List of shibboleths

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Below are listed various examples of shibboleths. Note that many apocryphal shibboleths exist, and that since, by definition, shibboleths rely on stereotypical pronunciation traits, they may not accurately describe the speech of all members of the group in question.

Shibboleths used in war and persecution[edit]

Dutch–French[edit]

  • Schild en vriend: On 18 May 1302, the people of Bruges killed the French occupiers of the city during a nocturnal surprise attack. According to a famous legend, they stormed into the houses where they knew the tenants were forced to board and lodge French troops serving as city guards, roused every male person from his bed and forced them to repeat the challenge "schild en vriend" (shield and friend). The Flemings pronounced "schild" with a separate "s" /s/ and "ch" /x/" (see also "Scheveningen", later in this section). Flemings would pronounce "vriend" with a voiced v whereas French would render those as a voiceless f.

Every Frenchman who failed the test was stabbed on the spot, still in his nightgown. Because the signal for the uprising was the matins bells of the city's churches and monasteries, this became known as the Bruges Matins or Brugse Metten. Like the name of the massacre, the story may have been influenced by the Sicilian uprising mentioned below.

  • The problem with this legend is that in Medieval manuscripts of that time, a shield is referred to as "skilde" as in Norse and Norse-influenced English words. Therefore it is sometimes said that the words must have been "'s gilden vriend" meaning "friend of the guilds." The combination of the 's and the g in "'s gilden" would be pronounced /sx/.[1]

Italian/Sicilian–French[edit]

  • Ciciri (chickpeas): This was used by native Sicilians to ferret out Angevin French soldiers in the late 1200s during the Sicilian Vespers, the uprising which freed the island from Angevin rule. Both the Italian soft c /tʃ/, and the Italian r, were (and are still) difficult for the French to pronounce; also French tend to stress words on the final syllable.[2]

Catalan–Spanish[edit]

  • During the Spanish Succession War, the phrase "Setze Jutges d'un jutjat mengen fetge d'un penjat" [ˈsɛd͡zə ˈd͡ʒud͡ʒəs dun d͡ʒuˈd͡ʒat ˈmeɳʒəm ˈfed͡ʒə ðun pənˈʒat] (sixteen judges from a court eat the liver of a hanged man) was used to tell apart Spanish speakers from Catalan speakers, as the phrase contains voiced affricate consonants and "neutral" vowels, non-existent in Spanish; a typical Spanish pronunciation of the phrase being [ˈset͡sa ˈjut͡ʃas ðun juˈt͡ʃat ˈmenjan ˈfetje ðun ˈpenjat]. The phrase is still used as a tongue-twister, with different endings.

Polish–German[edit]

  • Soczewica, koło, miele, młyn (Old Polish pronunciation: [ˈs̪ɔt͡ʃɛvit͡sʲa ˈkɔɫɔ ˈmʲɛlʲɛ ˈmɫɪn̪]), meaning "lentil, wheel, grinds [verb], mill": In 1312, the Polish Prince Ladislaus the Elbow-high quelled the Rebellion of wójt Albert in Kraków, populated mostly by Silesian, German and Czech citizens. Anyone over the age of 7 who could not pronounce these Polish words was put to death, ejected from the city or had his property confiscated. 'Ł' (then pronounced as a velarized alveolar lateral approximant, aka dark l) and dental [s̪] are both unlikely to be pronounced properly by Germans since they cannot make out the difference from their own sounds [l] and [s]. (The former was approximated by Germans as l, and has evolved now into a sound similar to English w)

Castilian Spanish – Latin-American Spanish and Portuguese[edit]

  • In the Paraguayan War (1864–1870), Brazilian soldiers would identify Paraguayan citizens by having them say the word pão, meaning "bread". Non-native Portuguese speakers have great difficulty replicating the ão sound – instead, they would say pan or pao (without the due nasalization indicated by the tilde).
  • During the Latin American wars of independence, the name Francisco was used by Colombian rebels to tell Americans from Spaniards. Whoever pronounced it as /fɾanˈθisko/ (as in European Spanish) would be thrown to the Magdalena River.[3]
  • During the Cuban War of Independence, prisoners caught by the insurgents were asked to pronounce the word "garbanzo" (pronounced [ɡarˈβanθo] in Castilian Spanish). Cubans pronounced the /r/ as /l/, and the /θ/ as /s/, resulting [ɡalˈβanso]. They were considered traitors.

English–Dutch[edit]

  • The Peasants' Revolt of AD 1381 (also Tyler’s Rebellion, or the Great Rising) was used by the merchants of London in an attempt to get a competitive edge in the trade with the Low Countries by reducing the number of competitors. A massacre among the Flemings in London – not just the Flemish merchants – ensued. "And many fflemmynges loste hir heedes at that tyme and namely they that koude nat say Breede and Chese, but Case and Brode."[4]

Frisian–Dutch[edit]

Statue of Pier Gerlofs Donia, the last "King of all Frisians" known for his legendary strength and size and his invention of a famous shibboleth
  • Bûter, brea, en griene tsiis; wa't dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries (About this sound example ) means "Butter, rye bread and green cheese, who cannot say that is not a genuine Frisian" was used by the Frisian Pier Gerlofs Donia during a Frisian rebellion war (1515–1523). Ships whose crew could not pronounce this properly were usually plundered and soldiers who could not were beheaded by Donia himself.

Finnish–Russian[edit]

  • Yksi: Finnish for "one", used by the White Guard to separate Russians from Finns in the Finnish Civil War during the invasion of Tampere. Many of the Russians caught had changed to civilian clothing, so suspected people were rounded up, even from hospitals, and asked to say yksi. If the prisoner pronounced it [juksi], mistaking the front vowel 'y' for an iotated 'u', he was considered a Russian foreign fighter and was shot on the spot. Any Slav or Balt, Communist or not, was killed, including some members of the White Guard.[5]
  • Höyryjyrä: ([høyryjyræ], Finnish for "steamroller"): Finnish soldiers in World War II used this as a password, as only a native Finnish speaker could properly say this word, which contains the Finnish front vowels Ö, Y, and Ä in combination with the rolled R used in Finnish. The leading H /h/ is particularly hard for Russian speakers, since the same sound does not exist in Russian; analogous Russian sounds /ɡ/, /ɦ/ and /x/ are distinguishable.

Ukrainian–Russian[edit]

  • Paljanytsja: Ukrainian word "паляниця" ([palʲaˈnɪtsʲa], a "sacred" wheat bread eaten on special occasions) was used by soldiers of Makhno troops to identify Russians of Bolshevik food expropriation teams. Russians pronounce the word approximately as [pəlʲɪˈnʲitsə], with soft (palatalized) [n] and hard (non-palatalized) [ts]. The word paljanytsja was also used during World War II by Ukrainian nationalists to identify Russians.

Russian–German[edit]

  • Doroga: Russian word "дорога" ([dəˈroɡə]), meaning "road". German spies normally were not able to pronounce this word correctly. Instead of that they pronounced taˈroka,[dubious ] and that fact always helped Russians to identify German spies.

Japanese–Korean[edit]

  • 15円 50銭 (jū-go-en, go-jū-sen) and がぎぐげご (gagigugego) were used in Japan after the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake to search for Koreans, in order to falsely accuse them of well poisoning with the intention of scapegoating. Japanese people pronounce initial g as [ɡ] and medial g as [ŋ] (such a distinction is dying out in recent years), whereas Koreans pronounce the two sounds as [k] and [ɡ] respectively.
  • Ba, bi, bu, be, bo Japanese used this syllabary group to detect Korean spies. Koreans would pronounce the syllables unvoiced, [pa, pi, pu, pe, po].

Dutch–German[edit]

  • Scheveningen (About this sound example ): The letter sequence "sch" in Dutch is analyzed as "s" [s] and "ch" [x], while German orthography has "sch" as a trigraph, pronounced [ʃ]. The Dutch Resistance used this to ferret out Nazi spies and defectors during the liberation of their country in World War II.
  • Likewise, Allied patrols in the just liberated areas of the Netherlands used the word Nijmegen to quickly distinguish between Dutch natives and German soldiers who changed into civilian clothes to evade capture. Locals raised in Dutch would have no problem with the Dutch ij (pronounced [ɛɪ]) and the fricative g ([ɣ]) while Germans would pronounce the sounds like [iː] and [ɡ], or completely revert to 'Nimwegen', the city's name in German.

Danish–German[edit]

  • The famous phrases rødgrød med fløde and "rød russer røv rykker rundt" were used in Denmark during World War II to identify German infiltrators. Being filled with Danish-specific approximants, it was hard for non-native speakers to pronounce correctly.

