Years ago, when I worked as a news producer for the NBC affiliate KETK in Tyler, our weather anchor made a massive blunder on the air.
He mispronounced “Mexia” during the weather segment.
Big deal, you’re thinking. It’s simple, right? Mexia is pronounced “Mex-ee-ah.”
No, it ain’t, mis amigos.
The phones in the newsroom rang constantly for about an hour after that.
“Tell that Yankee it’s pronounced ‘Muh-HAY-uh,’” one caller said.
I can’t repeat what other callers said because what they said was more colorful than what I allow for print in this blog.
By virtue of the butchering of the city’s name, the poor fella was almost the guest of honor at a necktie party hosted by our viewers.
My friend, Heather got a public correcting for the same mistake in the newsroom of The Waco Tribune-Herald when she worked there.
“You want me to drive to ‘Mex-ee-ah’ for a story?” she said out loud.
You’d have thought she insulted somebody’s mama from the way she described the reactions of her fellow reporters.
Everything is different in Texas, including the way we pronounce the names of our towns and landmarks. I’m letting you know now so you don’t get blasted between the eyes for an innocent verbal mistake. Your logic in saying a name as it reads is not wrong. Not at all. But, bless your heart, we’ll know you’re not a Texan if you mess it up out loud and we’ll be vociferous in letting you know you boofed it big time.
To alleviate some of the confusion, here are the highlights of names that are not pronounced as they read:
Pedernales is “Purd-nallas,” Humble is “Umbul.” Boerne is “Burney,” Gruene is “Green,” New Braunfels is New “Brawn-fulls” NOT New “Brawns-full.” Even Texans get that one wrong once in awhile, so don’t feel bad if you booger it up.
The Village of Salado is “Suh-LAY-doe,” unless you’re in San Antonio and talking about the creek that runs through part of the city. Then it’s “Suh-LAH-do.”
San Jacinto is San “Juh-sinnah,” Nacogdoches is “Nacka-DOE-chus,” Waxahachie is “Wox-uh-HATCH-ee” and it’s so hard to spell that most state troopers will let you get all the way to Waco first before pulling you over and writing you a ticket.
Palestine is “Pali-STEEN” not “Pali-STYNE.” That town is in East Texas and they’ll land on you like a B-17 if you don’t say it right.
Houston is actually “YOU-stun” if you’re from Houston. If you’re not from Houston, you can say it as it reads with the “H” and everyone will know you are not from Houston which, especially in Texas, is not a bad thing at all.
Confused? Ah well…hang in there.
When in doubt about how to say a Texas town’s name, just ask, “How do you say that?” and everybody will be grateful to you for trying to get it right the first time.
At this point, I must make mention of Killeen. I want to know this: if you move away from Killeen after having been considered a resident of Killeen, does that make you a Killeen-Ex?
I love that joke. I made that up myself. Thanks for indulging me. Let’s get back on track.
Mexia has a good attitude about the whole thing. The chamber of commerce Web site at www.mexiachamber.com even makes light of it with the slogan, “Mexia: a great place no matter how you say it” which tells you Texans really are pretty good natured about the whole thing.
Perhaps my favorite anecdote about Mexia is the one about the two traveling salesmen who were driving along Highway 84 and arguing about the pronunciation of the town’s name. When they stopped at a Mexia restaurant, they asked the waitress, “Miss, can you tell us the name of this place?”
In true Texas fashion, she looked at the two men like they were bug nuts crazy and said, “Dairy Queen.”