Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Washington Wednesday: DC Debates Pronunciation

Last night, Chris brought to my attention an interesting debate that he had heard reported on WTOP and has been apparently going around DC. "How do you pronounce McPherson?" he asked, in reference to one of the busiest Metro stops and the small city park that is currently home to one of the Occupy DC movements.

I said, "It's pronounced Mc-FEAR-son, right? Everyone calls it McFEARson."


Apparently, it's technically pronounced Mc-FUR-son.

McPherson Square
Statue of Gen. McPherson in PcPherson Square, Courtesy of NcinDC via Flickr

Mc-FEAR-son, Mc-FUR-son, what's the difference?

Well, according to WAMU's research,  that's the correct pronunciation of the namesake of the square, U.S. Civil War Gen. James Birdseye McPherson. They even consulted a leading Civil War Expert at the U.S. Army War College to verify the pronunciation. Oh, and by the way, the expert also told them that the General's middle name is pronounced "bird-see," not "bird's eye." Crazy stuff, right? It gets crazier though . . .

The DC blog,, then debated the topic and they even consulted leading Civil War historian, James McPherson, who obviously shares the last name (no relation though). Ever since I read my first McPherson book, Battle Cry of Freedom (because I am a crazy history nerd and he's one of the best), I had pronounced his name with FEAR in it. Mc-FEAR-son. Right? Wrong. HE told that his family actually pronounces it Mc-FUR-son. AHH! Mind blown, world rocked. Seriously, I had been mispronouncing one of my favorite historian's last names. Wow.

Lastly, one of our friends, Lacey, is actually from McPherson, Kansas. Another one of General McPherson's namesakes. Small world, no? But get this, Lacey pronounces it Mc-FUR-son. To be honest, I thought it was strange when I first heard it pronounced that way, but Lacey for the win!

So what do I do now - pronounce it McFEARson or McFURson?

Oh, the little things that rock our tiny DC world . . .

1 comment:

  1. Our town motto is: "There's no FEAR in McPherson!" and I happily say it to many people. There have only been a handful of people that say it correctly :)

    Gosh, I giddily read this. You are adorable!


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