Spanish – Haitian Creole and French[edit]

  • Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo conducted a brutal massacre of undocumented Haitian settlers along the Dominican-Haitian border. The action is known as the Parsley Massacre. Suspects not fluent in Spanish either did not know or could not properly pronounce the Spanish word 'perejil' (parsley). The pronunciation of the word by Haitian citizens tended to be with an untrilled r and without the 'l' at the end of the word.[6]

Azeri–Armenian[edit]

  • The Azeri word for Hazelnut, fundukh, which Armenians typically pronounce with a [p] instead of an [f].[7]

Culture, religion and language-specific shibboleths[edit]

Shibboleths in fiction[edit]

  • The U.S. TV series Law & Order: Criminal Intent features an episode titled "Shibboleth". In the episode, a serial rapist-murderer is identified largely because of his uncharacteristic enunciation of the /t/ sound in certain words. Specifically, his speech does not exhibit flapping; that is pronouncing the /t/ as an alveolar tap, [ɾ], between vowels in unstressed syllables (e.g., pronouncing the word "pretty," [ˈpɹ ɪ ti] usually pronounced [ˈpɹ ɪ ɾi] in American English).
  • In another episode of the show, the detective identifies a woman as being from Western Pennsylvania because she had talked about "redding up" something instead of cleaning it.
  • In Alfred Hitchcock's film Marnie, Sean Connery, as the main character, is able to deduce that Tippi Hedren's title character is from the South since, despite no drawl or other aspects of Southern American English, she emphasizes the first syllable of "insurance" (rather than second, as is common elsewhere).
  • In the U.S. TV series The West Wing, in the episode "Shibboleth", Christian Chinese nationals have smuggled themselves to the United States in a shipping container purportedly to escape religious persecution. President Bartlet decides to interview one of them to determine the sincerity of their beliefs. The immigrant's knowledge of the biblical story of the shibboleth convinces Bartlet.
  • In the TV series The Wire, in the fourth-season episode "Corner Boys", Felicia "Snoop" Pearson is seen discussing "Baltimore questions" with fellow gangster Chris Partlow in order to find rival drug dealers, freshly arrived from New York City, to kill. The idea is that anybody who grew up in Baltimore would know certain things about local popular culture that a recent arrival would most likely not know.
  • Baltimore is also the subject of a shibboleth in an early episode of Homicide: Life on the Street, in which a suspect launches into a monologue involving whether locals are more likely to pronounce the name "Bawlmer" or "Bal-ti-moh".
  • A TV commercial run by Tim Hortons features a family passing through Canadian customs coming from the United States. Without a passport, the Canadian driver says "rrrroll up the rrrrrrim to win" (a popular annual promotion run by the restaurant chain), properly rolling the "r". Another family, presumably not Canadian, fails to reproduce the phrase.
  • A TV advertisement for KiwiBank features an Australian banker attempting to pronounce the New Zealand town name Whakatane as "Wack-a-tain". (It is actually pronounced /fɒkəˈtɑːni/)
  • In the film Inglourious Basterds, Lt. Archie Hicox, a British soldier meeting with an informant in Nazi-occupied France, betrays his identity to an SS Officer when he orders three drinks by holding up his middle three fingers, whereas Germans traditionally hold up the thumb, index, and middle fingers.
  • In the Isaac Asimov short story "No Refuge Could Save", an American intelligence offer during World War II is able to determine that a man is a German spy by getting him to recite from memory part of the 3rd verse of the U.S. national anthem. This can be considered a "reverse shibboleth", in that it is information that only someone who had spent years memorizing aspects of American culture would know; the verses of the anthem after the first are unknown to almost all Americans.
  • In the film Red Dawn, during the Soviet invasion of the United States, the Wolverines (an organized American resistance group fighting the Soviet occupiers) encounter Col. Andy Tanner, a downed American pilot. Erica, one of the Wolverines, suspects Tanner is a Russian, and asks him to name the capital of Texas to prove he is American. Tanner correctly identifies Austin as the capital, but Erica believes the capital to be Houston and is about to shoot him when the other Wolverines intervene.
  • Different forms of finger counting are used as a shibboleth in the novel Pi in the Sky, by John D. Barrow (between China and Japan).[11][12]
  • In Dara Horn's novel All Other Nights, a Jewish woman is talking with several male soldiers, and hopes to date one, but is only willing to date another Jew. So, she asks all the soldiers to solve the riddle "what is the opposite of meat?". After getting answers ranging from "non-meat", to feed, the lone Jew correctly answers "milk". Under kashrut laws, meat and dairy products cannot be mixed, and as such a Jew (and only a Jew) would consider them opposites.
  • In Donald Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown, a man claiming to be a sailor betrays his identity by reporting the speed of a vessel in knots per hour. Knots is already a measure of speed, not distance; therefore, knots per hour is a measure of acceleration, defined as nautical miles per hour squared.
  • In the television movie Pope Pius XII, men dressed as Catholic priests reveal themselves to be Jews once they demonstrate ignorance of some Catholic prayers.

English shibboleths for native speakers or local natives[edit]

  • nuclear/nucular: The word "nuclear", /ˈnkliər/ in General American, is sometimes pronounced "nucular" /ˈnkjələr/ in parts of the United States. This is considered incorrect or a metathesis by many authorities, although a common alternative pronunciation, having been used by U.S. President Jimmy Carter (himself a former Naval nuclear engineer), U.S. President George W. Bush, and other politicians. This is common in some midwestern states, particularly those in the southern part of the region.
  • "BART": Bay Area Rapid Transit, which connects San Francisco with the East and South Bay, is pronounced without the article the by locals, but with it by outsiders. A local would say, "I am going to ride BART," whereas a visitor typically says, "Let's ride 'the' BART."
  • When referring to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the location of most of the city's major monuments, natives usually say that a given landmark is "on the mall". Tourists will sometimes say "in the mall," something that automatically identifies them as tourists.
  • Fish and chips: The accents of Australians and New Zealanders seem very similar, and the term fish and chips is sometimes evoked to illustrate a major difference between the two. In New Zealand pronunciation short i is a central vowel, [ɘ]. This vowel sound is sometimes caricatured as "fush and chups" by Australians. The Australian pronunciation has the front vowel [ɪ] (which is more common in most varieties of English) which, due to an overall vowel-shift in New Zealand, sounds like "feesh and cheeps" to New Zealand ears.[13][14]
  • Geyser: a notable difference exists between New Zealand English and the most common British English pronunciation of the word geyser: /ˈɡzər/ GY-zer vs /ˈɡzər/ GEE-zer. British visitors to New Zealand towns like Taupo and Rotorua, known for their nearby geysers, frequently confuse locals by asking the way to the "geezers".
  • kiwi: The national bird of New Zealand is the kiwi, of which the plural is simply "kiwi". The people of New Zealand are colloquially called Kiwis (capital K, pluralized with an -s). The fruit which is called "kiwi" in some countries is always referred to in New Zealand as "kiwifruit".
  • Maori: New Zealanders refer to Maori people in the plural as Maori, unlike other English speakers, who refer to them as Maoris. They also now pronounce the word as /ˈmɑːɔri/, closer to the pronunciation used in the Maori language.
  • Pronunciation of letters of the alphabet:
  • In Highland Dress, for anyone who has ever served in a Scottish Regiment, or even played in a pipe band, or whenever said by any Scot, should ‘plaidactually be used to refer to tartan cloth, it could be pronounced: /ˈplæd/ (to rhyme with ‘mad’). (NB: This usage, as a synonym for ‘tartan’, is generally only ever found in North America). More often, however, when referring to the cape-like garment – in its various forms – worn over the left shoulder as part of the traditional or formal Scottish dress, the pronunciation is: /ˈpld/ (to rhyme with ‘made’); (although the OED accepts both pronunciations in this usage). To further stress the pronunciation of the garment versus the cloth, the garment has an alternative spelling ‘plaide’, although rarely used. Thus: belted-plaid, drummer's plaid, evening-plaid, fly-plaid, full-plaid, piper's plaid, et al., are pronounced ‘pleɪd’ by those who have worn, or are familiar, with the same. Etymology: plaide Scots Language via Scottish Gaelic meaning ‘blanket’ or ‘cloak’, (albeit usually made of tartan; most often the same tartan as the wearer's kilt or trews).[15]
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Natives of this city usually pronounce the word 'water' [wʊɾɚ] instead of [wɑːɾɚ]. A similar phenomenon is found in the closely related Baltimore dialect.
  • Pasadena, California: Lower and middle-class natives usually pronounce the word 'milk' [mɛɫk] instead of [mɪɫk], in contrast to their neighbours in Los Angeles. However, this trait is shared with many speakers of Inland Northern American English, to which the city has historical ties.
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are named for their creator, Harry Reese. In broadcast advertisements the name of the company and the product—Reese's—is consistently pronounced "Reese-iz"—being the possessive form of "Reese." But in several areas of the U.S. it is common for the candy to be called "Ree-see Cups" or "Ree-seez Cups." (In addition to altering the pronunciation of Reese's, the phrase "peanut butter" is often omitted.) Similarly, "Reese's Pieces" might be pronounced "Ree-see Pee-sees," the rhyme being preserved by incorrectly altering the pronunciation of both words.[16][17]
  • Regional vowels
    • The BATH vowel is a significant divider in England between north and south. The north and the midlands of England use /æ/ in BATH whereas most of the south uses /ɑː/, which is also favoured by the BBC. There is a third pronunciation, [æː], used in parts of south-west England.
    • About: U.S. commentators (and popular culture) have drawn attention to the stereotypical Canadian pronunciation of about. While the American imitation of the stereotype (as seen, for example, in the film South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut) pronounces the word like "a boot", Canadians actually pronounce the word [əˈbəʊt] which sounds more like "a boat", as compared to General American [əˈbaʊt]. This phenomenon is known in linguistics as Canadian raising, and is not restricted to just Canada, as many Northern U.S. dialects have clear Canadian Raising as well.
    • No: Residents of Northern Lincolnshire and to a lesser extent parts of East Yorkshire will be able to recognise a speaker from Hull as they will pronounce 'no' as 'nurr' ([nɜː]), whereas the surrounding accent tends towards 'naw' ([nɔː]). In Cleethorpes this has led to the stereotype of Hullish tourists as 'comforts' after the phrase "Come fert'day, stop fert'week".
    • Tomato: UK pronunciation is usually /təˈmɑːtoʊ/, while US pronunciation is usually /təˈmeɪtoʊ/. Ira Gershwin famously used this difference in the verse "You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to", from the song "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off".
    • "Sauna": Scandinavians, and North Americans that reside in areas settled primarily by Scandinavians (chiefly the Norwegians of North Dakota and the Finns of Michigan's Upper Peninsula), pronounce the word /ˈsnə/, mirroring the original Finnish [ˈsɑunɑ]. Those who reside elsewhere in the world almost exclusively pronounce it /ˈsɔːnə/.

