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Many Spanish words taken into English have a "J" sounding like "H", but San Jacinto follows a different rule:

  • San Jose
  • La Jolla
  • San Juan
  • Jiminez

Why is San Jacinto not pronounced San Hacinto in English?

The languagehat article mentioned in comments shows that the J in Jacinto is under attack in Texas, but it doesn't explain why Texans don't pronounce Jacinto like every other Spanish J word.

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Normally it is. Are you referring to a specific usage of San Jacinto ... like maybe a particular city? –  Mark Beadles Feb 29 '12 at 22:07
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see also languagehat.com/archives/001699.php –  mgb Feb 29 '12 at 22:37
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english.stackexchange.com/q/1545/18632 is about how to pronounce an Italian word or French word in English. Not closed. english.stackexchange.com/q/1545/18632 is about how to pronounce an Arabic word in English. Not closed. @waiwai933, why is this different? –  Jon Mar 1 '12 at 3:47
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@Mark, you're right -- cut and paste is not my forte. (couldn't resist) The second link was meant to go to english.stackexchange.com/q/6508/18632. –  Jon Mar 1 '12 at 19:57
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I grew up in Deer Park, Texas. I attended San Jacinto elementary, took a few classes at San Jacinto College, and visited the San Jacinto monument. And nobody ever pronounced it with an /h/. –  Dan Mar 2 '12 at 15:04
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1 Answer

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Rules of pronunciation tend to mean less when Proper Nouns come into play. Largely, it's a matter of tradition. "Jacinto", as a Spanish word, means "hyacinth". If you were speaking about the flower, you would pronounce it [ha-SEEN-to]. However, in the context of "San Jacinto", the pronunciation becomes [juh-SIN-to].

Why? Because that was how the original settlers of that city pronounced it. The name became canonized, and remains in that (technically incorrect) pronunciation as a matter of tradition. That pronunciation became associated with that location, changing it could lead to confusion.

When it comes to names, you simply can't count on consistency of pronunciation. Why should Des Moines, IA, be pronounced [deh moyn], but Des Plaines, IL, is instead [des playnz]? Exact same situation.

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Indeed, examples abound: Detroit is probably the largest and most egregious, but off the top of my head I can think of Paris and Amarillo, Texas; Montpelier, Vermont; Versailles and Valparaiso, Indiana; Birmingham, Alabama; and Genoa, Nevada… no one from the "original" cities would recognize the namesake when spoken, as no native speaker would pronounce Pierre or California as they are in South Dakota or Los Angeles. –  choster Mar 2 '12 at 17:28
    
@heathenJesus, your answer makes the most sense of the many opinions I've heard. I can imagine a committee in early San Jacinto deciding that they were going to enforce the "proper" pronunciation of their town's name. –  Jon Mar 3 '12 at 4:41
    
same reason Milan, TN is pronounced "MY-Lan" instead of "Me-Lawn" or why Beloit, KS is pronounced "bell-oyt" instead of "Bell-Wah" or New Orleans is pronounced Naw-Lens or Nevada, MO is pronounced "Neh-Vay-Duh" or Miami, OK is pronounced "My-Am-Uh" or the Arkansas River whilst it runs though Kansas is prounced "Are-Kansas" instead of "Are-Can-Saw" or why some people whose surname is DuBois pronounce it "Dew-Buah" and others say "Dew-Boys" or why Jimmy Buffet's last name is pronounced "Buff-it" instead of "Buff-Faye" or why Seville is prounced "See-Vee-Yay" in Spain but "Suh-Vill" in America –  user44637 May 21 '13 at 15:44
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protected by RegDwigнt Oct 23 '13 at 10:03

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