Tomato, tomahto; Missour-EE, Missour-AH. The question arises often. Is there a correct way to pronounce the state’s name?

In a story on KMOV (Channel 4) (see above to view), St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith apparently prefers Missour-EE, whereas Sen. Kit Bond goes with Missour-AH. The question also was posed to Benjamin Torbert, assistant professor of English at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Smith and Bond both might be accurate, according to Torbert, who pointed to the state’s namesake, the Missouria tribe, as they were known in the Illinois language.

“So it had both an -EE and an -AH vowel at the end,” he told the KMOV reporter. “In a way, everyone might be right.”

Torbert should know. The sociolinguist has studied relationships between dialect and regional identity among Native Americans.

Off camera, Torbert mentioned that as a linguist, he didn’t mind the varying pronunciations of Missouri or other local places, like Highway 40. But when it comes to the state across the river from St. Louis, he felt more strongly that the “S” should remain silent in Illinois.

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Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz