A website to untie Wisconsin tongues

Tom Giffey |

We sure loved visiting ... that place.
We sure loved visiting ... that place.

One of the joys of living in Wisconsin is secretly laughing at how outsiders struggle to pronounce the names of some of our state’s geographic gems. It’s humorous enough listening to the uninitiated stumble while pronouncing or spelling “Eau Claire,” but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. How about Prairie du Chien? Oconomowoc? Chequamegon? Even a seemingly simple name such as “Berlin” isn’t pronounced the way you might expect. The state map is a veritable minefield of tongue-twisters. (Just ask these folks in Texas who were foolhardy enough to take an on-camera challenge from a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel videographer before the Super Bowl in 2011.)

Sadly, even those of us who call Wisconsin home can get tongue tied sometimes: I was born and raised in the Badger State, and my first attempt at pronouncing “Lac Courte Oreilles” phonetically was a dismal failure. Fortunately, there’s a new online resource that can help residents and visitors alike sound like seasoned Sconnies.

In late November, the Wisconsin State Cartographer’s Office, with the help of MissPronouncer.com, launched the website Pronounce Wisconsin (www.sco.wisc.edu/pronounce-wisconsin/). The site bills itself as “an online pronouncing gazetteer of place names in Wisconsin, including counties, cities, villages, and unincorporated communities.” Essentially, it allows you to hear how more than 1,720 place names are pronounced in a soothing female voice simply by moving your mouse over an interactive map. The voice belongs to Jackie Johnson, a reporter with the Wisconsin Radio Network who created MissPronouncer.com about six years ago as a go-to guide for Badger State names, both geographic and political.

Post-Christmas cabin fever setting in? Visiting Pronounce Wisconsin can give you a virtual winter vacation and a geographic education at the same time.