Commonly mispronounced places around the world

By Rachel Mosely
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank">dougtone/Flickr</a>

I have a distinct memory of the moment when, after moving from the West Coast to the East Coast for college, I heard someone say something about “Or-e-gone"—and then continue on with their story as if they hadn't just invented a 51st state. Never in my life had I heard the place pronounced in any way except "Or-ih-gun" (rhyming with Morgan). I'd soon discover that this was a matter of debate on this side of the country. Maybe I shouldn't have rushed to judgment—it didn't take long before I was schooled on the correct way to say "Worcester," (woos-ter, for the uninitiated).

We all know that picking up a foreign language can be tough, but sometimes, even mastering the name of a place you're visiting can be a challenge. From countries (the Maldives, Qatar, Papua New Guinea) to cities and towns (Beijing, Gloucester, Cairns), and even streets (New Yorkers will scoff at tourists looking for Hue-ston Street rather than How-ston Street, for example), it seems that for every place there is to visit, there are two or three ways to butcher its name. We've started a list of places with hotly debated or commonly botched pronunciations below—do us Budget Travelers a favor and chime in: is there a country, city, or town with a name you hear mispronounced more often than not? How about a place whose name you’re stumped on?

Beijing, China – Americans usually pronounce the name of the Chinese capital city something like beige·ing, but the correct pronunciation is in fact bay·jing.

Cairns, Australia – this one is hotly debated, but a representative from Australia's Local Tourism Network, which represents the city, assures us that the correct pronunciation is can. (same goes for Cannes, France).

Edinburgh, Scotland – ed·in·burr·ah, or ed·in·bra, in the local style.

Gloucester, England – glos·ter. Also goes for the city of the same name in Mass.

Iraq – let's clear this one up once and for all. ir·ock (not eye·rack).

The Maldives – mall·deeves

Papua New Guinea – pa·pew·a noo gi·nee, with emphasis on the first syllable in Papua.

Qatar – kah·tar, with emphasis on the second syllable. ">This report from NPR breaks down the controversy over the pronunciation. For the record, the U.S. Embassy of Qatar is still using this pronunciation.

São Paulo, Brazil – sa·ow pow·low

Spokane, Wash. – spo·can (not spo·cane)

Versailles, KY – ver·sails (on the other hand, Versailles, France is pronounced ver·sigh; best not to confuse the two).

Wilkes-Barre, Penn. – wilkes ber·ry or wilkes bear (not wilkes bar). The city even has a ">web page dedicated to the pronunciation and history of the name.


What’s your biggest language gaffe?

The tackiest tourist photos on the web

10 Coolest Small Towns in America 2011

Plan Your Next Getaway
Keep reading
Travel Tips

Trip Coach: We want to know your thoughts on medical tourism

Travel Tips

Video: the best way to board airplanes

Between over-friendly TSA pat-downs, "junk"-scanners, and endless lines, we can all agree that airport security is a nightmare. For my money, though, boarding a plane is even worse. There's the dreaded "sorry, your overhead bag won't fit, so we're checking it." There's squeezing past your seatmates to plop into your spot... on top of your seatbelt. Most disconcerting of all is that panicky, hurry-up-and-wait feeling. Ever wondered why? Why must boarding a plane always play out like a slo-mo trainwreck? Turns out there's a simple reason: the airlines use the single least efficient boarding procedure possible. It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out a better way, you say? Actually, it did&mdash;astrophysicist Jason H. Steffen, Ph.D., of the Fermi National Laboratory in Illinois. Burned by one too many awful boardings, Dr. Steffen used computer modeling to concoct a more efficient scheme, all based on the common sense observation that competition for aisle space is the main cause of gridlock. Under his plan, passengers begin by filling up every other row, starting at the back of the aircraft, with window seat passengers entering first, then middle-seaters, then finally aisle seat-holders. The new TV show This vs. That tested the "Steffen Method" to see if his computer model held up. Take a look at the video below to see how well it works. In the end, Steffen's scheme blew the competition away, taking just half the time the airlines' plan takes. Their method&mdash;boarding by blocks of seats, starting in the back&mdash;came in dead last. Random boarding, which we covered a month ago, placed in the middle of the pack. If you're in the mood for an academic read, here's Steffen's paper, which covers all the results in detail, using charts and fancy graphics. So... how 'bout it, airlines? Are ya ready to adopt the Steffen Method? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE: &mdash;William Bailey MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Ads on Boarding Passes: Are Airlines Sharing Your Info? How Do You Use a Cell Phone Boarding Pass at the Metal Detector? We Want to Know Your Airport Secrets!