Place-name pronunciations[edit]

In Australia[edit]

In Canada[edit]

  • Almonte, Ontario: Locals pronounce the community as "AL-mont", rather than the Spanish name for which the town was named, "al-MONT-ay".
  • Calgary, Alberta: Residents of Calgary, and Alberta in general, often pronounce the name of the city in two syllables as /ˈkælɡri/. Even people from other provinces generally pronounce it in three, as /ˈkælɡəri/.
  • Delhi, Ontario is pronounced "DEL-high" by locals, rather than "DEL-ee", like the city in India.
  • Montreal, Quebec: English-speaking locals (and most Canadians) pronounce the name of the city as /ˌmʌntriˈɔːl/ whereas most Americans pronounce it /ˌmɒntriˈɔːl/. The same applies to the name Quebec, which is pronounced /kwɨˈbɛk/ by most Americans, whereas local English speakers pronounce it /kɨˈbɛk/.
  • Nepean, Ontario: Locals pronounce their community as /nəˈpən/
  • Newfoundland: Some outsiders pronounce the island almost as if it were three separate words, "new-FOUND-lənd" rather then the local pronunciation, "NOO-fən-land"
  • Smyth Road, Ottawa: This street is pronounced with a long /i/ vowel, rather than a short vowel as in "Smith".
  • Toronto, Ontario: Natives often say /ˈtrɒnə/.
  • Vancouver, British Columbia: Residents of British Columbia, or often other parts of Canada, will generally pronounce the first syllable as /væŋ-/ or vang-, displaying the consonant assimilation typical in English when /k/ follows /n/ (such as in "ankle" or "ranking"). English-speaking Americans and some Canadians from other regions tend to pronounce it /væn-/ (van-), resisting assimilation to the following /k/ sound. Also, it has been noted by native speakers that the middle syllable of "Vancouver" can be "mispronounced" /-kjuːv-/ instead of /-kv-/.

In the Netherlands[edit]

  • Gorinchem: Pronounced as the alternative spelling of its name: Gorkum Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɣɔrkəm].
  • "Charlois": Neighbourhood in Rotterdam. A Rotterdammer will pronounce it as "Sjaarloos" (emphasis on the first vowel), while outsiders will be more likely to pronounce it as spelled - sounding more French and with the emphasis on the last vowel.

In New Zealand[edit]

  • Charleston is pronounced with three syllables, as /ˈɑːləstən/, unlike its better-known namesake in the United States.
  • Two of the main streets in Christchurch are local shibboleths. One, Barbadoes Street, is pronounced /bɑrˈbdɒs/ the same as the Caribbean country but spelt with an added "e"; the other, Antigua Street, is spelt the same way as its Caribbean namesake but pronounced with a shortened "i" and prominent "u" (/ænˈtɪɡjuːə/ rather than æ).
  • Dunedin: Pronounced locally with E as the only stressed vowel, the others either replaced by a schwa (the U) or elided (the I, sometimes also the U) – /dəˈndən/. Non-locals usually pronounce all three vowels clearly /dʌˈndɪn/.
  • Kumara: pronounced with the stress on the second syllable /kʉˈmɑrə/, unlike the vegetable (which has the stress on the first syllable).
  • Levin: pronounced with the stress on the second syllable as /ləˈvɪn/, not – as is sometimes thought by non-New Zealanders – with a first-syllable stress (as in the more common pronunciation of the surname).
  • Oamaru: Pronounced locally, and by other natives of the Otago region, as /ˌɔːməˈr/, a pronunciation borrowed from the local dialect of Māori. Most Māori speakers from farther north in New Zealand pronounce both initial vowels separately, as [ˈɔamarʉ], while non-Māori-speakers will pronounce it /ˌməˈr/.
  • Omaha: A Maori term meaning "Place of pleasure", pronounced with the stress on the second syllable /ˌˈmɑːhɑː/, not - as visiting non-New Zealanders tend to - with the stress on the first and last syllables as in the American city.
  • Otago: Pronounced locally with a schwa replacing the first O and sometimes – especially by older residents – with a schwa also replacing the final O (/əˈtɑːɡ/ or /əˈtɑːɡə/); other New Zealanders tend to pronounce both the first and last letters similarly as long Os /ˈtɑːɡ/.

In the United Kingdom[edit]

In the United States[edit]

  • Many US cities and towns are named after larger cities elsewhere, yet have a locally different pronunciation of their name. Outsiders generally pronounce them as their more famous counterparts. For example, Havana, Florida, locally /heɪˈvænə/; assorted American locations named Cairo (locally /ˈkeɪroʊ/); Lima, Ohio, Lima, New York, and Lima, Pennsylvania (all locally /ˈlaɪmə/ LY-mə), Berlin, New Hampshire (locally /ˈbɛərlɨn/ BAIR-lin), while New Berlin, Pennsylvania is distinctively pronounced by Central Pennsylvanians as New /ˈbɜrlɨn/ BUR-lin (similarly to New Berlin, Wisconsin). Natives of Iowa, Louisiana pronounce the town's name as /ˈaɪ.oʊ.eɪ/ EYE-oh-ay. Natives of Versailles, Ohio pronounce the town's name as "ver-SALES." Similarly, residents of Milan, Ohio pronounce the town's name as "MAI-lan".
  • Contrary to the conventions of many other varieties of English, in the United States, the syllable "New" is almost uniformly pronounced /nu/, rather than /nju/, in a phonological phenomenon known as yod-dropping. This holds for the pronunciation of the states of New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and most major cities beginning with "New", such as New York, New Orleans, Newark, New Haven, Newport, and Newport News.
  • Alachua County, Florida: Frequently pronounced by non-locals with the stress on the third syllable. This Native American word is pronounced by locals with the stress on the second syllable. Oddly, the town of the same name is frequently pronounced by locals as /əˈlætʃəweɪ/, perhaps to distinguish between reference to the town versus the county.
  • Albany, New York: The first syllable is frequently pronounced by non-locals as /æl/ (as in Alfred), while locals pronounce it /ɔːl/ (like "all").
  • Albany, Georgia: The stress is on the second syllable, pronounced by locals as "all-BEN-nee".
  • Aloha, Oregon, is pronounced /əˈloʊ.ə/ by locals, with the "h" silent, instead of like the Hawaiian greeting aloha (/əˈloʊhɑː/).
  • Amherst, Massachusetts: The name of this town (and its namesake colleges) is pronounced with a silent "h" by locals (/ˈæmərst/), and with a pronounced "h" by outsiders (/ˈæmhɜrst/).
  • Andreas, Pennsylvania: located in the SE corner of Schuylkill County and locally pronounced "ANN-dreez."
  • Appalachia: pronounced /æpəˈlætʃə/ within the central portion of the region, particularly between North Carolina and West Virginia; usually pronounced /æpəˈleɪʃə/ elsewhere.
  • Arab, Alabama: Unlike the conventional pronunciation, this city's name is pronounced as if it were two separate words – /ˈeɪræb/ ("AY-rab").
  • Arvada, Colorado and Arvada, Wyoming: The city in Colorado is pronounced by locals as "are-vad-uh", while the town in Wyoming is pronounced by locals there as "are-vay-da".
  • Arkansas River: While in most places the name of this river is pronounced the same way as the name of the state of Arkansas (/ˈɑrkənsɔː/), Kansas and Colorado residents typically pronounce it as if the "Ar-" were a prefix added to the name of the state of Kansas.[citation needed]
  • Baltimore, MD: The placename is often pronounced as 'ball-tee-more' or 'ball-ta-more' (3 syllables) by outsiders, locals pronounce it 'balli-more' or ball-more' (both 2 syllables). To its credit, the HBO series 'The Wire' portrayed the locals' pronunciation accurately.
  • Beaufort, North Carolina, is pronounced /ˈboʊfərt/ ("BOH-furt"); Beaufort, South Carolina, is pronounced /ˈbjuːfərt/ ("BYOO-furt").
  • Bellefontaine, Ohio, instead of being pronounced as it's spelled—Bell-fon-TAIN—is instead said as bel-FOWN-tin.
  • Beloit, Wisconsin: Those used to speaking French will usually pronounce this [belwa],[citation needed] while people in Wisconsin tend to pronounce it /bəˈlɔɪt/ according to the spelling.
  • Billerica, Massachusetts is pronounced BILL'ricka, not in such a fashion that rhymes with America.
  • Bogota, New Jersey: New Jersey residents pronounce as /bəˈɡoʊtə/ instead of the pronunciation used for the Colombian capital.
  • Boise, Idaho, is generally pronounced by locals as /bɔɪˈsiː/. Most Americans, especially those far removed from Idaho, pronounce it /ˈbɔɪziː/. In contrast, "Boise" in Boise City, Oklahoma, is pronounced /ˈbɔɪs/ "Boyce".
  • Bronson, Michigan is locally pronounced /ˈbrʌnsən, and not */ˈbrɒnsən. But Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan roughly 50 miles away is pronounced /ˈbrɒnsən.
  • Buena, New Jersey; Buena Vista, Virginia; Buena Vista, Colorado and Buena Vista, Georgia: "Buena" is pronounced /ˈbjuːnə/ BEW-nə by locals rather than its native Spanish pronunciation, which is approximated as /ˈbweɪnə/ in Lake Buena Vista, Florida or Buena Park, California.
  • Cairo, Georgia; Cairo, Illinois; Cairo, West Virginia: Pronounced KAY-ro, rather than the way Egyptian capital is pronounced.
  • Calais, Maine: Pronounced KAL-lass, rather than ka-LAY, as with Calais, France.
  • Campbell, Ohio: Pronounced Camel, like the animal, not Campbell, like the soup.
  • Chalybeate, Tennessee is pronounced by locals as /ˈkliːbɨt/ whereas outsiders may refer to it as /ˈtʃælɨˈbiːti/ or /ˈtʃælɨbaɪt/.
  • Charlotte, VT, Charlotte, MI and Charlotte, New York are both pronounced by locals as shar-LOT where outsiders refer to them as SHAR-lət, like Charlotte, NC
  • Chili, New York is pronounced by locals as /ˈtʃaɪlaɪ/ CHY-ly, not like the food.
  • Concord, Massachusetts and Concord, New Hampshire are pronounced by locals as /ˈkɒŋkərd/, indistinguishable from the word "conquered," whereas Concord, North Carolina is pronounced as the word "concord."
  • Copley Square, Boston is named after John Singleton Copley, and thus pronounced like his name, /ˈkɒplɪ/ COP-lee, non-locals usually pronounce it /ˈkoʊplɪ/ COPE-lee.
  • Corolla, North Carolina is pronounced by locals as /kəˈrɑːlə/, or car-AH-lah, often mispronounced as core-OH-lah, as for the Toyota Corolla.
  • Couch Street in Portland, Oregon is pronounced "cooch" by locals, unlike the conventional pronunciation for the piece of furniture that shares its spelling.
  • Darien, Connecticut is pronounced by locals as /dɛəriˈæn/.
  • Detroit, Michigan: Locals tend to stress the second syllable with a short vowel sound to the first, de-TROIT. Common non-local pronunciations place stress on the first syllable with a long vowel sound, DEE-troit.
  • Dubois, Wyoming: Locals pronounce it /dᵿˈbɔɪz/.
  • DuBois, Pennsylvania: Locals pronounce it /dᵿˈbɔɪz/. Dubois County, Indiana is pronounced /dᵿˈbɔɪs/. Non-locals usually pronounce both /duːˈbwɑː/, an approximation of the French.
  • Estes Park, Colorado: Locals pronounce the first word /ˈɛstəs/ (ESS-tess). Visitors often pronounce it /ˈɛstiz/ (ESS-teez).
  • Forest City, North Carolina: Locals tend to pronounce the city's name as "Far City", while visitors or new residents will pronounce the city's name the way it is spelled.
  • Forked River, New Jersey: Residents of the area pronounce the first word with two syllables (FOR-ked or FORK-ed). Pronouncing the first word with one syllable (forkt) is a sign of a new resident or outsider.
  • Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Though most people in the US pronounce the location of the famous Civil War battle as GET-tees-burg, with a long 'e' in the middle, locals often pronounce it with a short 'i': GET-tis-burg.
  • Gough Street in San Francisco is pronounced "goff" by locals, but any of several alternative ways by visitors. Cartoonist Dr. Seuss played on this difficult combination of letters in "The Tough Coughs As He Ploughs the Dough": each appearance of "ough" is pronounced a different way.
  • Greenwich Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania: Natives and locals in Berks and other adjacent counties will pronounce it as /ˈɡrnwɪ/ GREEN-wich rather than the more common /ˈɡrɛnɪtʃ/ GREN-ich. This often confuses tourists and visitors.
  • Halema'uma'u: The placename is often pronounced as "hail-mau-mau" (3 syllables) or "hah-leh-mau-mau" (4 syllables) by outsiders, while locals pronounce it "hah-leh-mah-u-mah-u" (6 syllables)
  • Havre de Grace, Maryland: is often pronounced as "hav-er-de-grace" (4 syllables) by outsiders, while locals pronounce it "hahv-de-grace" or "hahv-de-grahs" (3 syllables) the latter being closest to its French pronunciation (the city being named by Marquis de Lafayette).
  • Hilo, Hawaii: The city is often pronounced as "high-low" when locals pronounce it "hee-low". Many native Hawaiian names abound on the Big Island of Hawai'i, and are cause of many shibboleths. The town of Hawi, Hawaii is often pronounced as "hah-wee" by outsiders, when locals will pronounce it "huh-vee". Similarly, the state name of Hawaii is often pronounced as "huh-why-ee" by outsiders, when locals tend to pronounce it "huh-vye-ee" (with or without the glottal break in the coda).
  • Holyoke, Massachusetts: Locals pronounce it as 2 syllables,[citation needed] sometimes omitting the "l" (either HOLE-yoke or HO-yoke). Outsiders pronounce it "Holy Oak"
  • Honolulu, Hawai'i: The Likelike Highway, derived from the Hawai'ian Princess Miriam Kapili Kekāuluohi Likelike, is often mispronounced by tourists due to the differences in pronunciations between Hawai'ian and English alphabets. In Hawai'ian, the letter 'i' is pronounced 'ee' whereas the 'e' is pronounced as 'eh'. Many outsiders pronounce it as it looks in English (e.g., 'laik-laik highway') as opposed to the proper Hawaiian pronunciation of 'lee-kay-lee-kay'.
  • Houston Street, New York City; Houston, Delaware; Houston and Houston County, Georgia: Locals pronounce the first syllable identically with "house" (/ˈhaʊstən/), while most visitors will employ the same pronunciation as in Houston, Texas (/ˈhjuːstən/). Houston Street is actually a corruption of the original name of Houstoun Street, named after Continental Congress Delegate William Houstoun, who pronounced his name in this way.
  • Hurricane, Utah; Hurricane, West Virginia: both pronounced by locals as /ˈhʌrəkɨn/, identical to the British pronunciation of the word 'hurricane'. Others pronounce it as the American pronunciation of the word.
  • Jordan, Georgia; as well as the surname Jordan: pronounced by Georgians as /ˈdʒɜː(ɹ)dən/ with the first syllable using the er sound as in jerk (/dʒɜːk/). These same people though, use the standard pronouciation for Jordan (/ˈdʒɔːrdən/) the country or river.
  • Kelayres, Pennsylvania: located in NE Schuylkill County and locally pronounced "Clairs."
