ALBERTINA: . . . all the way to Wilkes-Bar.
BRIGID: It's Wilkes-BARRIE, you dolt.
ALBERTINA: ha-ha, (dripping with sarcasm) Wilkes-Barrie. I don't think so. It's Wilkes-BAR.
BRIGID: No, it's not. It's Wilkes-BARRIE. I've known two people from there, one my cousin's friend who was born there and moved away, and another was a friend of my brother's who was also born and lived there until he was five, and they both pronounce it Wilkes-BARRIE.
BRIGID: Yes. Really. It's the same way people from Lancaster pronounce it LANG-kustir.
Wilkes-Barre is in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, almost directly west from the pointy part on the NE edge of the state.
(Map from the Weekend Guide)
So I had to find out. Is it true what Brigid says? Because I have always thought of it as Wilkes-BAR. And why is the name hyphenated, anyway? Did it get married and choose hyphenation?
- The American Heritage Dictionary says it should be pronounced Wilkes-BARRIE.
- The website called "You know you are from Pennsylvania when" says that Pennsylvanians pronounce it Wilkes-BARRIE.
- And the AP newswire says it should be pronounced Wilkes-BARRIE. That settles it. Wilkes-BARRIE, it is. The AP folks do their research.
- Lebanon, Pennsylvania: Leb-a-NON
- Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania: SKOO-kul
- Ghent, West Virginia: JENT
- Talladega, Alabama: Tall-a-DIG-ah
- Louisville, Kentucky: LOU-uhvul
- Des Plaines, Illinois: DEZ PLAINS (as opposed to the French DAY PLAHN)
- Dumas, Arkansas: DOO-mus
- El Dorado, Kansas: el dor-AY-doh
- Moscow, Idaho: MOSS-koe
- Spokane, Washington: spoh-CAN
- Worcester, Massachusetts: WUH-stir
- Reading, Massachusetts: RED-ing
- Stoneham, Massachusetts: STONE-em
- Greenwich, Connecticut: GREN-ich
Here are some other towns with the same name that are pronounced differently depending on what state you're in:
- Monticello (Jefferson's home in Virginia): Mont-ih-CHELL-oh
- Monticello, Minnesota: Mont-ih-SELL-oh
- Lafayette, Louisiana: Lah-fee-ET
- Lafayette, Georgia: Luh-FAY-ette
- Beaufort, South Carolina: BYOO-furt
- Beaufort, Missouri: BOH-furt
- Cairo, Egypt: KYE-roh
- Cairo, Ohio: KAY-roh
Oh, and I found out the origin of the name Wilkes-Barre (pronounced Wilkes-BARRIE). It's actually kind of interesting: a thumb to the nose of the British king.
- Wilkes-Barre was named after two people, John Wilkes and Isaac Barre.
- Isaac Barre was the son of a French refugee (who probably pronounced his name BAR), and was a lawyer in Dublin, Ireland until he joined the English army in 1746. After various commissions, he was sent to the Colonies (the US, today) in what is now Pennsylvania.
- John Wilkes was a politician in England who spoke up for the rights of the Colonists.
- Barre liked what Wilkes stood for and when he went back to England, a Lieutenant-Colonel, he supported Wilkes in a speech to the House of Commons.
- Barre got dismissed from the Army with loss of his rank and Wilkes lost his seat in Parliament for saying things unpopular with the British government.
- Back in the fledgling Pennsylvania, the mayor of a just-forming town started referring to his residence in his letters as Wilkesbarre, in honor of his friend and his friend's sympathizer across the ocean.
- People started writing letters back to England using the name Wilkesbarre, mainly as a way to tick off the English, and the name stuck.
Who knew that Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was the site of such controversy? Yeah, I know. Wilkes-Barrians.
American Heritage Dictionary, Wilkes-Barre
Palmyra, PA, You know you are from Pennsylvania when
City Data, General US Forum
AP News Pronunciation Guide, A-E, E-M, N-Z
Wilkes University, History, Naming Wilkes-Barre