DC Mythbusting: You’re Saying it Wrong

Photo courtesy of
‘I before E’
courtesy of ‘dharmabumx’

Neighborhood names are a touchy subject here in the District, and residents tend to get riled up about what an area is called or what a Metro station is named.  But outside of that, are we even saying these names properly? Chances are you’re actually saying or writing some of these places incorrectly. Read on for some of the most frequently mispronounced names in Washington.

Glover Park rhymes with clover park, right? Wrong. The neighborhood north of Georgetown takes its name from Charles Carroll Glover, a landowner from the 1800s, and the Washington Post tracked down his granddaughter back in 2005 and asked her about how her family pronounces its name.  Her reply?  “GLUH-ver. Please. Everybody calls it GLOH-ver, and it’s absolutely wrong. It’s GLUH-ver Park.”  But that hasn’t stopped the debate– many residents still say it rhymes with Grover, the Sesame Street character.  So either way you say it, someone will probably tell you that you’re wrong, but if you’re trying to be historically accurate it should sound like lover and not like clover.

Photo courtesy of
‘Madams Organ’
courtesy of ‘MikaAltskan’

That neighborhood next to Mount Pleasant is Adams’ Morgan or Adam’s Morgan, right? This is wrong too, even though you’ll see it pretty frequently. No apostrophe is necessary for this neighborhood.  It gets its name from the two formerly-segregated elementary schools in the area, the all-white John Quincy Adams school and the  all-black Thomas P. Morgan school.  Back in 1956 the Adams-Morgan Better Neighborhood Conference was formed to improve the neighborhood, thus officially coining the name.  Interestingly enough, the neighborhood’s name was hyphenated as Adams-Morgan in the Washington Post up until 2001.  Now the neighborhood is just plain old Adams Morgan.

Think that cute neighborhood up in the northwest corner of DC is called Takoma Park?  You’re wrong there too. We’ve busted this one before, but people still get it wrong.  The neighborhood in DC with its own Metro station is called Takoma.  The city in Maryland that borders it is called Takoma Park.

DuPont circle or Dupont Circle?  You’re both right. Even though the circle was named after Samuel Francis DuPont (with a big ‘P’), Congress named it Dupont Circle (with the lowercase ‘p’) on February 25, 1882.  It’s written just about everywhere with the little ‘p’ these days.

Photo courtesy of
‘L’Enfant Metro Pylon’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

How exactly do you pronounce the name of the guy who laid out Washington DC? It should sort of sound like ‘Longfont’.  In the fabulous book Grand Avenues, author Scott W. Berg writes that many of Pierre L’Enfant’s contemporaries interpreted his name as ‘Longfont’.  So it’s totally okay to anglocize his name a bit to make the transfer point of the blue, orange, yellow, and green Metro lines a little easier to say.

This should probably go without saying, but everything east of the river in the city is not all called Anacostia. There are dozens of neighborhoods east of the river, all with their own character.  Congress Heights is different than Washington Highlands, Dupont Park is different than Barry Farm, and they’re all separate entities from Anacostia.  There are just as many neighborhoods in Southeast as there are in Northwest, and they should not all be called Anacostia.  The fabulous blog Congress Heights on the Rise has an excellent section on ‘Southeast Misconceptions‘ showing how wrong the rest of the city is about this part of town.

And finally, if you think the name of the school for deaf in Northeast is pronounced Gall-yoo-det, you’re wrong. This one is what the Washington City Paper calls the most mispronounced word in the city.  It should actually sound like Gal-luh-det.  The good news here is that you probably won’t get corrected by a Gallaudet student for saying it wrong.

I bet even you DC experts out there are saying something on this list incorrectly.  Are there any other mispronounced places in the city that I’m forgetting?

Shannon grew up in the greater DC area/Maryland suburbs, went to Virginia for college and grad school (go Hoos!), and settled in DC in 2006. She’s an urban planner who loves transit (why yes, that is her dressed as a Metro pylon for Halloween), cities, and all things DC. Email her at Shannon (at) WeLoveDC.com!

25 thoughts on “DC Mythbusting: You’re Saying it Wrong

  1. Question: Is the NE neighborhood Brookland “brook-lund” (like Maryland) OR “brook-land” (like This Land is Your Land). Discuss!

  2. “The good news here is that you probably won’t get corrected by a Gallaudet student for saying it wrong.”

    I want to have your babies. And your editor’s for letting this go.

  3. Who told Metro train drivers that Judiciary Square is pronounced “Judi-shoe-ary Square?”

  4. What about Grosvenor? I’m guessing that the Metro drivers who say “grove-snore” are not getting this one right.

    (I know it’s MD, not DC, but I figure Metro stations are fair game, right?)

  5. How about Grosvenor? I know it’s in MD, but I hate it when people say “GROVES-NORS”.. you know, like every single metro operator does.

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  7. Macomb Street. I’ve heard it pronounced “MAY-come” when it should be “ma-COMB.” And don’t get me started on Tregaron!

  8. @Deasy –

    Gallaudet itself seems to take this stance, too. From the WCP article by Ruth Samuelson:

    “In a way, the mispronunciation makes complete sense: ‘It’s because people who are in charge aren’t running around correcting how hearing people talk,’ says Judy Termini, associate professor of communications, and Director of the First Year Experience, who has worked at the university for 33 years (and, disclosure, is a family friend).”

  9. Judiciary being pronounced Judishooary is one of my biggest peeves on the Metro!

    Grosvenor is properly pronounced Grov-nor, but I’ll cut people more slack on that one since it’s French and they pronounce letters selectively which is confusing to people who have never studied the language. Judiciary is an English word!

  10. Did you ever hear about Rosslyn supposedly being correctly pronounced “ross lynn” as opposed to “rozlin” because supposedly it’s the names of some planner’s two children?

  11. Thank you for the mention. Just trying to raise some awareness.I have noticed that where sometimes asking nicely has fallen on deaf ears, public shaming seems to do the trick. :)

    The Advoc8te
    Congress Heights on the Rise

  12. I think I have heard and even said Brookland both ways. But usually refer to it as Brook-land, if nothing else to differentiate from Brooklyn.

    Most of my neighbors tend to say Brook-land, or at least seem too.

    That being said I do get mocked by a co-worker who grew up in petworth when I would refer to it as Brook-land.

  13. I too tend to prefer “Brook-land,” for the same Brooklyn differentiation. Since I’m only coming up on a year of living there, I am gratified to see that the Blog of Record for Brookland pronounces it the same way. ;)

  14. I know this isnt in DC but what about Braddock Road? Is it Brad-Dock (metro drivers say this all the time) or Brad-ick (most NoVa people pronounce it this way). Discuss :)

  15. Back to Brookland: I pronounce it Brook-land. However, the land part is said faster than Brook part. The ‘d’ is almost silent.

  16. Is it Mc-fear-son Square or Mc-fur-son Square? Metro drivers seem to prefer the latter; residents, the former.

  17. Pingback: Brookland Avenue » Blog Archive » How do you say it, Brook-land or Brook-lund? - All things Brookland

  18. Thank you A!

    That has been my go-to for telling people how to correctly pronounce my neighborhood.

    “Sure, man. Glow-ver Park. Hey, would you like to watch Lethal Weapon with Danny Glow-ver?”

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