Niagara, and Other Place Names Obviously Spelled Wrong

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Soon after the 2019 polar vortex hit, my husband told me that parts of Niagara Falls had frozen over. “Cool,” I thought. “I gotta see that.” So I googled it, and then laughed. Becaused Google told me that my search for “Niagra Falls polar vortex frozen” was misspelled. Maybe I meant “Niagara Falls”? I’m sorry, what?

I have been obsessed with spelling since I was a child. Not National Spelling Bee level obsessed, but just enough to always be the one that other people ask, “Hey, how do you spell…?” And now of course there is spell check and my once incredibly useful talent is now obsolete. Maybe it’s because autocorrect rusted my skills or maybe I really, truly never learned in the first place, but Niagara Falls definitely, completely looks like it’s spelled wrong.

That’s not even how it’s pronounced. Like, at all. When I realized that I had been spelling Niagara wrong literally my entire life I felt wronged. Like my 6-year-old son when I told him that the first two letters of the word excited are not “ik,” I wanted to drop my head into my hands and declare that I hate English. Granted Niagara is not an inherently English word, but still.

Here are a few other places that were obviously spelled wrong.

Butte, Montana

Who…who thought this was a good idea? Butte, not pronounced like “butt,” but instead like the first part of the word “beauty.” It’s supposed to be both gorgeous, cold, and, as far as I can tell, not particularly rich in natural gases. If you’re visiting maybe pack nose plugs just in case.

Dacula, Georgia

Dacula, no relation to a certain blood-sucking creature who cannot see his reflection. But what’s going on here, is the town obsessed with creatures of the night? Do its residents roam about with fluttery capes and glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth? Much less exciting, it’s name is just what you get if you smoosh together the names Decatur and Atlanta, two cities that were doing quite well at the time of Dacula’s founding.

Georgia has a lot (and I mean a lot) of strangely spelled cities. So if you want to figure out how to pronounce Dacula, Milan, and Cairo according to Georgians, check out this video. And before you think I’m being mean to Georgia, I lived there in Houston County for a few years. Pronounced house-ton. They deserve this mockery.

Austonio, Texas

It’s not Austin! It’s not San Antonio! But it’s at least between these two major cities, right? Ding dong, you are wrong. This fun little unincorporated community only has about 40 residents and was originally founded in 1900 as the city of Pearson. In 1930 they changed the name to Austonio despite the fact that the area is located between Houston and Dallas. Maybe Hallas and Douston weren’t as catchy as Austonio?

Honestly, the English language is a hot garbage mess when it comes to spelling, and we get it particularly bad when it comes to naming places. Including Niagara Falls, because the more I look at it the more it looks like a weird prescription drug name. But maybe that’s the secret behind the magical experience people ascribe to visiting Niagara Falls. (Coming soon in pill form.)

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