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There seems to be two (main) ways of pronouncing "Los Angeles":

  1. Los An-jel-eeze
  2. Los An-jel-ess

It's clearly Spanish, and my limited Spanish skills suggest option 2, but I've heard many people use option 1 (including commercial aircraft pilots over the intercom).

Which is "correct"?


Update:

In the classic 1938 movie Double Indemnity, at 1:18:00 into the movie, Edward G Robinson clearly pronounces Los Angeles to rhyme with cheese!

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    For what it’s worth, the Spanish pronunciation of Los Ángeles is the super-simple /lo'sanxeles/ when written using the standard notation of the International Phonetic Alphabet which one uses for these things. Each letter there stands for its own sound, with the only potential surprise that /x/ does not mean /ks/ but rather is more like the sound at the end of Scottish loch or German Bach. – tchrist Nov 23 '17 at 3:12
  • @tchrist youtube.com/watch?v=CFx6O4r3hGo seems like the last s is silent : ) – Agent_L Nov 23 '17 at 21:56
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According to Oxford Dictionaries Online, the British pronunciation rhymes with cheese (as the comments say, it's closer to the last syllable of Hercules), while the American pronunciation does not; rather, it nearly rhymes with scandalous (or maybe evangelist).

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    "Scandalous". DEFINITELY "scandalous". :-) – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Nov 23 '17 at 13:02
  • Well that explains why anyone who pronounces the e sounds like a ... foreigner. – Mazura Nov 23 '17 at 18:02
  • The States is big, though, I've certainly heard both pronunciations from Americans. – Mo. Nov 24 '17 at 2:54
  • @user3306356 I've heard the "Los Angeleez" pronunciation from Californians only when imitating someone portrayed as stupid, ignorant or "not from 'round these here parts"; Whether you want to use that pronunciation is up to you, though. – errantlinguist Nov 24 '17 at 9:02
  • Interestingly, this is a Spanish phrase, and its Spanish pronunciation rhymes with "less" :) – benjaminz Nov 24 '17 at 19:12
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The pronunciation of any word in any language does not necessarily inform the way it is pronounced as a loanword or by foreign speakers. I wager not a single Korean would recognize Hyundai as rendered by Jeremy Clarkson. Place names are no exception. Delhi, Ontario is pronounced rather differently from Delhi, India, which is not quite like the Hindi to begin with. Neither pronunciation you suggest is much like the Spanish, either Castilian or Mexican.

Most all Spanish names in the American Southwest have been anglicized, the small Spanish-speaking population having been vastly outnumbered by Anglo settlers from the late 19th century onwards. San is invariably /sæn/ not /san/, Los is similarly /lɑs/ or /lɔs/, almost never /los/. Beyond that, the changes are idiosyncratic. San Mateo and the Rodeo in Rodeo Drive retain the Spanish stress pattern, but Los Feliz doesn't. San Pedro, for its part, doesn't sound like either the Spanish or the English pronunciations of the given name Pedro.

Naturally, many competing opinions have been voiced about the pronunciations of various places. For L.A., Steve Harvey of all people had a column in the June 26, 2011 Los Angeles Times entitled "Devil of a time with City of Angels' name":

In the early 1900s, The Times advocated the Spanish version, carrying a box by its editorial page masthead that proclaimed the way to say Los Angeles was Loce AHNG-hayl-ais.… The Times' campaign aside, the United States Board on Geographic Names decreed in 1934 that the name should be Anglicized to Loss AN-ju-less.…

While the Spanish version lapsed into disuse, a debate arose over newcomers using an alternative Anglicized version with a hard G — something along the lines of Loss AN-guh-less.

So, in 1952, Mayor Fletcher Bowron impaneled a jury of experts to determine an official pronunciation, once and for all, for the city.… Loss AN-ju-less. [/'æn dʒə ləs/]

But official pronouncements are one thing, actual usage is another. In fact, there is no one universally accepted way to pronounce Los Angeles, California. Former LA Mayor Sam Yorty used a "hard G" and "long E" pronunciation (not unlike angle ease); you can also find one or the other or both in many older films and television shows. Surely the pronunciation favored by a longtime mayor and in Hollywood productions cannot be faulted.

The writer Charles Fletcher Lummis apparently had a special dislike of rhyming Angeles with bees, even writing a poem decrying it. But Bugs Bunny (0:07) isn't about to take advice from Charles Fletcher Lummis.

Will M. Cressy reportedly noted in his 1923 History of California that there were 26 ways to pronounce Los Angeles, all wrong.

