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Natchi — What's It Now? A Local Sets Us Straight


Robert, it's now time for me to eat some crow.


Oh, no.

BLOCK: Yeah. You remember yesterday, I was talking about how the Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been calling out the name of a certain U.S. city dozens of times to signal a play at the line of scrimmage.

SIEGEL: Absolutely, he calls out Omaha.

BLOCK: Exactly, and the city of Omaha is really excited about that. But here is where I got in trouble. I suggested to somebody from Omaha that maybe during the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning might choose another city name. And here's what I threw out there as some possibilities.

It might be Natchitoches. It could Pascagoula. You don't know what's going to come out of his mouth.

All right, Robert, you heard that? I said Natchitoches.

SIEGEL: Right.

BLOCK: Yeah. No, that's not right. It's wrong and a bunch of our listeners ran to their keyboards to let me know that. It is spelled that way, in my defense: N-A-T-C-H-I-T-O-C-H-E-S, Louisiana. But I should have known that especially in Louisiana the pronunciation of place names is a really tricky business. So today, I called up Barbara Bailey. She's a local tour guide there and she set me straight.

BARBARA BAILEY: The name of our city is pronounced nak-a-dish(ph).

BLOCK: Nak-a-dish.

BAILEY: Yes. So many people get it a little bit off. When you look at it, it looks like natch-i-toe-chus(ph).

BLOCK: Right and that's what I said. That's what where I got in trouble. But it's nak-a-dish.

BAILEY: It's nak-a-dish. Yes, what I tell people is that if don't look at it, you can say it.


BAILEY: So if you say naka(ph), N-A-K-A, then you can put most anything on the end of it and get by. You can say nakadish(ph), nakatish(ph), nakadush(ph) - whatever you want to say at the very end, but you got to get that naka at the beginning. And the emphasis on it is on that first syllable on the N-A.

BLOCK: Got you. Now, what's the origin of the name?

BAILEY: The name, it comes from a Native American tribe - people who lived here when the first Europeans came in the 1600s. The name, as far as we can tell, means land of the chinquapin eaters. That's a plant that produces something like a nut.

BLOCK: So, here's where things do get confusing, Ms. Bailey, because you there in Natchitoches, Louisiana, are only about a hundred miles away from Nacogdoches, Texas. I think this is maybe where I got hung up a little bit.

BAILEY: Yeah. Well, now I can tell you that the reason that people get confused about it is because the spellings are similar, not the same, but similar.

BLOCK: They're close.


BLOCK: I think the take-away here is really just that I need to spend more time in Louisiana. And that's a great thing, as far as I'm concerned.

BAILEY: That's it. That's exactly right.

BLOCK: Well, Barbara Bailey, thanks for setting me straight about just how to say the name of Natchitoches, Louisiana.

BAILEY: That is correct. You did well.

BLOCK: So, Robert, there you have it: Natchitoches, Louisiana...

SIEGEL: Natchitoches.

BLOCK: Nacogdoches, Texas.

SIEGEL: An important distinction.


SIEGEL: And while we're on the subject of pronunciations...


SIEGEL: ...and mispronunciations, we know it's Montreux, sorry about all the montrose(ph) this week.


BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.