Miss Pronouncer Gives Lesson on Wisconsin Words

If you were born in Wisconsin or if you just moved here yesterday, you've probably been corrected a time or two on your pronunciation.

It's no surprise.

Wisconsinites have a language of their own.

But now there is a website that is designed to help people get the names of people and places right the first time.

And no matter how much you think you may know about this state, from what we've seen, a lot of people could use the help.

"I have five roommates from around Minnesota and Wisconsin and they've got some pretty weird places they're coming from," explains UW junior Jessica Barman, "So I think I can do this."

We put Barman to the test.

How do you pronounce Lac Courte Oreilles? After making a funny scrunched up face she replies, "I've never been in French [class] before."

Or how about Chequamegon?

"Chick-KWAH-mee-gon?" guesses Beth Sweet, who works at Electric Earth, "Alright. Maybe check-wuh-MEE-gun?" she says with a laugh.

Third year UW law student Daniel Lerner gave it a go, "Shh-Shh-KWAH-me-gon... chick-ah-MEE-gun?"

Actually it's sha-WAH-ma-gun.

Whether you're looking for Chequamegon Forest, Lac Courte Oreilles or Oconomowoc, Misspronouncer.com can help.

"My voice is on cities, towns, villages, parks, what not," explains website creator and Wisconsin Radio Network reporter Jackie Johnson, "My hope is to convert all of my voice of the lawmakers to their own voice because that would give much bigger credibility to the website."

Johnson created the website after having trouble herself as a reporter.

She made hundreds of phone calls to find out how to say some of the toughest names.

"I think I called more than 500 people. I should check my phone bill," she says with a laugh, "We have a lot of English, Wisconsinized versions of Native American French names, so it's kind of a mix up."

And according to some, even the most well known name in the state is mispronounced.

"I've gotten probably 3 or 4 responses [of] people trying to tell me how to pronounce Brett Favre," says Johnson, "Which is weird you know, being in Wisconsin you're born and you say mama, dada, water, Brett Favre!"

What about Madison's mayor?

For many that's the most embarrassing of all.

"I'm not a Madison voter just for the record, I'm a Portland voter, so that's my excuse," says Lerner, "Dave SAYS-le-witz?"

Sweet adds her excuse, "I only have heard him referred to as Mayor Dave. I've never heard anyone pronounce his last name."

Her attempt: "Sizzle-witz?" she says with a laugh, "I don't know!"

And when she hears the correct pronunciation, ches-LEV-itch, she shakes her head saying, "Cieslewicz? Oh no!"

It was a very enlightening day.

Johnson's site has become quite popular.

People from as far as the UK and Hawaii are asking her to do one for them.

And the website is a work in progress.

If you live in Wisconsin and know of some trivia to add to a city or if you have a picture of an important landmark there, shoot her an email at webmaster@misspronouncer.com.

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