Before we even attempt to get ourselves through the pronunciation of some of Illinois' harder to pronounce cities and towns, we have to take on the pronunciation of our state's name first.

I've always thought that the quickest way to pick out a visitor or someone who has just moved to Illinois is to hear that person call our state Ell-Uh-Noyze or Ell-Uh-Noy. 

There's no Z sound at the end of our state's name, and as for other pronunciation, it's Ill-Uh-Noy, not Ell-Uh-Noy. I will say that saying "Ell" instead of "Ill" at the beginning of your pronunciation of Illinois is still acceptable, because many native Illinoisans pronounce it that way, and have absolutely no intention of changing.

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The Problem With Illinois Is That We Have Plenty Of Places Named After Native American Words That You Could Have Trouble Pronouncing, And The Towns And Cities That Have Recognizable Names Aren't Pronounced That Way At All

You've got some Native American-based names that sound just like they look:

  • Kaskaskia
  • Cahokia
  • Kankakee

Okay, maybe here in Illinois we don't torture the tongue with places like YpsilantiOconomowocMenomonee, and Waukesha, but we do have a few places that, for folks outside Illinois, seem to be a little tough to pronounce:

  • Wauponsee: (wah-PAHN-see)
  • Wataga: (vi-uh-TAH-guh)
  • Somonauk: (SAHM-uh-nok)
  • Loogootee: (LOH-guh-TEE)
  • Chautauqua- (shuh-TAWK-wuh)
Word cloud in the shape of Illinois showing the cities in the state of Illinois
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When This Country Was Starting Out, We'd Just Take The Name Of An Old-World City And Slap "New" In Front Of It, Like New York, New Amsterdam, New Orleans, And New Hampshire

However, sometimes we just took the same name, stuck it on our map...then began mispronouncing it. Here in Illinois, we've got several places like that:

  • Take for instance, Cairo. The Egyptian city is pronounced "KY-row." Here in the Land of Lincoln, it's..."KAY-row."
  • When my kids were small, they loved the movie "The Road to Eldorado." In movies, and on Cadillacs, it's pronounced "El-doh-RAH-doh," but in Illinois, we like to call it "El-doh-RAY-doh."
  • Dionne Warwick had a big hit with "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" Her pronunciation mirrors that of the city of the same name, "san-ho-ZAY." Not so much in Illinois, as we call it "san JOES," with a heavy "S" sound instead of a "Z."
  • If you're ever visiting France, make sure you visit the Palace of Versailles, and remember to call it the Palace of "vair-SYE." Otherwise, you could just stay home here in Illinois and visit the city of "vair-SALES."
  • Another great place to visit on a European tour is the Austrian capital, Vienna, pronounced "VEE-enna." If "The Sound of Music" is as close to Austria as you want to get, you could just drive 388.4 miles to "VIE-enna" Illinois.

Now, what's ironic is that almost every Illinoisian (save for some die-hard Chicagoans) pronounces the state's name correctly as "ill-ih-NOY" instead of "ill-ih-NOISE". And it's just this state -- right next door, in Iowa, they pronounce Des Moines with two silent esses; if it were in Illinois, they'd call it "Dess MOYNSS" and insist it was correct.

And that's how we roll. It could be worse, though. We could live in Wales, in a town called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch:

The Definitive List of The Oddest, Strangest and Downright Filthy Town Names In Every State

We combed through list after list of the oddest, strangest and somewhat naughty-sounding town names in every state. From Smut Eye to Ding Dong, you can learn unbelievable facts about each of these towns below.

Gallery Credit: Rob Carroll

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