How Do You Pronounce “Nevada?”
Natives of Nevada, all five of them, appear to be consumed by an obsession.
The contend there’s just one legitimate pronunciation of our state’s name, which they insist is NE-VAD-EH. That’s “VAD,” which rhymes with “bad.” First, think of NE-BAD-EH. Then, say NE-VAD-EH.
Nativists wince when we, the mass hordes of transplanted apostates, insist on calling this new domain NE-VOD-DUH. Never mind that our “outsider” version seems far more correct and consistent, at least phonetically speaking.
Politicians unaware of this prickly sensitivity, often commit what’s widely perceived as a blunder. Some who are uninformed are alleged to have even mispronounced “Nevada” on sacred Silver State soil. Lincoln Chafee, whose brief presidential campaign survived for about as long as a five-dollar bill lasts at a blackjack table, repeatedly said VOD, much to the derision of his half-dozen supporters. Jeb Bush, whose campaign lasted just a wee bit a bit longer, but somehow still managed to blow through $100 million, also uttered the state’s name wrong on several glaring occasions. Even Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee-to-be, has frequently said NE-VOD-DUH in several speeches, which oddly enough didn’t seem to hurt his image here any since he won last month’s primary in a landslide.
It’s not just candidates who have committed this faux pas. When first lady Michelle Obama was campaigning here years ago for her husband, she said “VOD.” Accordingly to reports, the crowd which had assembled in Reno began shouting at the podium. Mrs. Obama, confused by all this was taken aback by the catcalls, and corrected herself immediately. Who knew that a state’s name could possibly become such a hypersensitive scab?
Political reporter and Las Vegas insider Jon Ralston has taken to Twitter to troll candidates who (in his mind) say the name wrong. He’s even blasted commentators who appear on the major national networks who, with each and every utterance, reinforce the (supposedly) wrong version in the susceptible minds of listeners.
Thing is, there are probably more VODs now than VADs, which is a big problem for the traditionalist camp. I suppose within Nevada’s actual borders, VADs constitute the overwhelming majority. But go out and quiz the rest of the country, or the rest of the world, and I’m willing to bet serious money I don’t even have that the VODs would reign supreme.
We’re told that Nevada is an Spanish name. The state took its name from the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Spain, which translated means “snow covered mountain.” Ironically, the proper pronunciation of “Sierra Nevada” corresponds with VOD. So, based on tradition (and common sense, it would seem), we heretics are not just phonetically correct, but historically consistent, as well. CLICK HERE FOR PROOF
Other states have similar ongoing disputes with pronunciation. Take Missouri, for instance. I don’t profess to know anything at all about Missouri other than the fact I don’t fancy living in a state which sounds so disturbing close to the word “misery.” However, it does seem to me that MIZ-ZUR-EE would be the most common and correct version. Yet, some proud Missourians, I’m told, insist on calling their home “MIZ-ZUR-UH.” Like I said, I’d never want to live there, and this eye-rolling madness simply confirms my indignation.
Illinois is another precocious state with some lingering confusion as to how its name should be said. By now, almost everyone in America pronounces IL-LIN-NOY with the letter “s” silent. However, some stubborn stragglers out there do remain who say IL-LIN-NOISE. Despite these holdouts, this debate appears to have been settled. The Indian-pronunciation has prevailed. Sadly, that’s about the only thing where Native Indians have ever been victorious against the White Man, unless we consider the rich spoils of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun and other casinos, which have been the ultimate revenge.
Also, sonsider the name “Texas.” Two centuries ago, anyone residing atop the land mass known today as “the Lone Star State” would have adopted the native Indian (later Spanish) pronunciation. That meant the “x” was not only silent, but didn’t exist at all. Only after the Republic of Texas was officially formed in 1836 did “Texas” as a word and place gradually prevail within dominant colonialist culture, although “Tejas” still does exists primarily in an ethnological context.
Fact is, our language changes. It evolves. Words come and go. New words are even sometimes invented. We can’t contemplate what language might sound like a century from now, especially given trends in popular culture, technology, and on social media. Much also has to do with creeping colonialism and ultimately, conversion. Traditional ways of talking and doing things are simply overwhelmed my more powerful giants.
Back to Nevada, the way we pronounce our state’s name could go one of two ways. We could go the Illinois route, which means adopting the nativists’ way. Or, the invaders will eventually prevail without conversion and overwhelm the outnumbered locals, as was the case in “Texas” winning out over “Tejas,” in other words — eventually supplanting VOD for VAD. However things eventually do turn out, I suppose I could live with it either way — just so long as I don’t have to live anywhere close to “misery.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated Jon Ralson is a Las Vegas native. Mr. Ralson refuted that statement and I have since edited the copy for accuracy.