Speak and spell

I speak English and Spanish separately and together, as well as broken Italian, elementary French and can utter two phrases in German. Yet none of these linguistic tools are absolutely any use to me in my new city. Every sign across every highway, and every street in every city is pronounced exactly opposite of how it naturally comes out of my mouth.

“I live on Hazeltine,” I told a new friend, only to be immediately corrected. “Honey, you live here now, it’s pronounced Hay-zel-TEEN.”


The list is never-ending. San Pedro is pronounced San-PEE-droh, not San-PAY-dro. Redondo Beach is pronounced as if I’m deliberately making fun of an anglo attempting to speak Spanish. And who knows what I’m supposed to do with Topanga Canyon and Cahuenga Peak. Those haven’t come up in the conversations I obsessively eavesdrop on at Starbucks.

While sipping my macchiatto and pretending to troll my Instagram, I’ve learned how to properly pronounce the names of boulevards. For instance, Wilshire is WILL-sure and Pico is PICK-ouuuuuuh.

I’ve also learned the word SANTA, as in Santa Monica, appears to have three syllables, like the letters S and A have an imaginary ‘HA’ after them: SA-HAN-ta MO-ni-ca. This is exactly the opposite of RUNYON, as in Runyon Canyon, which gets pronounced in one quick grunt, RU-yn or RUR-n, but that could’ve been my straining to hear over a barista’s zealous foam party.

IMG_9458Here are a few more, practice at home with me:

  • Hermosa Beach = Hurr-MUSS-ah BEACH
  • Los Feliz = Luss-FEE-liss
  • La Cienega = Luuh-see-yay-NAY-gah
  • Van Nuys = Van-EYES
  • La Brea = Luuh-BRAY-uh
  • Santa Clarita = SA-HAN-ta Claire-RITA
  • Sepulveda = Say-PULL-vay-dah

Are there any other words that locals pronounce differently? I would imagine so. But all they talk about is traffic, so these are the only words I know, and apparently, the only words I’ll need.

Published by Mari

I was born with a widow's peak and a thick accent. I majored in English as a second language. I work (marianeladearmas.com) and travel (alittlecubangoesalongway.com) and sometimes do both.

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