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In a Dec. 4 column entitled, "You say Torino, I say Turin, let's call the whole thing off," Jeanne Cooper of the San Francisco Chronicle ruminates on the politics of pronunciation.

[W]hat we call a place reveals just as much about where we're coming from, in every meaning of the phrase. When we use the foreign (or native, depending on your perspective) name for a city or country, we're often telling the listener that we have a special knowledge of, or connection with, that location that mere English can't convey.

During the 1980s, for example, it became fashionable in certain circles (read: the entire city of Berkeley and liberal enclaves everywhere) to refer to "Nee-cah-rrrha-wah" when talking about the Central American country where the Sandinistas were rising to power. For English-speaking Americans, not saying "Nicaragua" with the standard American accent was a kind of shorthand for "I hate Reagan, and I think you do too." É

When it comes to Hawaiian place names, I'm often guilty of my own linguistic subtext. In speaking to people in Hawai'i or of Hawaiian origin, I carefully refer to "Hoh-noh-lu-lu," "Moh-loh-kah-ee" and "Lah-nah-ee," not "Hah-nuh-lu-lu," "Mo-lo-kigh" and "Luh-nigh" (for Honolulu, Moloka'i and Lana'i, in case you couldn't guess). I'd argue this is subconscious shorthand for "I love Hawai'i, and I think you do too." My husband thinks his white wife is really saying: "Don't hate me because I'm haole."

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Honolulu Magazine November 2018
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