  • Kona, Hawai'i: Locals pronounce the city name 'ko-nuh' while tourists tend to pronounce it 'kou-na' (e.g., locals do not pronounce the 'o' as a diphthong).
  • Lafayette, Tennessee: Locals stress the second syllable (/ləˈfeɪ.ɨt/) as opposed to the more standard pronunciation (/lɑːfeɪˈɛt/) used for most towns with this name.
  • La Jolla: The name of this San Diego neighborhood is the most well-known local shibboleth; the correct pronunciation is "la HOY-a", approximating the Spanish
  • Lanai, Hawai'i: Outsiders tend to pronounce this island and city as 'luh-nye' (ləˈnaɪ), while locals will retain the native Hawaiian pronunciation of 'la-nuh-ee' (laːˈnɐʔi).
  • Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Locals end the first syllable at C, /ˈlæŋkɨstər/ (LANK-is-ter), like the city in England for which it was named, rather than the wider American pronunciation of /ˈlænkæstər/ (LAN-kast-er).
  • Lebanon, Pennsylvania: Although the country of the same name is generally pronounced "Leb-a-non" locals tend to pronounce the Pennsylvania city's name "Leb-a-NIN," and frequently shorten it to two syllables—"Leb-nin" or even "Lep-nin." The latter is particularly identified with Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.[20]
  • Loogootee, Indiana: Locals pronounce the name of the town as /ləˈɡt/ )la-GOAT-ee).
  • Los Gatos, California: Locals do not use the proper Spanish pronunciation of this town, which means "the cats", but rather pronounce the town "las gattis" /lɔːs ˈɡætəs/ lawss-GAT-əs.
  • Louisiana: Most Northern and Central residents tend to use four syllables ("LOOZ-i-a-na"), not five like the rest of the U.S. ("Loo-EEZ-i-a-na")
  • Louisville: Most natives of Louisville pronounce the city's name as Listeni/ˈləvəl/, which is sometimes shortened to Listeni/ˈlʌvəl/. The pronunciation Listeni/ˈlvɪl/, however, is often used by political leaders, the media and outsiders. In all but the most anglicized pronunciations, the "s" is silent due to the name's French origin.
  • Mantua, Utah; Mantua, Ohio: Outsiders will pronounce it as the Italian city, where locals will say /ˈmænəweɪ/.
  • Marietta, Georgia: This town was once called "May-retta" or "Mar-retta" by its residents and "Mary-etta" by those that are not from there. Since the rapid influx of newer residents starting in the 1980s, this is no longer true, especially in Eastern Marietta, where "Mary-etta" is now a more favored pronunciation.
  • Miami, Arizona and Miami, Oklahoma: Pronounced locally as /maɪˈæmə/ "My-AM-uh" rather than /maɪˈæmi/ "my-AM-ee", the most common pronunciation for the city in Florida.
  • Micanopy, Florida: Pronounced locally as /mɪkəˈnoʊpi/, visitors mispronounce the town's name in a variety of ways, perhaps most commonly "MY-canopy".
  • Milan, Indiana, Milan, Michigan, Milan, Illinois, and Milan, Tennessee: Pronounced locally as "MY-lin" /ˈmaɪlən/ rather than "Mee-LAHN" like the Italian city Milan.
  • Missouri: Perhaps the most famous of all place-name shibboleths in the USA, natives may pronounce the last syllable as "-ee" as most Americans do, or "-a" (like zebra) depending on the part of the state they hail from.
  • Mobile, Alabama: Locals pronounce this as pronounced /moʊˈbiːl/ moh-BEEL, whereas non-locals often pronounce it MOH-bəl[citation needed] as in "mobile home", or use the local pronunciation but stress the first syllable instead of the second.
  • Moscow, Idaho is pronounced by locals and natives as Mos'KOE, like the Russian capital, which is often mispronounced as Mos'COW.
  • Morea, Pennsylvania is located in Schuylkill County and locally pronounced "Maria."
  • Natchitoches, Louisiana: Pronounced /ˈnækətəʃ/.
  • Nevada: Nevadans say /nɨˈvædə/ nə-VAD-ə, pronouncing the first A as in 'apple'. Visitors often say /nɨˈvɑːdə/ nə-VAH-də, pronouncing the first A as in 'bra'. Additionally, there are a number of smaller towns in other states bearing the name Nevada where locals frequently use the latter pronunciation, and in Missouri, pronounced Neh-VAY-dah. In Nevada County, Arkansas, it is pronounced with the first A as long.[21]
  • Noe Street in San Francisco is pronounced "no-ee" by locals, however it's typically pronounced simply as "no" by perplexed visitors.
  • Norfolk, Virginia: Longtime residents tend to say /nɑːfək/, while other locals will say /noʊrfɨk/. Non-locals may pronounce it /nɔrfɔːlk/. See Norfolk, England.
  • New Tripoli, Pennsylvania: Located in NW Lehigh County and pronounced "nu tri-POLE-ee."
  • Newark, New Jersey; Newark, California; and Newark, Delaware: Locals in New Jersey and California pronounce their cities' names as NEW-ərk (/ˈnuː.ərk/) whereas locals of Newark, Delaware pronounce their city's name as /ˈnɑrk/ (derived directly from "New Ark of the Covenant," the town's original name). This sometimes causes confusion for individuals traveling between the city in New Jersey and the one relatively nearby in Delaware.
  • Oregon: Many non-locals pronounce the last syllable, "gon," the same way as they pronounce the word "gone." Residents of the state pronounce it like the second syllable of "begun." Some also turn the middle syllable into a long e ("ORE-ee-gon") or drop the middle syllable altogether (making it sound like "organ" or "argon").
  • Ouachita is a region in southwest Arkansas that lends its name to a mountain range as well as a local university. It's pronounced /ˈwɑːʃɨtɑː/ by Arkansans, whereas non-locals may say /uːˈtʃɪtɑː/ or /ˈoʊtʃɨtɑː/.
  • Palestine, Texas: The name of this small East Texas town (and the nearby lake) is typically pronounced as /ˈpælɛsn/, like the region in the Middle East by non-natives, but is pronounced "Pales-TEEN" /pæləsˈn/ by natives.
  • Pawtucket, Rhode Island: native Rhode Islanders pronounce the name of the city as /pəˈtʌkət/ whereas non-natives will pronounce as /pɔːˈtʌkɨt/.
  • Peabody, Massachusetts: Located on Boston's North Shore and pronounced /ˈpiːbədi/.
  • Pierre, South Dakota, is locally pronounced like pier /ˈpɪər/. Non-locals will pronounce it like the French name of the same spelling, (/piːˈɛər/).
  • Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta: Non-locals (especially those familiar with Spanish) will at first tend to pronounce this as the name of the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, while locals drop final vowel of "Ponce" and pronounce "León" much as the common Anglo given name (/pɒns də ˈliː.ɒn/).
  • Prescott, Arizona: Northern Arizonans prefer to pronounce the name "PRESS-kit" in a way that rhymes with "biscuit."
  • Progress, Pennsylvania is a census-designated place just NE of Harrisburg and is pronounced "PRO-gres."
  • Refugio, Texas was settled by the Spanish, who pronounce the name "Re-fu-hi-yo." It did not grow for many years until an influx of Irish immigrants in the 1800s, who had trouble with the Spanish word. The town is now generally pronounced "Re-fury-o," even by local Spanish speakers.
  • Sans Souci Parkway is a thoroughfare in Hanover Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania connecting Wilkes-Barre and Nanticoke. It is locally pronounced "San Suey."
  • San Pedro, California is pronounced by English and Spanish speaking locals alike as if spelled "pee-dro" rather than conforming to the proper Spanish pronunciation
  • Swarthmore, Pennsylvania: home of the famous college is locally referred to as Swah-thmore (dropping the 'r' sound), or even 'Swatty' or 'Swatty-more'
  • Terre Haute, Indiana is either pronounced 'Tare Hote' or 'Terry Hut' and never the proper French way.
  • state of Washington: Many place names in Washington have Native American roots and are difficult for non-locals to pronounce. Examples are:Tulalip, Washington Locally pronounced /tʊˈleɪlɨp/; out-of-towners may pronounce it as /ˈtuːləlɪp/, Puyallup, Washington Pronounced /puːˈjæləp/ by non-local speakers, but is pronounced by native Washingtonians as /pjuːˈɑːləp/, and Chehalis, Washington pronounced tʃəˈhɑːˌlɪs by non-locals, but /ʃəˈheɪˌlɪs/ by native Washingtonians. Other notable examples are Pysht, Washington, Steilacoom, Washington, Sequim, Washington, Skamokawa, Washington, Suquamish, Washington, and S'kallallam, Washington.
  • Versailles, Kentucky, Versailles, Ohio, Versailles, Missouri, Versailles, New York and North Versailles, Pennsylvania: all /vərˈseɪlz/ locally, rather than /vɛərˈsaɪ/ as approximated for France.
  • Vienna, Georgia is /ˈvaɪænɑː/[dubious ][this is an unlikely pronunciation] to the locals instead of pronouncing it /viːˈɛnə/ like the capital of Austria.
  • Wayzata, Minnesota is /waɪˈzɛtə/ to the locals. Out of towners have trouble pronouncing it correctly.
  • Weimar, California, an unincorporated area east of Sacramento, is pronounced /ˈwiːmɑr/ "WEE-mar", while non-locals will pronounce it like /ˈvaɪmɑr/, as Weimar in Germany.
  • Weber County, Utah (also Weber State University): Most Utahns pronounce this as /ˈwiːbər/ ("WEE-bur"), with the same vowel sound as "bead", whereas out-of-towners usually pronounce it /ˈwɛbər/ ("webber"). This was parodied by a commercial for a ski resort offering a locals-only discount, using the pronunciation as a test for whether one was a Utah resident.
  • Wisconsin has its first syllable pronounced /ˈwɪs/ by locals but often as /ˈwɛs/ by non-locals.
  • Worcester, Massachusetts: The local pronunciation of this city name is /ˈwʊstäː/; non-natives will often pronounce it /ˈwɒrsɛstər/ or /ˈwɒrtʃɛstər/. Some non-natives with rhotic accents who are aware of the local pronunciation will use /ˈwɜrstər/ or /ˈwʊrstər/.
  • Worcester Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania is pronounced out with three syllables as "WOR-ses-ter."
  • Yocona, Mississippi: Most locals refer to the river and community as /ˈjæknə/ or /ˈjɒkniː/. Non-locals may refer to it as /jəˈkoʊnə/.
  • For the Thames river in Connecticut, the "th" is pronounced as in the world "the" as opposed to the English river of the same name.
  • Washington: Non-locals from some parts of the country will insert an "r" into the first syllable ("WARSH-ing-ton") of the U.S. capital or state, with some individuals even pronouncing the two differently.
  • In an example of a Shibboleth based on time as opposed to location, United States citizens prior to the American Civil War would often refer to the country in the plural (ex. "The United States are") as it was thought of more as a collection of independent states than as one country. However, after the Civil War, the United States was referred to almost exclusively in the singular reflecting the new national unity the war created.[22]

