How to Pronounce Place Names

If you are new to the Austin area, you are most certainly confused about how to say words around here, starting with the old, re-developed airport itself, ‘Mueller’.

Named after Robert Mueller, who pronounced his name ‘mil-ler’, the original airport name pronunciation has given way to something slightly more like the German pronunciation: people say ‘myoo-ler’, as in the cross between a horse and a donkey, ‘mule-r’. I still say ‘miller’ because I grew up here and I remember when the iconic control tower was built. We’d go over to the airport and walk out on the cement roof of the terminal, right next to the tower, and watch airplanes land. I’m not kidding!

Then there’s Koenig Lane, also from the German, and pronounced Kay-nig in these parts.

If you are a native Spanish speaker and you pronounce ‘Manchaca‘ exactly like it is spelled, you don’t sound awkward. But, if you are not a native Spanish speaker, best stick with a long, drawn-out ‘man-shack’, in order not to sound stilted. Yes, I recognize the irony. By the way, the school in town is named Menchaca, which is pronounced like it is spelled.

Who has driven down Guadalupe Street in central Austin? Yep, short of being a native Spanish-speaker and pronouncing it correctly in Spanish, you say ‘gwah-da-loop’, which is closer to a similar French name.

How about a springtime drive to Burnet for some wildflower-viewing? Remember, it’s ‘burn-it’, durn it! Accent on the ‘burn’.

Driving east into the Backland Prairie suburbs, you reach the old farming community of Manor. Bet you thought it related to an English landholding term, didn’t you? Nope, it’s ‘may-ner’.

Keep driving east and you reach Elgin. In Texas, we say it with a hard ‘g’ sound, like you hear in the word ‘begin’, not like ‘gin’ and tonic. Accent on the ‘el’ syllable.

Pedernales Shadow
Pedernales Shadow

Now drive west. A lovely park to visit is Pedernales Falls State Park. Wear your hiking shoes, if you can, although there are scenic areas that are accessible by wheelchair. I grew up with the local pronunciation of ‘perd’n-Alice’. But nowadays I stick with ‘ped-er-nales’, like it is spelled, because even I, a native English-speaking Texan, have my limits.

The last name I’ll leave you with is the town of Gruene. The name comes from the German word for ‘green’, and indeed, that is how the town name is pronounced. It is another weekend-in-the-hill-country getaway spot to enjoy.

Please feel free to add more place names in the comments section- I’m sure I have not given you an exhaustive list of colloquialisms.

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