AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Whether you’re a new resident or a tourist, pronouncing place names across the High Plains can be an embarrassing nightmare. However, MyHighPlains.com has collected a cheat sheet for you to use to talk along with the High Plains’ born-and-raised.
We asked our community to chime in and let us know about common places in the region they hear mispronounced.
Beginning with the basics, the population and economic center of the High Plains – Amarillo, the Yellow City. Someone new to the area, or generally unfamiliar, might pronounce it as “Ah-muh-ree-yo” or “Am-uh-ree-yo,” but the common pronunciation is “Am-uh-rill-oh.”
However, if you’re referring to the color in a conversation instead of the city, the Spanish pronunciation is “Ah-muh-ree-yo.”
Nestled in the southeast bounds of the High Plains in Hardeman County, Chillicothe’s name might be intimidating on a first encounter. The city is pronounced “Chill-ih-cawth-ee” by locals.
The community of Chillicothe was named by A.E. Jones, after his hometown in Missouri. The name is the word in Shawnee for “big town.”
A common mistake when referring to Dumas is to emphasize the last syllable. Instead of “Doo-mahz”, locals pronounce it as “Doo-muss.”
For a solid reference on its pronunciation with a musical twist, you can always listen to the town’s unofficial theme song, “I’m a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas.”
Darrouzett is another town name that can be intimidating to see in print. However, it’s pronounced like its namesake – John Louis Darrouzet, who was a Texas state legislator who served as an attorney for the Santa Fe Railroad.
Locals pronounce the name “Dare-uh-zett,” with slightly more pronounced stress on the last syllable.
Just south of the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River in Hall County, Estelline is known by the National Motorists Association as the worst “Speed Trap” city in North America.
Around the High Plains, locals pronounce the name as “Ess-tuh-leen.”
Located 48 miles southwest of Amarillo, Hereford is the seat of Death Smith County.
Some may mistake this town’s pronunciation as “Hair-eh-ford” or “Heer-ford,” but those on the High Plains pronounce it as “Herr-ferd.”
Lefors was named for one of its founders, Perry LeFors, who came to the Texas Panhandle in 1878 and later became foreman of the Diamond F Ranch. Pronouncing the town’s name, then, is just like pronouncing the man’s.
“Leh-fours” is how most locals in the area pronounce the name.
Lipscomb County, and its unincorporated seat of Lipscomb, is settled in the northeast corner of the Texas Panhandle. At first glance, those unfamiliar with the area might pronounce it as “Lips-comb” – which is a fair guess.
However, named after Judge Abner Smith Lipscomb – a secretary of state of the Republic of Texas – the town is pronounced commonly with a silent “b,” shifting it into “Lips-come.” Syllables aren’t stressed very much in the word, similarly to how you might pronounce “gypsum.”
Although the town shrank over the years in comparison to other panhandle cities, such as Amarillo, after it was bypassed when Interstate 40 replaced the old US Route 66 through the region, it has a fascinating history and modern existence. For instance, McLean was home to the eccentric landowner Alfred Rowe, who helped to establish the town before dying during the disastrous sinking of the Titanic.
The town’s name is just as deceptively simple as its history – instead of “Mick-leen” locals pronounce it as “Mick-layne.”
Miami, Texas and Miami, Fla. may seem like twins on paper. However, locals on the High Plains don’t refer to their neighboring town as “My-am-ee.” Rather, it’s more commonly pronounced: “My-am-uh.”
If you’re looking to visit Miami, Texas, you may be interested in stopping by the Roberts County Museum. It houses a part of the Mead Collection, an archive of prehistoric artifacts excavated in the area. The excavation led to the discovery of the remains of five mammoths – talk about a big find!
The ‘ch’ in Ochiltree County’s name tends to trip up unfamiliar speakers. Instead of “Oh-chill-tree,” it is considered more correct to say “Oak-uhl-tree.”
The county was named for William Beck Ochiltree, who was an attorney general of the Republic of Texas. It was also previously one of the 30 “dry counties” in Texas during the Prohibition Era.
South of the Texas Panhandle and east of the Llano Estacado, Paducah resides in Cottle County. In order to reach its name, a settler from Paducah, Ky., offered land to new residents in exchange for voting to name the town Paducah and make it the county seat. Historians believe that originally, the Kentucky town was named for the Comanche people of the western plains – who were known by regional settlers as the “Padoucas.”
To pronounce the name, people generally say “Puh-doo-kuh” with the most stress on the last syllable.
Perryton is the seat of Ochiltree County and home to John Erickson, the author of the beloved “Hank the Cowdog” book series. Locals pronounce the name “Pair-ee-ton.”
According to the Handbook of Texas, Sudan was named by its land company manager and first postmaster, P.E. Boesen, in 1918. It can be mistaken for how others commonly pronounce the country of Sudan in northeast Africa. However, syllables make a difference.
Locals pronounce the name as “Soo-dan,” putting stress on the first syllable. Meanwhile, for the country in Africa, the pronunciation is often “Soo-dan,” with stress on the last syllable.
Three miles south of the Caprock Canyons State Park entrance, Quitaque is situated in southeastern Briscoe County. According to popular tradition, the name is derived from a Native American language meaning “end of the trail.” It also shares a name with Quitaque Creek, which the United States Board on Geographical Names related to the Quitaca Indians – one of the tribes that accompanied Juan Dominguez de Mendoza on his expedition from the Rio Grande in the 1680s.
Yet another name that can seem intimidating in print, locals pronounce it as “Kit-ah-kway.”
While at first it may appear simplistic, San Jon in Quay County uses smooth, breathy sounds instead of harsh consonants. The name is pronounced “San Hown” – similar to how you might pronounce the word “hone.”
This village was yet another along the historic US Route 66 that was deeply impacted by the construction of Interstate 40.
It may be tempting to pronounce the seat of Quay County as “Two-kum-car-ee,” but locals pronounce it as “Too-kum-carry.”
In its beginning as a construction camp for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, it was known as “Six Shooter Siding” due to its numerous gunfights. However, the name was eventually changed in reference to Tucumcari Mountain, and the word might be related to the Comanche word “tukamukaru,” meaning to lie in wait for something.
Similarly to Miami, Texas, Boise City is often mistaken in pronunciation with Boise, Idaho. However, the Cimarron County seat’s name is notably different.
Instead of “Boy-zee,” locals pronounce it as “Boys.”
The somewhat deceptive name might be a fitting reflection of its history, though. Boise City was founded by a group of developers that promoted the town as an elegant, tree-lined city with paved streets, businesses, railroad service, and an artesian well. However, when customers bought lots in the area and arrived, they found that none of the information they’d been given was true. The developers not only used false advertising but did not have the rights to sell the lots that they did – and were subsequently sent to federal prison on charges of mail fraud.