You say Ver-sales

Before leaving for the Ohio time trial championship in Versailles, my son informed me of the correct way to pronounce where I would be going.

“It’s Ver-sales”, he said. “They don’t like it when you say it like the French city.” As a college student at a small Ohio liberal arts school, he now apparently knows these things.

I added it to the list of other Ohio cities and towns named after foreign ones, but that somewhere along the way forgot how they are supposed to be pronounced.

Milan is “MY-lan”.
Berlin is “BER-lun”.
Genoa is “Ge-NO-a”.
Toledo is “Tuh-LEE-doh”.
Lima is like the bean.

And I think the residents all get mad when you say the name “properly” — like the more famous counterpart, even though that is in fact the origin of their names. Somewhere along the way, someone must have declared, “I ain’t gonna live nowhere that sounds like some Frenchy place.”

Maybe this is the answer to Ohio’s declining economy. Make Ohio sound more cosmopolitan, and we can fool businesses into moving here. When they hear “Ver-sigh”, they might think of wine, bakeries, and street cafes rather than egg farms and chicken poop.

That is perhaps unfair to Ver-sales. Driving around Ohio to go to races, you pass through some pretty dismal looking places. Ver-sales wasn’t one of them. The main street (called Main Street of course) and the surrounding area was striking with its neat little well-kept houses, all with sidewalks, nice paint, and trimmed lawns.

It seemed as though people actually cared about where they live. And more of that would likely do more to revive Ohio than anything.


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6 responses to “You say Ver-sales

  1. Jim

    Another one to add to your list is Chauncy (near Athens).
    The locals know you are not one of them when you don’t say “Chancy”.

  2. Brian

    How the heck do you get “Chancy” from “Chauncy”?

    Found this site:

    which will help you pass as a local in Chauncy and elsewhere in Ohio, should you wish to do so.

  3. Jim Nichols

    Berlin (BUHR-lin), Ohio actually was pronounced like the real Berlin — before WWII. The pronunciation changed, by local declaration, during the war. Or so I remember reading.
    Some fads, thankfully, do not spread. Even though Mussolini sided with Hitler, the idea of changing the pronunciation one of our local burgs to par-MAY never really caught on …

  4. Brian

    Well that’s one mystery solved. Interesting. I’m guessing that’s a rare case of a conscious decision. I’d bet that most of them just gradually change, aligning more with the local ‘twang’.

    yeah, you can add Parma to the (small) list of those who are pretty close to the original. Funny thing … and having grown up there I can attest … almost no one realizes there is a Parma in Italy.

  5. Ray

    I loved how adamant a guy on a dorm floor was about the pronunciation of Newark, Ohio. Hed get all testy and say its NOT New-Ark, its Nerk….Jeez that sounded so..well you know…

  6. Brian

    ha ha. that’s another one I know first-hand, having graduated from Denison. It’s definitely “Nerk”.

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