Should there be an official commission that decides thorny pronunciation questions about North Carolina places and names? You know – towns such as Clinton, Kure Beach, Chalybeate Springs and counties such as Chowan, Forsyth and Tyrrell.
I asked that question recently after hearing from a friend. Anne Payne is the GIS Database Administrator for Wake County. GIS stands for Geographic Information Services. Anne keeps track of every town, neighborhood,, river and other geographical locations in Wake County. Anne follows my blog since it frequently deals with interesting places and names. Anne emailed me a few weeks ago to let me know about the NC Board of Geographic Names. It is part of the Statewide Mapping Advisory Committee which Anne chairs. Anne’s group makes name change recommendations to the US Board of Geographic Names. She gave me an example of her committee’s work. There was a Mango Creek near Knightdale. Upon further study the name was changed to Mingo to reflect the actual historical name of the waterway.
I started thinking about Anne’s job and asked her if there was a state committee or commission that establishes proper pronunciations for various places. She said she would get back with me and she did. Here’s what UNC-Charlotte geography professor Tyrel G. Moore wrote to Anne:
“I owe you an overdue reply in answer to your news anchor's question about the USBGN and the spelling and pronunciation of places. They do not rule on the pronunciation of geographic names. A committee was formed a few years ago to do just that. As you might imagine, they quickly discovered what a controversial mess they had entered into. The committee's charge was short-lived.”
Now you know what we have to put up with every day in the broadcasting business! I have my own hard-to-pronounce names list. I will release it tomorrow.