A St. Louis University poll interviewed 900 likely Missouri voters asking how they pronounce their state — Missour-EE or Missour-UH? The poll found that only 9.5% prefer to say Missour-UH.
Linguist professor Christy Garcia said both are right and both versions roll off the tongue the same way.
“They do,” she said. “In fact, there’s nothing inherently linguistically better than one or the other. As linguists, we try to show that all ways of speaking are valuable and certainly for communications. Really, this is more of a social question of which kind of characteristics are associated with each way of pronunciation.”
Regional differences were also found – residents in St. Louis typically say Missour-EE whereas people in the rural northwest part of the state were more likely to say Missour-UH. Also, 16% of voters over the age of 65 were more likely to say Missour-UH, whereas only 3% under age 29 pronounce it that way.
“Linguists use what’s called age grading to show changes in progress,” said Garcia. “So, if we see that older people are doing something more than younger people, then we might be witnessing a linguist change in progress. So, in fact, that is what we found.”
Garcia added that there’s no difference between the two ways they are pronounced as they both roll off the tongue the same way. She did, however, find that rural residents are more likely to say Missour-UH.
With this age-old debate over how Missouri is pronounced, what if politics played a role? Conservative voters were 4.5% more likely to say Missour-uh than liberal voters.
“That’s what it appears, yes, that we found a bit higher Missour-UH incidents with voters who self-identified as “very conservative.” Also, of course, a lot of these social variables interact with each other,” Garcia said. “Urban versus rural, different regions of the state, might also interact with political leanings.”
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