Smile when you say Ne-va-da
“You say eether and I say eyether, you say neether and I say nyther, eether, eyether, neether, nyther, Let’s call the whole thing off! You like potato and I like potahto, you like tomato and I like tomahto, potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto! Let’s call the whole thing off!”
– Lyrics from “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” by George & Ira Gershwin, 1936.
Comedian George Carlin said there’re 400,000 words in the English language and seven you can’t say on television. Actually there’re eight; the one George missed was Ne-vah-da.
Ne-vah-da should not only be banned from television, but all media, be it electronic or print.
Ne-vah-da is a much detested word in Nevada. It’s bad, even worse than the “Sierras” and the “Sierra Nevadas,” that some local weathermen tell you about. New arrivals to Nevada can be forgiven for an occasional slip-up, but repeated mispronunciation of the 36th state and the Sierra Nevada mountain range is not going to endear you to a true Nevadan.
This being said, I was not the least bit amused last Monday to read that State Archivist Guy Rocha was taken to task for correcting President Bush on the correct pronunciation of Nevada. Yes, the president should have known better, and if he didn’t, he should have asked one of his high-priced advisers how to pronounce Nevada. Since the President didn’t do his homework, one can only imagine that the following conversation might have taken place.
Bush: OK, we’re going to land shortly in Sin City, What do they call this state anyway? Is it Ne-va-da or Ne-vah-da?
Adviser: Well, Mr. President, Webster’s Dictionary says it’s pronounced with the long A. So I guess it’s Ne-vah-da.
Bush: That’s good enough for me. I used Webster’s a lot at Yale, lottsa good words in there. OK, let’s get this baby to Lost Wages, I gotta speech to make.
Yes, Mr. President, there are a lotta words in Webster’s dictionary. My edition contains 2,078 pages, I put that sucker on the bathroom scale this morning, and it came in at just over 5 pounds. Carlin was right, has to be at least 400,000 listings in there. You and I are in agreement, Mr. President: Webster’s is a good book, and that’s all it is, a book. For it cannot convey the history, heritage and traditions that Americans hold dear to them.
Last Monday morning, Mr. President, I called the Chamber of Commerce in the small town of Nevada, Mo. I called because I was curious how they pronounced Nevada. The lady told me it was Na-vay-da and not Ne-vah-da, and they don’t take kindly to people who pronounce Missouri “Missouri” – it’s “Mis-oor-a.” It’s a good thing you didn’t give your speech there, Mr. President. You see, Mr. President, you can’t always go by the book. Sometimes you have to go by the heritage and traditions we Americans so jealously guard in the different parts of this great country. It’s a spirit we’ve kept alive for 227 years now, Mr. President, and I kinda like it. I’d hate to see it change, especially by someone who should know better.
That’s what Mr. Rocha was trying to tell you and all the others who are constantly mispronouncing our state. We are well aware of what’s in the book, Mr. President, but when you’re in Nevada, it’s Ne-va-da.
Chic DiFrancia is a longtime Nevada resident and historian contact him at email@example.com or leave a message at 881-1261.