Why Do Some Of us Say ChicaRgo with An R?

It’s not just us. Many people in Ireland share the same linguistic quirk. What gives?

Fact: Newfoundlanders can be really particular about their pronunciations. Rather, we can be really particular about how non-residents pronounce “Newfoundland.”

Locals tend to bust out the Newfoundland-splaining anytime a non-resident doesn’t land a perfect pronunciation on the first try. But it could be said that we tend to mangle a place name here and there, too.

Case in point: Chicago. Some of us (particularly the older crowd) tend to hit a phantom hard ‘R’ sound in the middle of the word, morphing it into “Chicargo.” And it’s not just us. Many people in Ireland share the same linguistic quirk. What gives?

According to Dr. Philip Hiscock, Associate Professor of Folklore at Memorial, “The name Chicago is not originally English.”

He says “the English-speaking inhabitants got it from the French who got it from the local [indigenous] people. The middle vowel, ‘A,’ was never pronounced as you might expect in a ‘closed syllable’ of English, like hat, cat, cag and so on.”

Instead, it was pronounced by the locals, the later French, and the still-later English settlers there, with a vowel much like the French in, say quatre or France.

“Most English dialects do not actually have that sound, so it slipped a little sideways for most speakers, into the vowel (most) North Americans use in doll, cod” says Hiscock.

Verdict: Chicago or Chicargo. It’s a dialect thing. Everybody’s right!

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  • No. Dialect or not. Pronouncing it with and R is incorrect. It doesn’t not contain an R. Chicargo is incorrect and always will be.

  • It’s called an “intrusive r” but it is most known for people with a Scots Irish heritage. Here in Ohio they say warsh and squarsh, among other things.

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