Travel Tips

How to do Broadway on a Budget

It's been a while since we've written anything about Broadway. We've already sung the praises of saving money on Broadway shows with TKTS and how to take advantage of standing room only, general rush and student rush tickets. Since our last story on Broadway ticket savings, there have been a number of great websites created to help you save even more money on Broadway tickets. Whether you're a student, senior or just an admirer of all things theater, here are some websites you need to know about. offers free tickets—yes, you read that right—to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows on a regular basis. All you have to do to get access to the list is sign up for their "Will Call Club" emails. The only thing you have to pay is usually a $5 handling charge, depending on the show, that is paid via Paypal. You then receive an email confirmation and instructions as to where to meet the representative. While the company is named, the website states, "Anyone may join this site, although some of the discounts are restricted to current students with ID. All free ticketed events and non–ticketed events are available to anyone." You're able to purchase up to four tickets at a time; just pick them up from the representative before heading to the theater. Apparently it's a seat-filler type of thing—show producers provide them with a certain amount of tickets for each available show. Remember to check back a few times a week for the most updated list of opportunities. It should be noted that those under 35 are about to hit the budget ticket jackpot: The Roundabout Theatre Company understands that students and young professionals love going to shows but high ticket prices make that quite a struggle. Seeing our plight, they've come up with HipTix, a program that allows anyone between the ages of 18 and 35 to purchase $20 tickets to shows at their theaters. Just call their box office, sign up for HipTix and even order tickets (2 per person only) to a show—be sure you call to order tickets at least one month in advance as their shows tend to sell out quicky, so plan accordingly. This next program lets theatergoers accumulate "Show Points" to exchange for discounted Broadway show tickets. Audience Rewards has you sign up for free using your email address, and you are given the option to earn points by playing trivia games about different shows, purchasing items from partner sites, or you can simply earn points by buying tickets to shows and listing your membership number during the ordering process. This is definitely one of those websites I wish I had found earlier. For more Broadway (and Off–Broadway) discounts, you can visit websites like,, and for general price cuts, or look up discount codes to your favorite shows at

Travel Tips

Would you pay extra to sit in a seat in the front of the airplane?

American Airlines has introduced a new category called anchorLocation=DirectURL&title;=seats" target="_blank"&gt;Preferred Seats, expanding the number of window and aisle seats in coach that carry an extra charge, and eliminating what it previously called Express Seats. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('65426e53-5649-4827-958b-32883fc6ae82');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info) Think of it as a further move towards theater-style pricing, where you pay more for a seat towards the front. The Preferred Seats go for an extra $4 to $39 per segment, depending on the length of flight and time of day. They don't come with extra legroom or priority boarding or anything like that. You just get to sit in a desirable seat. Anyone can book the Preferred Seats, 24 hours before the flight. But that's only if they aren't already scarfed up by the carrier's elite frequent fliers and those paying full fare. They get first dibs&mdash;and can make advance bookings on a complimentary basis. Elite and full-fare passengers also get exclusive access to Preferred Plus Seats in the very front of the plane, including exit rows. American is not specifying the number of Preferred Seats available per flight, saying the number will vary. Some other airlines also charge extra for the best coach seats. US Airways, for instance, charges extra for certain window and aisle seats in the front of the plane with its ChoiceSeats program, but that also comes with the bonus of priority, Zone 2 boarding. Southwest lets you pay extra to board early and pick your own unassigned seat. And AirTran also has a program where you can pay extra to board early and sit near the front of the plane. But is sitting in the front worth the extra bucks? More from Budget Travel: Would You Fly More if Airplane Seats Were More Comfortable? Should Airline Fees be Listed on One Web Page? Would You Pay $80 for an Upgrade?