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    "the small Spanish-speaking population having been vastly outnumbered by Anglo settlers from the late 19th century onwards." In the interests of pedantry, Los Angeles was 48.5% Hispanic in the 2010 census. Also of interest, more Angelinos speak Spanish as a first language than English. – kingledion Nov 22 '17 at 5:36
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    As far as I can tell, all of your sources are out of date. You can stream LA radio stations over the internet and I’d be surprised if you ever hear anything other than “ann-juh-luss” or something very close. – Todd Wilcox Nov 22 '17 at 6:24
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    If "Hyundai" isn't bad enough, he also pronounces "Nissan" as "Datsun". – KSmarts Nov 22 '17 at 14:43
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    If Los Angeles is anything like Philadelphia, there are 10 ways to say it and nobody thinks they say it any different than anyone else. – Yorik Nov 22 '17 at 15:40
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    @Bohemian Loss AN-ju-less is the "official" pronunciation as preferred by the city government, but no, there is no single "correct" way to pronounce Los Angeles. – choster Nov 22 '17 at 17:58
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Well, the Spanish is like "Lows-Ahn-hell-ace" (pronounced like those English words, except Ahn which is not a word).

But no one in LA (except native Spanish speakers, perhaps) says that while speaking in English. Most Angelenos say "Loss Ann-gel-ess " or "Loss Ann-gel-uss".

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    You're pronounciation for Spanish is a little off. Just compare it to this one. – Ian Nov 22 '17 at 8:21
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    I might have sounded harsh. I hope you did not take it offensively. Providing the link I merely wanted to point out the limited capability of English words to give a pronounciation guide for other languages. – Ian Nov 22 '17 at 8:45
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    Thank you for not using IPA. It's pronounced "Loss Ann-gel-uss". @tchrist - low san exle ees? eh, wut? – Mazura Nov 23 '17 at 17:51
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    @Mazura You must use IPA if you expect anybody to know what you're talking about. You cannot use English "spelling pronunciations" not only because the mapping between English spelling and English pronunciation is many-to-many, but also because different people say the same word differently. Now compound that with a billion speakers worldwide and you can see why it is hopeless to use fake spelling pronunciations. If you expect anybody to know what you're talking about who isn't your identical twin then you have to use IPA. We have a worldwide audience here. Go look up IPA if you don't know it. – tchrist Nov 23 '17 at 20:06
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    @tchrist - "IPA notation is indecipherable to the majority of users... I'd suggest that people shouldn't be discouraged from using "spelling" pronunciation, merely encouraged to add IPA." - "Is there a meta post to refer to, for general policy?" – Mazura Nov 23 '17 at 20:25
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As someone born and raised in California (albeit about 7 hours north), I have never heard the /iz/ pronunciation from a local (unless, perhaps, as a jest).

I normally hear /ləs/ or /ɛs/ (without stress), or just "L.A." (/ɛl eɪ/). Due to different stress, the /ɛs/ pronunciation is normally closer to "-ness" (e.g., in "business", "kindness") than to "mess".

I don't know how it's pronounced elsewhere, but I tend to go for the local pronunciation as the default "correct" one for place names unless there's a reason to go with a non-local pronunciation.

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  • +1 for just "L.A." If only everything were that simple. By the way, is "ness" in "business" really pronounced the same as in "kindness"? – Mr Lister Nov 22 '17 at 11:34
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    @Mr Lister: I pronounce the ness in "business" and "kindness" the same way I pronounce the nis in "tennis". And the American Heritage Dictionary does as well. – Peter Shor Nov 22 '17 at 11:54
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    Please use standard IPA notation for all pronunciations here. "Spelling" pronunciations are at best confusing and misleading and ambiguous. – tchrist Nov 23 '17 at 3:05
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    @tchrist - and IPA notation is indecipherable to the majority of users... I'd suggest that people shouldn't be discouraged from using "spelling" pronunciation, merely encouraged to add IPA. I upvoted this answer yesterday; on returning to it now I have no idea what it's trying to say. – AndyT Nov 23 '17 at 14:21
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    I originally chose to match the questioner's spelling pronunciation, since it appeared unambiguous enough in context. Is there a meta post to refer to, for general policy? If not, it might be worth having one? – Soron Nov 23 '17 at 14:29
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It depends on what you want it to rhyme with.

From "Coming Into Los Angeles" by Arlo Guthrie:

"Coming into Los Angeles,

Bringing in a couple of keys,

Don't touch my bags if you please,

Mr. Customs man."

It really doesn't work very well if you rhyme with "mess".

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    Wasn't the song written by Arlo Guthrie? – No'am Newman Nov 23 '17 at 6:25
  • Crap. Of course it was. – WhatRoughBeast Nov 23 '17 at 13:09

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