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Could it really be Sinsnahta?

March 27, 2007 10:14 PM

I was astounded to read recently in a book about Cincinnati (which was published in 1950) that an issue I have often wondered about has been around since, well, forever: Why the hell do some people pronounce the name of the City wrong? 

Well, it turns out that no less a personage than John Cleves Symmes wrote to a friend in New Jersey in 1791, asking:

I beg, Sir, you will inquire of the literati in Jersey whether Cincinnata or Cincinnati be most proper. The design I had in giving that name was in honor of the Order of Cincinnati, and to denote the chief place of their residence; and so far as my little acquaintance with cases and gender extends, I think the name of a town should terminate in the feminine gender where it is not perfectly neuter....  I have frequent combats in this country on this subject, because most men spell it with ti, when I always do with ta.

Okay, for one thing, I just love how this pioneer was writing to the Latin scholar literati (in New Jersey, of all places!) for guidance about to terminate the feminine gender where it is not perfectly neuter.  This was 1791.  This place was the wild outskirts of the unexplored West back then.  The natives were restless and the white man had arrived here with nothing.  Except, apparently, a strong grounding in the classics.  Who knew that getting the Latin right was such a priority?

But anyway, seeing this question raised by John Cleves Symmes just about knocked me out of my leather wingback chair.  If I smoked a pipe, it would have fallen right out of my mouth, and burned a hole in my smoking jacket.  John Cleves Symmes pronounced the name of the city with a "ta" at the end!  I can't believe it. 

For those who aren't from here, you should know that there have always been people who pronounce Cincinnati with a "ta" sound at the end.  In fact, I think it is safe to say that there are certain, well, "class distinctions" when it comes to the whole "ta" v. "ti" debate.  Frankly, I always attributed this "debate" to poor education, laziness and tooth decay.  In the "ta" crowd, of course.  I was raised firmly in the "ti" tradition.

But come to find out, John Cleves Symmes himself thought the "ta" pronunciation to be correct!  Rocked my world.  I wonder if, since Symmes moved to North Bend (on the far West Side) and was buried there, that is why the "ta" tradition has such a hold on the West Side? 

Comments

It's Cincinnati, and anyone who says otherwise is trash

HydeParker   ·  March 27, 2007 11:53 PM

In Chivvy-UHT, they pronounce it Cinsuhnahtuh.

Anonymous   ·  March 28, 2007 12:08 AM

In Fowlmouth KY, they pronounce it "Yankedom"

USEFULLIDIOT   ·  March 28, 2007 09:50 AM

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