Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You Say Los Angeles, We Say Los Angeles

Grab a piece of film about Los Angeles from the early part of the 20th century, and chances are you'll hear a completely different pronunciation for our city. "Lahs AAANG-eh-leez," with a hard "G," or something to that effect.

As the L.A. Times' Steve Harvey noted in Sunday's paper, the debate over how to pronounce "Los Angeles" has been heated:

Mispronouncing L.A. is an old tradition.

"There is no other city in the world whose inhabitants so miserably and shamelessly, and with so many varieties of foolishness, miscall the name of the town they live in," author Charles Lummis wrote in 1914.

As early as 1880 the Chamber of Commerce issued this reminder to visitors (and residents):

The Lady would remind you, please

Her name is not Lost AN-jie-lees."

But what is the lady's name? It depends, of course, on whether one is talking about a Spanish or Anglicized pronunciation.

In the early 1900s, The Times advocated the Spanish version, carrying a box by its editorial page masthead that proclaimed the way to say Los Angeles was Loce AHNG-hayl-ais.

English speakers who found that difficult could only be thankful that the city had shortened its original name, which some scholars believe was El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula.
The only thing most Angeleno pundits have agreed on over the years: The use of "L.A." is frowned upon.

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