. Early on there were a lot of French settlers (I am from French Canadian descent). Later, the big influx would be from Germany and Scandanavia, particularly Norway, but there are still a lot of French place names.

    As for my back, I had disc repair between L5 and S1. It must have been years in the making, as the Doc said that it was one of the worst ruptures he had seen. I didn’t have a fusion. It sounds like my recovery has been much easier than yours. Almost immediately my flexibility was much better, and most days I have no pain. Sometimes I do have a little “nerve memory” type pain. The best advice I can give is walk as much as your body will allow.

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