Fercryingoutloud, how do you properly pronounce “New Orleans?” I researched the heck out of this mystery (one place- hey this is no stinkin term paper). It doesn’t seem that there is a right, but there certainly are wrongs. Is it Jee-na or Jen-a? Seriously, pronouncing New Orleans is about as confusing as Bostonian outsiders trying to pronounce “Worcester.” Unless you were born and raised there or completely get the “Good Will Hunting” dialect, it is pronounced (Wister). If you figured it out on your own, you are really wicked smahhht! Read on and please tell me how NOT TO PRONOUNCE IT!!!
From the Gumbo Pages:

A few words on New Orleansese: in a city whose very name is pronounced in nearly 100 different ways by its citizens, all the way from the filigreed, nearly five-syllable “Nyoo Ahhlyins” to the monosyllabic grunt of “Nawln'”, it takes a very sensitive ear, not to mention years of practice, to pinpoint the incredible binds the native speaker encounters, those specific words where the slow tongue gives up and makes a leap of faith. For those who have never heard it, you must begin by imagining Brooklynese on Quaaludes.

NEW ORLEENS – The way silly tourists pronounce “New Orleans”. Natives do not do this. Exception — song lyrics, as in “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans”, for example, and when omitting the “New”, as in “Orleans Parish”, which is always pronounced . Confusing, isn’t it? More on this below.

NEW ORLEANS – This is a sticky subject. As Tim Lyman mentioned above, there are oodles of ways that the locals pronounce the name of their beloved City. Natives also seem to have an instinctive grasp of what a proper pronunciation is, and can spot it in native speakers outside the City.

First off, is generally a no-no. It’s like putting a big, red neon sign on your head that says, “I’m not from around here.” As also mentioned above, the two main exceptions are when it’s pronounced like that in song lyrics (easier to rhyme, but contributes to the confusion of non-natives) and when “Orleans” stands alone without the “New”, as in Orleans Parish.

So of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. I have on occasion heard some African-American native New Orleanians use the above pronunciation. I didn’t say this was going to be consistent or that it wasn’t going to be confusing, did I?

Here are the major standard local pronunciations of the City’s name: , , , . The fabled “N’Awlins”, pronounced , is used by some natives for amusement, and by some non-natives who think they’re being hip, but actually I’ve come across very few locals who actually pronounce the name of the City in this way.

Ben Fortson, an Uptown boy, adds, “There are also versions without the final -s, as in Fats Domino’s “walkin’ to Noo Awlin”. The s-lessness is presumably from the French. Also, “Noo Awyuns”, with a -y- instead of an -l-, is pretty common in my experience, and kind of interesting from a linguistic point of view. By the way, the shorter versions like Nawlins and Nawlns that you say aren’t used much by locals have in fact been used at least by me all my life, for what that’s worth. Maybe Uptown is diff’rint.” (Yeah, it is, bra … it’s where dey got all dem shoits wid da lil’ gators on ’em, and everyone has 59 rows o’ teeth!)

(c/p at NOLA.com – at least I can handle that pronunciation)

2 Replies to “New Orleans Pronunciation Dilemma”

  1. LOL! I love this post. Only people from the area can understand it. Kind of like people who can’t say Pass Christian (Chris-chee-ANNE), Biloxi (Bih-LUX-ee) or Pascagoula (PASS-cuh-GOO-luh). Let ’em have a try at some of our rivers and waterways. Ha!

Comments are closed.