Place-name terms[edit]

  • The city of Derry or Londonderry in Northern Ireland is a notable placename shibboleth. With some exceptions, nationalists prefer Derry, and unionists prefer Londonderry.
  • Northern Ireland is referred to as The North or The Six Counties by nationalists, and Ulster by unionists (to nationalists, "Ulster" connotes the six counties of Northern Ireland and Counties Donegal, County Cavan and Monaghan in the Republic)
  • New Jersey is often referred to as "Jersey" by residents. Also residents will usually never say they are "on the beach" but "down the shore". However, there is an exception in that residents who live near the beach will say "on the beach". The use of "down the shore" denotes someone from New Jersey who doesn't live near the beach. This holds true for the greater Delaware Valley.i.e. Philadelphia and environs.
  • Las Vegas, NV is referred to as "Las Vegas" by its natives and long-time locals. Only tourists and recent arrivals refer to it as "Vegas".
  • A distinction between Northern California and Southern California lies in the way residents refer to freeways. Southern Californians will always insert the article "the" in usage such as "I was driving down the 405" but a Northern Californian would say "I was driving down 280."
  • On a similar note, Oregonians would say "I was driving down I-405" and Washingtonians would say "I was driving down 405".
  • People from New York City will typically give the borough they live in, rather than saying "New York" or "New York City." Many will refer to Manhattan as "the city," as opposed to other boroughs. Similarly, people from surrounding communities generally use "the city" to refer exclusively to Manhattan.
  • New Yorkers always refer to the city's northernmost, and only mainland, borough as The Bronx when it is not used as a modifier, even though the article is rarely used in proper names.
  • In New York City, Long Island is just "the island". Local drivers never refer to the Long Island Expressway as I-495, instead they will call it the L.I.E. or "the Expressway".
  • Although Sixth Avenue in Manhattan was officially renamed “Avenue of the Americas” in 1945, New Yorkers seldom call it by that name.[23][24]
  • The Minneapolis-Saint Paul area of Minnesota, US is usually referred to as "The Twin Cities" by longtime residents or natives and Minneapolis usually refers to the city itself. Many outsiders refer to the entire area including the nearby and longer established city of Saint Paul as "Minneapolis". Natives of outstate (non-metro) Minnesota tend to truncate Twin Cities to "The Cities."
  • Long-term residents of the Boston area will refer to the inner beltway around the city as Route 128 even though most of the road signs now refer to it as I-95 (see Massachusetts Route 128).
  • Native Coloradans from the Front Range refer to Colorado Springs as just "the Springs", which also includes the neighboring town of Manitou Springs.
  • Philadelphians, and residents of that metropolitan area, refer to their city's downtown commercial core as Center City. Only tourists or infrequent visitors call it downtown.
  • Out-of-towners to Philadelphia can become confused when listening to a local traffic report. Area roads and bridges are often referred to by local names, such as: "The Schuylkyll" (skoo-kull) or "Schuylkyll Expressway" (for I-76), where traffic often gets backed up en route to "KOP" (King of Prussia, Pennsylvania) at the "The Conshy Curve", (a bend in the road near Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, where I-76 junctions I-476—aka "The Blue Route". Local bridges are sometimes referred to as "The Ben" (Ben Franklin Bridge), "The Betsy" (Betsy Ross Bridge)and "The Walt" (Walt Whitman Bridge).
  • Residents of the Washington, DC area refer to the city as "DC" or "The District," rarely using the term "Washington." Tourists generally refer to the city as "Washington."
  • New Zealand's South Island and North Island are always referred to by New Zealanders using the definite article, and unlike most islands, people are said to be in them, not on them. Thus a New Zealander may live in the South Island, never on South Island. In the South Island, "The Coast" almost always means the West Coast Region unless context makes another meaning more likely.
  • Residents of metropolitan Chicago – primary Cook County and within the bounds of the Tri-State Tollway/I-294 – refer to Interstates by name: The Eisenhower, the Dan Ryan, the Kennedy, the Stevenson, and so on. In the suburbs Interstates are referred to by number (no "the" or "I" preceding): 290, 90/94, 55, and the like.
  • In metropolitan St. Louis, natives and long-time residents refer to I-64 as "Highway 40," the road's former designator as a U.S. Highway.
  • Residents of Buffalo and its suburbs refer to the interstates and expressways in and around the city (other than those part of the New York State Thruway system) by name (the Youngmann for I-290, the Kensington for NY 33, the Scajaquada for NY 198 and the "Niagara Section" for I-190. If they do use the number it is also preceded by "the". They refer to the expressway linking Buffalo and Toronto, Canada, as "the Queen E" whereas Canadians call it the QEW.
  • Natives of Helsinki, Finland call their town Stadi (Swedish for The Town). Non-natives call it Hesa. Natives of Espoo call Helsinki as Kaupunki (Town).
  • Natives of Bremen call their town "Prim".
  • Long-term residents of the Ross-shire town Alness refer to it as "OL-niss", whereas visitors call it "Al-NESS".
  • Malaysians typically pronounce the first syllable of "Genting Highlands" with a hard G, whereas foreigners tend to use a soft G.[25]

Non-English[edit]

