Repeat after me ... SCAPP-oose (not Skuh-POOSE)
by: ,

Some of my old friends down south are having a conniption fit over the way members of the news media have been pronouncing the name of their state, Nevada, the latest stop on the presidential primary tour.

Anybody who has lived in the Silver State longer than an hour will tell you the correct pronunciation is Nuh-VAD-uh, not Nuh-VAH-da, as some misinformed media personalities referred to it on national TV during their coverage of the state's presidential caucuses.

If the great 16th century playwright William Shakespeare were alive today, he would probably say it doesn't really matter whether East Coast commentators know how to pronounce Nevada, that what we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. In other words, what matters is what something is, not what it is called.

People from the great state of Nevada probably find little consolation in Shakespeare's words and figure those dummies from New York are misinformed, lazy or both.

I know how they feel. People have misspelling and mispronouncing my name since I was old enough to spell.

I remember at the age of 12 being listed in a Little League program with the last name Stewart, rather than Swart.

Now it's true that my granddad looked like the actor Jimmy Stewart, but my last name is Swart. Or, as my wife likes to say, 'sart with an 'S' on front of it.' Thank you so much, honey!

My good name has been bastardized in all kinds of ways: Swartz (sorry, no Z, please), Schwartz, and Schwart. I also used to get mail from a newspaper equipment supplier addressed to Rick Smart - I liked that one, except when people around the office saw it and laughed with a tone and intensity that was, frankly, a little disturbing.

To add insult to injury, people also mispronounced the place where I grew up - Wallowa County. The most common mispronunciation was wallow-uh, like something a pig would do in the mud wallow. Wa-low-a was another way it was often misspoken. Some even messed it up by saying Wall-lall-a, as in LaLa Land, which sounds like a speech impediment, a tongue tumor, ignorance or sloth. Maybe they were getting us confused with the Washington prison town of Walla Walla and or the Willamette Valley town of Molalla - Wa-mo-lala-lala. Or maybe they'd had too much to drink or were on drugs. By the way, is that Will-AM-ette or Willa-mette?

These foreigners could have been illegal aliens because they didn't do any better with Imnaha, a little town in the breaks of Hells Canyon (not Hell's Canyon - it does not belong to the devil), whose claim to fame is the annual bear and rattlesnake feed. Outsiders had a terrible time with Imnaha, properly pronounced Im-NAH-ha, as opposed to Im-na-HA.

In fairness, both names are Nez Perce Indian names - Native American - and most Americans don't speak Native American very well, at least not anymore.

Scappoose, a Chinook Indian name that means gravelly plain, is a classic example of this and is a name that gets butchered all the time. I cringe at meetings in Portland where my colleagues refer to Skuh-POOSE, instead of SCAPP-oose. Every time I hear this it sounds like someone scratching their fingernails on a blackboard. My first thought is, don't they watch TV. The Portland news channels seem to get it right. Then I think about correcting them but keep quiet because I don't want to sound pretentious or condescending. Then my sarcastic inner voice pipes up, 'I wonder if they would show off their ignorance by referring to an Indian baby as a pa-POOSE instead of a PAPP-oose.

Speaking of Indian names, all I could do was shake my head the other day when a network TV commentator referred to the central Oregon town of Madras (MAD-russ) as MaDRAS, a pronunciation that sounded to me like the words a woman from the Ozarks would use to describe a garment that belonged to her, 'I think I'll go put on m'drass.'

I have a friend who used to give me a hard time for calling the Emerald State and our nation's capital WARSH-ington, instead of WASH-ington. Yup, I gotta admit, it made me sound a little backward. Ironically, this person would call my home state ORY-GONE, instead of ORi-GUN; we've all heard that gaffe. She was from Ohio, where people refer to Oregon, Washington and California collectively as the 'Left Coast.' They also think cowboys and Indians are still riding around on horses and shooting at each other out here.

I recently traveled to Louisiana and was pretty confident I had it right by calling that state Lou-Zee-Anna instead of Louise-E-Anna. I could be wrong about that, but it doesn't matter; they'll never see me again.

I have to admit that there is a part of me that secretly likes to see and hear people misspell and mispronounce names and words because it helps me to feel more worldly and better educated than them. It's like comfort food for my ego, which always enjoys a good meal now and again.

Rick Swart is publisher of the South County Spotlight. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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