If you're new to Chattanooga, chances are pretty good there are a few words in the local vernacular that you've been mispronouncing. In honor of Chatter's "Homegrown Issue," I, a native Chattanoogan, decided to help clear up some of those. I enlisted the help of other locals through an informal poll just to be sure. Though I'll bet at least a few local readers will argue that we're wrong, too.
The most prominently mispronounced is the name of our fair city itself, which is pronounced cha-duh-NOO-guh, not chat-NOO-guh or cha-TUH-noo-guh. Other Native American-derived names that tend to trip people up are Chickamauga (chick-a-MOG-uh) and Ooltewah (OO-te-wah, with a silent L, not ool-TAY-wah, as Ronald Reagan called it when visiting Chattanooga back in 1987).
Ooltewah restaurant Puleo's Grille is pronounced puh-LAY-o's, not POO-lee-o or, as is often strangely said, PWAY-low's, poo-AY-los or PWAY-blows (it's an Italian restaurant, y'all). On the subject of "y'all," I know we're talking about pronunciation here, but this is the way you write "y'all," not "ya'll."
Another commonly mispronounced restaurant is Zarzour's (ZAR-zoor's), a local institution since 1918. Koch's Bakery, where you'll find some of the most delicious doughnut and thumbprint cookies in town, is pronounced "kux" (rhymes with "ducks"). This one you can't argue, as it's how the original owners pronounced their name, according to the bakery's website. Pizzeria Cortile in Red Bank is pronounced core-TEE-lay. And, while not a mispronunciation but rather a flatout mistake, the restaurant inside the Choo Choo building is the Frothy Monkey, not the Frosty Monkey. I am here to help, after all.
The P.R. Olgiati (ole-JOT-ee) Bridge, is often mistakenly referred to as the Ol' Johnny Bridge, or, by those perhaps overcorrecting their initial mistake, as the ol-gee-OT-ee. The bridge is named after Peter Rudolph "Rudy" Olgiati, four-term mayor of Chattanooga from 1951-1963. Olgiati hailed from Gruetli, now part of also often-mispronounced Gruetli-Laager (GROOT-lee LOGG-er), a town in Grundy County, Tennessee. Beersheba Springs, also in Grundy County, is BURSH-uh-ba, rather than BEER-SHEE-ba.
While we're on the subject of place names, the North Georgia town of LaFayette is pronounced luh-FAY-it (or luh-FETT, depending on who you ask and their accent), not LA-fay-ET, as it's pronounced in Louisiana. Then there's the Lincoln County, Tennessee, town of Fayetteville, which is pronounced FED-vul. Whitwell, in Marion County, Tennessee, is pronounced WHUT-wul, with the syllables almost running together and only slight emphasis on the "whut," according to some, though I — and the voicemail message at Whitwell City Hall — say it WHIT-wull.
Similarly, the North Georgia town of Rossville (which also lends its name to Rossville Boulevard) is pronounced ROSS-vul. In fact, most locals pronounce almost every area town with a "ville" in its name as "vul"; as in Maryville (MARE-uh-vul), Knoxville (KNOX-vul), Nashville (NASH-vul), Shelbyville (SHELB-buh-vul) and Pikeville (PIKE-vul). Though, with Rossville, Nashville and Knoxville, it's fine to say the "ville" like VILL, as I and other natives I asked do.
Ochs Highway, the road that takes you to the Georgia side of Lookout Mountain and Rock City, is named after Adolph Ochs, former owner of The New York Times and The Chattanooga Times, and is pronounced "ox." Belvoir Avenue in Brainerd is pronounced BEL-vwar, not BEL-voyr or the French bel-VWAH or the British BEE-ver. And Igou Gap Road in East Brainerd is pronounced EYE-go, not IG-oo (like igloo) or EYE-gow.
McCallie, the private, all-boys boarding and day school, is pronounced Mc-AWL-ee, not Mc-CAL-ee. Cadek Conservatory at UTC, where many locals took music lessons, is pronounced SHAH-dick, not SAY-deck or KAY-dick. And Unum, the Chattanooga-based Fortune 500 insurance company, is pronounced YOO-num, not EW-num.
Anyone who can think of others they'd like to clear up — or who would like to tell me I'm wrong — please feel free to post away on our Facebook page!