  • In Budapest, Hungary, many streets and localities were renamed during the time of the Communist regime. Some of those reverted to their original names or received completely new names after 1989. Especially in the nineties it used to be possible (and, to a lesser extent, it remains possible now) to recognize people who had lived in the city before 1950 (as they would use the old, original names and be over 50); people who moved into (or were born in) the city between 1950 and 1989 (they would use the Communist names); and people who were born after the mid-eighties or moved in after 1989, especially from farther away, as they would use the new, post-Communist names and would not even know the Communist ones. Referring to "Élmunkás tér" (approximately "Foreworker square"), now known as "Lehel tér" (named after the Hungarian chieftain Lehel), would just get a blank look from a newcomer. "Ferenciek tere" ("Square of the Franciscans") used to be known as "Felszabadulás tér" ("Square of Liberation") in the Communist era and was often abbreviated to "Felszab tér". This abbreviated form is still used in 2007 among Budapest dwellers in their thirties because it is much shorter to pronounce than "Ferenciek tere", but newcomers typically do not know what place is meant. Interestingly, in at least one case using the Communist name was what gave the visitor away: the square known both in pre-Communist and post-Communist times as "Oktogon" was officially called "November hetedike tér" ("Square of 7 November"), but this name never really caught on; thus, if someone called the square that, they probably did not know the city well and had gotten the name from a map. Similar examples could probably be found from other parts of the country.
  • Also, Hungarians, especially people living in the capital city often call it simply Pest instead of Budapest. They also tend to use the phrase "felmegyek Pestre" (in English: I'm going up to Pest) instead of "elmegyek Pestre" (in English: I'm going to Pest). Foreign speakers of the language, no matter their proficiency, are unlikely to use these conventions.
  • Krai kai kai gai (ใครขายไข่ไก่) or Kai kai kai: This phrase is used to teach Thai children the subtleties of their tonal language. When each word is pronounced with the proper tone, the phrase means, "Who sells chicken eggs?"
  • Rødgrød med fløde [ˈʁœðˀɡʁœðˀ mɛ ˈfløːð̩]: The definitive test of one's mastery of the Danish language. No non-native is likely to pronounce the sentence (which means 'red pudding with cream' in English) correctly due to the overwhelming number of Danish phonemes.
  • Rugbrød : Danish for Rye bread, almost impossible for non-Scandinavians to pronounce due to the "soft" g and d and the Scandinavian letter ø.
  • A æ u å æ ø i æ å : a well-known Danish vowels-only way of judging someone's ability to speak Jysk, the general dialect of Jutland. Often/usually practiced on visitors from Copenhagen. In standard Danish, the sentence would be Jeg er ude på øen i åen ("I'm on the island in the stream").
  • Chirurgien [ʃiʁyʁʒjɛ̃], French for "surgeon"; very hard for English-speakers to pronounce correctly, due to its containing, in quick succession, several French sounds not found in English: [ʁ], [y], [ɛ̃]).
  • Chuchichäschtli [ˈχʊχːiˌχæʃtli] in Swiss German, meaning "little kitchen cupboard" is nearly unpronounceable for outsiders because of the frequent /χ/; (note that the middle one is geminated) however, unlike German, the [æ] sound does exist in Standard English as well. Most Swiss would pronounce it /ˈxʊxɪxɛʃtli/ with velar fricatives.
  • "Es vergäid käi Tag im Jahr, wo der Fux am Schwanz nid het Haar" in Swiss German, meaning "There's not one day in a year, when the fox has no hair on his tail". This is usually used to verify whether someone is drunk or not. It is difficult because the word order is not the normal way and the measure of the verse is broken.
  • "Tschingg" /tʃiŋk/ in Swiss German is a derogatory name for an Italian guest worker, derived from the Italian word "cinque" (five), which was the name of a popular card game in the Italian diaspora.
  • The sentence a o'agnehm grean agstrichns Gartatihrle (a garden door painted in an awful shade of green) serves as a Swabian shibboleth. The consecutive nasal sounds are almost unpronounceable for other German speakers.
  • A Czech or Slovak shibboleth is Strč prst skrz krk, meaning "stick the finger through the throat". This is usually used to verify whether someone is drunk or not.
  • Another Czech shibboleth is basically any word containing the Raised alveolar non-sonorant trill represented by the grapheme ř, often in the form of the dialogue -Mařeno, řekni ř! (Mařena, say ř!) -Neřeknu, ty vořechu! (I won't, you rascal!) or simply by asking to say řeřicha (Garden cress)
  • Estamos de huelga is a Spanish phrase meaning "We are on strike". The majority of Spaniards pronounce "huelga" (strike) as [ˈwelɣa]. Andalusians and Extremadurans, though, often pronounce the elsewhere silent /h/ and intermix /l/ and /ɾ/, pronouncing "huelga" like the Spanish word "juerga", as [ˈxweɾɣa]. This will change the meaning of the sentence to "We are having fun". The same happens in the Southwestern region of the Dominican Republic, where for example "mal" (bad) [mal] is pronounced "mar" (sea) [maɾ]. Similarly, Puerto Ricans change the sound of a mid-word /ɾ/ to an /l/, thus a Puerto Rican will say "I come from Puelto Rico".
  • In Spanish spoken in Loreto, Peru and San Martín, Peru, most people will say "El fez y el juiscal feron a tomar cajué el feves con don Juederico en San Fan después del ficio" instead of "El juez y el fiscal fueron a tomar café el jueves con don Federico en San Juan después del juicio" (The Judge and the Prosecutor went to drink coffee on Thursday with Don Federico in San Juan after the trial).
  • In Spanish, most Argentinians and Uruguayans near the Río de la Plata pronounce /ʝ/ as [ʒ] or [ʃ]. This for example turns arroyo ([aˈroʝo], stream) into [aˈroʒo] or [aˈroʃo].
  • Many businesses in the United States tout the bi-linguality of their workers with the advertisement "Hablamos español," literally meaning "we speak Spanish." However, the proper and grammatical phrasing "Se habla español," is often used by customers to distinguish between establishments that employ native and non-native speakers.
  • Northern-Italian dialects have ü and ö sounds as French or German, which are not present in standard Italian language or southern dialects. Words like föra [ˈføra] (out) may be used to discern whether one is from the north. Comedians Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo presented a whole scene about a similar shibboleth in their first movie, the Lombard word cadrega: a guest, suspected to be a southerner, would be shown a table with many sorts of fruit, and offered to take a cadrega ([kaˈdreɡa]), unaware he was actually being offered just a chair (in Italian, sedia [ˈsɛdja]).
  • Italians travelling abroad and wishing to dine at an Italian restaurant often check the menu's grammar to verify whether the restaurant can be trusted to be authentic. Common errors are missing prepositions as in "spaghetti bolognese" instead of "spaghetti alla bolognese", missing accents, such as "tiramisu" instead of "tiramisù" and uncommon misspellings such as "mozarella" (mozzarella) or the difficult "capucino"/"capuccino"/"cappucino"/"capucchino" (cappuccino)[citation needed]
  • In Chile, the pronunciation of "ch" – which in standard Spanish sounds /tʃ/ – as /ʃ/ is often associated with the lower classes. Hence, humorous phrases like "el shansho con shaleco" (corruption of "el chancho con chaleco", the pig with a sweater) denotes a person with a genuine lower class pronunciation, or just somebody impersonating it, in jest. It is a major problem for English teachers to make their Chilean students pronounce both sounds correctly.[26]
  • The West Flemish dialect does not know the Dutch "ch" (/x/ as in the Scottish 'Loch') Instead West-Flemmings pronounce both the Dutch 'g' and the 'ch' as 'h'. For instance they would pronounce the term "een gouden hart" (a heart of gold) as "een houden hart". Today, most West Flemings are sufficiently exposed to standard Dutch as to know there is a difference between the pronunciation of a 'ch' or 'g' and a 'h'. Folk tales however are full of examples of elder generation West-Flemmings, raised without much exposure to standard Dutch, who tried to speak 'civilized' ABN Dutch instead of 'peasant' dialect. Invariably they would just imitate the way they think Dutch should be spoken by pronouncing both 'ch', 'g' and 'h' as /x/ alike. When trying to pronounce the term "een gouden hart" above in Dutch, they now pronounce it as "Een gouden gart". Although they might succeed in convincing some equally ignorant countrymen that their talk is 'what the civilized people speak', more than often they would just amuse their listeners by pronouncing a word with a 'h' as a word with a /x/, completely altering its meaning. For instance they would ask "Geef mij mijn goed, ik ga naar de gaven." (Give me my good, I'm going to the gifts) instead of "Geef mij mijn hoed, ik ga naar de haven." (Give me my hat, I'm going to the harbor).
  • The German words Streichholzschächtelchen (small box of matches), Eichhörnchen (squirrel), Fachhochschule (University of Applied Sciences) and Strickstrumpf (knitted sock) serve as shibboleths for distinguishing native speakers from foreigners, due to their many ch sounds and the large number of consonants. In Bavarian German dialect, the word Oachkatzlschwoaf (squirrel tail) is also used for differentiation.
  • In Mandarin Chinese, the sentence sì shì sì, shí shì shí, shísì shì shísì, sìshí shì sìshí (四是四,十是十,十四是十四,四十是四十; four is four, ten is ten, fourteen is fourteen, forty is forty) is used to distinguish between native speakers of northern varieties of Mandarin from northern China, and native speakers of other Chinese varieties from central and southern China, including Jianghuai Mandarin, Southwestern Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, Min Nan, and so forth, most of which lack the retroflex consonant sh /ʂ/.
  • A Polish shibboleth is W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie (in Szczebrzeszyn the beetle skirls in the reed).
  • Estonian "Jüriöö ülestõus" (St. George's Night Uprising) includes many difficult vowels for foreigners, who are sometimes put to the test of pronouncing it.[27]
  • In Finnish, shibboleths include höyryjyrä /ˈhøyryˌjyræ/ (steam roller) and the loanword öljylamppu /ˈøljyˌlampːu/ (oil lamp).
  • In Quebec French, the phrase Je m'en câlisse (loosely: I don't give a fuck) is sometimes used as a shibboleth, distinguishing natives of France from Québécois.
  • The Mid and Northern Norwegian dialogue fragment "Æ e i a." "Æ e i a, æ å." ("I'm in A." "I'm in A, too." – proper Norwegian: "Jeg er i A." "Jeg er også i A." "A" refers either to the Norwegian naming of different classes of the same grade, or to the Labor Party) is near-impossible to reproduce for a non-Scandinavian, due to the use of the vowels Æ and Å. It is also very hard for a native speaker of another dialect to reproduce with the correct enunciations and pitch, often sounding grotesquely exaggerated. Middle Norwegian dialects also use the phrase "Hannhund i bånd" (Male dog on a leash) as a shibboleth. The phrase is pronounced "Hainnhoinn i bainn" in Middle Norway, which due to palatalization is difficult for speakers of other dialects to pronounce. Northern Norwegians also sometimes use "Fersk fisk, rakfisk" [ˈfæʂk fesk ˈrakfesk] to distinguish between natives and "pretenders" - in particular, between people from Nordland and other parts of Northern Norway, where the word "fisk" (fish) may be pronounced [ ˈfæsk].
  • Native speakers of the Indonesian language generally use Indonesian as the name for the Indonesian language in English, whereas non-Indonesians often name it Bahasa Indonesia or, worse Bahasa—being either redundant or plain wrong since the word bahasa means "language" in Indonesian.
  • In Latvia someone might put you to the test in pronouncing the Latvian language correctly with the term "Šaursliežu dzelzceļš" (narrow gauge railway).
  • In French, the place name "La Roche sur Foron" can be used to distinguish English speakers who have not mastered the French "R" sound.
  • Still in French, the city of Metz, located in the north-western region of Lorraine in France (and thus close to Germany) is pronounced [mɛs] ("mess") by the locals but [mɛts] ("met-ss") in the rest of France (which actually follows the German pronunciation). However, the nearby city of Yutz ought to be pronounced "yut-ss" which can be confusing for non-locals.
  • It is possible to distinguish European Portuguese from Brazilian Portuguese by asking the speaker to pronounce the word "excelente" (excellent). A Portuguese speaker will pronounce it [ɛʃsɯlẽⁿtɯ], which sounds to a Brazilian as one or two syllables ("[ʃlẽⁿt]"), whereas a Brazilian speaker will say [e.se.ˈlẽ.tʃɪ], which sounds less clipped.[citation needed]
  • In Afrikaans, the pronunciation of the word "jakkals" (Jackal) can be used to test whether a person is from the Cape Flats. Residents of the Cape Flats would pronounce the word as "dzakkals", whereas non-residents pronounce the word as "Yackals".

Humorous shibboleths[edit]

  • Olin seitsemän vuotta sedälläni kodossa renkinä (Finnish for "I spent seven years at my uncle's home as a servant"). This is to tease Eastern Tavastians, who pronounce 'd' as 'l'. It becomes Olin seitsemän vuotta selälläni kolossa renkinä, which means "I spent seven years a servant in a hole, lying on my back" – certain connotations of being a sex slave.
  • Kurri etsi jarrua murkkukasasta ("Kurri looked for a brake in the ant pile"). The Finnish phoneme rolled R [r] in general is considered a "shibboleth" between standard Finnish and various types of speech defects. Small children usually learn the phoneme /r/ last, using /l/ instead. Older children can trick them to say "kulli etsi Jallua mulkkukasasta", "The cock looked for a Jallu (porn magazine) in a pile of dicks".
  • West-Flanders: In West-Flemish native speakers are said to shun the Dutch "ch" /x/ (as in the Scottish 'Loch') Instead they pronounce both the Dutch 'g' and the 'ch' as a soft 'h'. In a continuing urban legend an unspecified pastor of some unspecified West Flemish church wants to impress his flock by celebrating mass in flawless 'civilized' ABN Dutch. His 'civilized' Dutch consists of pronouncing a 'ch' and 'g' correctly as /x/ (instead of the 'h' as West-Flemish dialect does). However to be absolutely sure, he also starts pronouncing the 'h' as /x/ even if he should keep pronouncing it as a 'h'. The effects are hilarious: Instead of praying for "De hele kerk" (the whole church) he ends up praying for "de gele kerk" (the yellow church) and the holy virgin ("de heilige maagd") becomes "de geilige maagd" (The virgin in heat). Finally he ends his sermon in asking what should be "de goede hulp van de Heer" (the good help of the Lord). Instead he asks for "de goede gulp van de geer": the good trouser opening of the manure (see hypercorrection).
  • Germany: Oachkatzlschwoaf (tail of a squirrel) is used to tell true Bavarians and Austrians from non-natives, mostly northern Germans.
  • The German word "Streichholzschächtelchen" (small matchbox) is also used to jokingly identify non-native German speakers.
  • Switzerland: The word "Chuchichäschtli" is generally used to identify native Swiss German (dialect) speakers and to try members of the other national language communities (French-, Italian- and Romansh-speakers) or foreign nationals (especially Germans and Austrians). The word means "(small) kitchen cupboard" in diminutive-loving Swiss German dialect and contains three consecutive "ch" /x/ (as in the Scottish 'Loch') separated by vowels. The translation in standard German would be "Küchenschränkchen".

