Tchulahoma Road: This is a fairly major road that crosses the state line from Memphis into Mississippi, but how do you pronounce a road name that begins with “Tch”?
A clue is in the slightly different spelling of another road in Fayette County, and a town in Mississippi: Chulahoma, which leaves off the silent T entirely. So the pronunciation is CHEW-la HOME-a.
According to several sources, the spelling without the T is derived from either the Chickasaw or Choctaw word for “red fox.”
Nonconnah Creek: It’s both a major creek along the south side of Memphis, and a place name for several developments and roads nearby.
And it’s kinda fun to say: non-CON-uh.
Archaeologists say the name comes from the Choctaw word “nan ikhanna,” meaning a prophet or seer, and about 100 archaeological sites have been discovered on the banks of the creek.
McLean Boulevard: A lot of Memphis newcomers think this major boulevard is pronounced mac-LEEN, like the spelling implies. A few residents say it that way, too.
But most Midtowners know the street, named after an early area landowner, as ma-CLAIN.
Binghampton: Both the spelling and pronunciation of this Midtown-adjacent neighborhood have changed over the years. Originally a suburb outside the Memphis city limits, it derives its name from its first mayor, H.W. Bingham, who also lent his name to Bingham street.
According to my grandmother, who lived there in the 1940s (after her parents and grandparents moved there in the ’20s), the correct pronunciation is BING-um-ton, with no P in the middle, and anyone who says otherwise is an outsider who is mispronouncing it.
Still, somewhere along the way, a P was added to street signs and these days, nearly everyone spells it that way, and pronounces it bing-HAMP-ton.
Milan, TN: Most people have heard of Milan (it’s just down the road from Paris and a ways up from Moscow.)
But you’re in northwest Tennessee, not Italy, and around here folks say MY-lin.
Alcorn County: A Mississippi county, Tim Simpson says this is one of the most commonly mispronounced names around here.
It’s ALL-corn, as if it’s spelled with two Ls, not AL-corn. Locals really hate it when you get it wrong, Tim says.
Lafayette County: Most of the country would pronounce the name of this Mississippi county as La-fay-ETTE or La-fee-ETTE.
But locals know the home of Oxford is pronounced La-FAY-ette.
Kossuth, MS: Within Alcorn County, there’s a town name pronounced by residents as Ka-SOOTH. Interestingly, the town changed its original name to honor the leader of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.
Chalybeate, MS: A town in Tippah County, Mississippi, it’s definitely not pronounced SHALL-e-beat.
Instead, locals say KLEE-bit, according to Tim, who grew up just north of there. The name is derived from a Latin word describing the taste of its water.
Palestine, AR: You might think this town in St. Francis County, Arkansas, would be pronounced like the region in the Holy Land. But to locals, it’s PAL-uh-steen.
Joe Lawson wrote in with some really good ones to add to to the list. He says, in his experience …
Moscow, TN is locally pronounced MAAS-co and not Maas-cow (My wife is from there)
Potts Camp, MS is pronounced Pots Camp and not like the first word is a possessive-emphasized Potses (Where I live)
Saucier, MS is pronounced SO-shur, while Gautier, MS is pronounced Go-SHAY
Lucedale, MS is pronounced LOOSE-dale and not Lucy-dale
Byhalia, MS is said By-HAIL-ya and not BUH-hail-ya
Monroe County, MS is pronounced MUN-ro and not MAAHN-ro.
► Got any more good place names we should add to the list? Send ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.