Thursday, August 2, 2007 -- Mackinaw City, MI
Some answers to questions I had about the area... (the first in a series over the next few days or weeks):
Question 1) Is it pronounced "Mackinac" or "Mackinaw"? I grew up with it always being pronounced with the "ac" at the end, never the "aw". But over the years I've run into people, mostly Michiganders, who insist that the correct pronunciation is with the "aw". With our arrival in the area, I thought I'd clear this up for good -- at least for me. There'll always be hard-headed Chicago Bears fans that'll insist on saying it wrong, as they do so many other words, but I wanted to at least understand the issue and make my own decision.
First, I talked with Dave, our waiter in a small pub/restaurant here in town. He grew up in the area and his Mom makes the best pasties (don't ask now, that'll be another post) around, so I felt he should be considered an authority on the subject. Now, to complicate the issue we have at least four things that are named similarily... Mackinaw City, the Mackinac Straits, the Mackinac Bridge, and Mackinac Island. Are they all pronounced the way they're spelled? What's the reason for the difference? It's very confusing and this has got to be cleared up now. So, Dave says the correct pronunciation is with a "w" in all cases. He actually seem a little offended that any intelligent person would consider anything but "with the w" as correct. Ok, that seems like the end of the story, but I started to think that since Dave grew up and lives in Mackinaw City, and his Mom, who makes the best pasties around, still lives in Mackinaw City, and considering that Mackinaw ends with a "w", maybe Dave's part of a conspiracy to get the pronunciation of everything changed to that of his home town. Maybe even Dave's Mom is part of the plot. Unlikely, but nevertheless, a possibility. I needed another authority on the subject.
The second authority was Julie the checkout girl/clerk/person from the IGA market right here in Mackinaw City. I know what you're thinking... Julie's from Mackinaw City too... she could be part of the conspiracy. True, but she had an honest face and was willing to talk with me on the subject, so that alone should be good enough... but she also had documented proof to offer. That proof was in the form of an article in the well-known Mackinaw Today Paper that is issued once each year. Reading from the 2007 edition of the paper, it says...
"The Indian name for the area, Michinnimakinong, was changed to Michillimackinac when the French arrived in 1715." [editorial comment: I had had a suspicion the French were in some way responsible for screwing this up too.] "Even though the French spelled it with an "ac", they still pronounced it "aw". The British arrived and took over the fort in 1761 [without firing a shot I might add] and decided to change the spelling to "aw", and eventually the name was shortened to Mackinaw. The French kept their "ac" though [stubborn little buggers, aren't they?] and everything north of Mackinaw City uses that spelling. Mackinaw City is one of the only references that uses the "aw" ending. So, regardless of the spelling, the pronunciation of "ac" is the same as "aw".
So, there you have it! On good authority we can feel confident in pronouncing everything with the "aw". It's amazing to me just how much you can learn when you put your mind to it.