If you’re one of those high falutin’ business people who travels all over the world for work, there’s a fair-to-middling chance that at some point you’ll mispronounce the name of a place you’re visiting.

Well, lucky for you, I found this Distractify list of place names many of us are apparently getting wrong and, in the interest of saving us all some potential embarrassment, thought I’d better share some of the information therein. I also added one they missed.

The topic sparked some discussion with my boss, Peter Harris, who thought perhaps we should add “Toronno” to the list. After all, he noted, “Torontonians don’t pronounce the second ‘t’.”

“Sure,” I agreed, “but that doesn’t mean that ‘Toronno’ is the correct pronunciation.”

“Doesn’t it?” He wondered. I don’t know. We left it at that. Please feel free to weigh in on this extremely important topic.

There’s also some discussion over the accuracy of the Distractify post. It claims that Bangkok, Thailand, is pronounced “Bahng-gawk,” and not “Bang-kok.” But one online commenter on Bored Panda, which also repurposed parts of the list, who claims to be Thai says that the first is not considered incorrect, and some searching on my part seems to bear that out. So, I didn’t include it. But if I’m wrong, please let me know.

I also left out Budapest, since the claim that it should be pronounced “Budapesht,” as Hungarian speakers pronounce it, seems to be like suggesting you must pronounce Paris “Paree” because that’s how it’s said in French. In reality, English speakers who say “Paree” sound silly. I get the impression that, in English, “Budapest” is fine.

OK, good talk.

Here are 13 place names you might be mispronouncing.


Wrong: New-FOUND-land
Right: NEW-fin-land

I have a friend from Newfoundland who loses her mind when people pronounce it the first way. It drives her crazy. To add weight to Peter’s argument, surely Newfoundland was meant to be pronounced “New-found-land,” as it has no claim to being a new Finland. But that’s not how things turned out.

Melbourne, Australia

Wrong: MEL-born
Right: Melb’n

I don’t know if this is a colloquial pronunciation or not, but online discussions seem to support the second as proper.

Beijing, China

Wrong: Bay-zhhhing
Right: Bey-jing

It’s a hard “J,” apparently.


Wrong: Col-oh-ROD-oh
Right: Col-oh-RAD-oh

I did not know this! I say “col-oh-ROD-oh.” And they’re right. It’s “RAD.” I checked.


Wrong: Co-LUM-bia
Right: Col-LOM-bia

Note, however, that the Distractify author’s dismissal of a connection with Christopher Columbus is misguided. Columbia is named for Christopher Columbus, whose name in Italian is Cristoforo Colombo.


Wrong: Eye-ROCK/ee-RACK/Eye-RACK
Right: Ee-ROCK

This was also news to me. I’ve been saying “Eye-RACK.”

La Jolla, CA

Wrong: La-JOL-a
Right: La-HOY-a

Like the boxer, Oscar De La Hoya, but spelled differently, just to confuse me.

Montreal, Quebec

Wrong: MON-treal
Right: MUN-treal

OK, this one comes with the caveat that I don’t actually agree with it, but many do, so I’m including it. Really, I’d argue that if you’re not pronouncing it the French way, you’re not wrong with either Mon or MUN, but many Montrealers say MON is wrong.

Phuket, Thailand

Wrong: Fuh-ket/Foo-ket
Right: Poo-ket

No, it’s not f***it, Thailand.

Thames River, UK

Wrong: THAYms
Right: TEMs

Worcester, Massachusetts/UK

Wrong: WOR-chest-er/WOR-ses-ter
Right: WOO-ster

This also goes for Leicester and Gloucester. The “ces” is silent.

Norfolk, VA/UK

Wrong: NOR-foke
Right: Nor-fik

Though Distractify insists on “NAW-fik,” I think that might be pushing it a bit. Anyone else?

Spokane, WA
Wrong: Spo-CANE
Right: Spo-CAN

The Spokane are a Native American people whose name means Children of the Sun in Salish.

OK, so what did I miss? Are there any place names you hear people mispronouncing? Let us know.