Shibboleths in occupational, sporting or other interest groups[edit]

Within some occupational groups and some social, cultural, sporting, or hobby-related groups, there are terms within the jargon of these groups which could be said to be shibboleths.

Shibboleths in computing culture[edit]

Shibboleths in computing culture include the following:

  • Incorrectly spelling certain technical terms in all-uppercase, in the mistaken belief that they are acronyms, is sometimes seen as an indicator of lack of computing knowledge. Examples include the programming languages Perl, Java and Lua.
  • The use of hacker as a professional descriptive, complimentary term[28] as opposed to its mainstream media pejorative use in the context of criminal activity.
  • Network Neutrality is used by internet activists and netizens to describe a basic functioning principle of the Internet. Meanwhile those with political ties referencing network neutrality use the term in reference to legislation that would enforce network neutrality.
  • HTML5 must be spelled with no space, which is different from the previous versions. It thus confused even experts at first.[29]

Shibboleths in sports[edit]

  • While the term "innings" is used in both cricket and baseball, in baseball it is treated solely as a plural form, with the singular form "inning." In cricket, "innings" is both a singular and a plural. Thus, a batter (baseball) has an at-bat during an inning, whereas a batsman (cricket) has an innings. It is therefore easy to spot someone talking about one of these sports if they have more experience talking about the other.
  • In the United States spelunking community, use of the words "spelunker" or "spelunking" is seen as an indicator of inexperience or ignorance. The word "caver" is preferred to "spelunker" and "caving" is preferred to "spelunking." The phrase "cavers rescue spelunkers" is commonly used to illustrate the difference.[citation needed]
  • The name of Scottish football team Hibernian F.C. is frequently shortened by football fans in general to "Hibs" (pronounced to rhyme with "bibs"), but local fans of the club itself are more likely to refer to the team with the nickname "Hibees" (pronounced "High-bees").
  • In Spanish, most association football team names are commonly preceded by the corresponding article (e.g. "el Real Madrid", "el Pachuca", "la Liga Deportiva Universitaria"). In Argentina, however, this practice is never used. Saying "el River" or "el Vélez" identifies the speaker as non-Argentine. The same happens with Italian teams, with differences between genres, due to Italian language tendency to attribute a gender also to genderless names. A.C. Milan thus becomes "il Milan" (male), while Juventus F.C. is called "la Juve" (female.)
  • Team handball, known as just "handball" in French, is pronounced in this language by people who've played at school or in a club, respecting the origin of this sport, following the German sound for "ball", instead of all other "ball" ending sports pronounced the English way.
  • In Gun culture in the United States, particularly online, using the term clip when meaning magazine is used as a way to identify those who do not know much about guns. [30][31][32]

Shibboleths in fandom[edit]

  • Within science fiction fandom, especially among older members of organised fandom, the use of the term "sci-fi" is often regarded as being at least faintly derogatory. As such, sf is far more commonly met as an abbreviation of science fiction within fannish circles.[33]
  • Outside the anime fandom, the word anime is often pronounced or written incorrectly, for example pronouncing it as "eh-nim" or "ah-nim" (as two syllables), spelling it as animé (with the intention of indicating the last vowel shouldn't be silent, though people in the fandom generally learned this early on), or in the case of agglutinative languages, appending incorrect suffixes to it due to their limited exposure to the word. (Such as in Hungarian, writing "anime-okat" or "animékat" instead of the grammatically and phonetically correct "animéket", indicating the plural and possessive case of "anime.") Considering these, most fans of anime could discern their peers not being fans with good certainty.
  • Similar case with the word manga. New fans and non-fans often pronounce it "mayn-guh" whereas more seasoned fans use the Japanese pronunciation "mahn-gah"
  • More knowledgeable fans of anime/manga tend not to call themselves "otaku," which means 'fan' in Japanese. This is because new/inexperienced fans typically don't know that otaku does not just apply to anime and manga, but to anything. There are train otaku, robot otaku, etc. Otaku, in the context of anime and manga, also has a very negative connotation in Japanese culture. One can usually tell how knowledgeable or serious a fan is by whether they use this word and which reason(s) they give for not using it.
  • Anime fans can tell how long someone has liked anime by how they refer to music. Most more experienced fans use OP(acronym) or ED(also acronym, rarely as "ehd") to refer to the opening and ending themes of shows, and may or may not apply it to non-anime media.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Phil Lee, The rough guide to Bruges & Ghent, pp. 22–3 
  2. ^ McNamara, Timothy; Carsten Roever (2006). Language testing: the social dimension. John Wiley and Sons. p. 153. ISBN 978-1-4051-5543-4. 
  3. ^ http://congresosdelalengua.es/rosario/ponencias/internacional/avila_r.htm
  4. ^ Chronicles of London; Oxford University Press, 1905; ed. C. L. Kingsford; p. 15
  5. ^ Heikki Ylikangas, Tie Tampereelle, ref. at http://www.uta.fi/koskivoimaa/valta/1918-40/venalai1.htm
  6. ^ A 20th-century Shibboleth Story
  7. ^ Shahmuratian. Sumgait Tragedy, Interview with Vanya Bazyan, p. 159; also: Vahagn Martirosyan, interview (Alexandre Billette, Hervé Dez (2014) - Transkraïna, online, retrieved 2014.02.13, http://transkraina.webdoc.4th-line.com).
  8. ^ Ambrose, Stephen E. (1994). D-Day. New York: Touchstone. p. 191. ISBN 0-684-80137-X. 
  9. ^ "Nairobi siege: What we know". BBC News. Retrieved 22 September 2013. "An Indian man who was standing next to him was asked for the name of the Prophet's mother and when he was unable to answer, he was shot dead, the witness told him." 
  10. ^ "Explosions inside mall as stand-off nears end". The New Zealand Herald. Agence France-Presse. 25 September 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  11. ^ John D. Barrow, Pi in the Sky, Penguin 1993, p. 26
  12. ^ Dactylonomy, Laputan Logic
  13. ^ Ilka Ludwig (2007), Identification of New Zealand English and Australian English based on stereotypical accent markers, p. 22 
  14. ^ Laurie Bauer, Paul Warren (2008), New Zealand English: phonology, ISBN 978-3-11-019637-5 
  15. ^ "[1]", Collins English Dictionary.
  16. ^ http://askville.amazon.com/SimilarQuestions.do?req=correct-pronunciation-Reese%2527s-Pieces
  17. ^ http://www.candyblog.net/blog/item/reeses_pieces/
  18. ^ Macquarie Dictionary, Fourth Edition. Melbourne: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. 2005. ISBN 1-876429-14-3. 
  19. ^ The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield: Merriam-Webster. 2004. ISBN 087779930X. 
  20. ^ http://dailyapple.blogspot.com/2007/08/apple-260-wilkes-barre-pa.html
  21. ^ http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=794
  22. ^ Language Log: Life in these, uh, this United States, retrieved 3 July 2011
  23. ^ Moscow, Henry. The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan's Street Names and Their Origins. New York: Hagstrom, 1978. ISBN 0823212750, p.24
  24. ^ Finnegan, Jack (2007). Newcomer's Handbook For Moving to and Living in New York City. First Books. p. 43. "Avenue of the Americas, a name rarely used by New Yorkers" 
  25. ^ Casino shuffles the pack with revamp - Blackpool Gazette
  26. ^ Chilean Spanish#Phonetics and phonology
  27. ^ Estonian Tongue-Twisters
  28. ^ Raymond, Eric http://catb.org/jargon/html/H/hacker.html
  29. ^ Gruber, John (16 October 2009). "Spelling 'HTML5'". Daring Fireball. Retrieved 2 January 2012. "I’ve been confused for at least a year about whether it’s "HTML5" or "HTML 5". The answer is "HTML5"." 
  30. ^ http://www.thegunzone.com/clips-mags.html
  31. ^ http://althouse.blogspot.com/2013/01/video-from-guns-across-america-here-in.html
  32. ^ http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/335955/high-magazine-clips-michael-walsh
  33. ^ "Thoughts on Sci-Fi", Science Fiction Writers of America.