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How do you pronounce the word "Appalachian?"

Oh dear, someone on the internet is wrong. This never happens! Well, it happens all the time, but there is one ongoing debate that I actually care deeply about: the pronunciation of the word Appalachian or Appalachia. Of course, if you live anywhere near me, you know the answer, but there are millions of people that don't, and sometimes even argue that saying it incorrectly is "no harm, no foul." I strongly disagree, and what follows is an example of the lengths I will go through in order to prove the point.

Wrong-On-The-Internet-Person writes, "It all depends what part of the country your from or what country the Appalachians span 16 states and 2 countries (Canada). 7 states pronounce it one way (southern) and 9 states and Canada pronounce it the other way so whose correct, clearly the south is in the minority. I grew up in the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania and the locals cringe when they hear a Southerner pronounce it. But since its regional dialect both are ok in my mind."

To which I replied...

This is where I request a formal debate of your logic. Should you be able to refute the statements in this comment, you win, and I'll no longer follow this issue around the internet as it is one of the few debates I actually care about.

Here is your argument:

1. The word "Appalachian" is spoken in two ways.

2. The ways they are spoken are divided (roughly) by region.

3. Both spoken ways are "acceptable" or "should be accepted" — there is "no harm" in accepting both, it is "OK" to speak it either way (although you make the conjecture that "majority rules" and therefore it's really "better" to go with the way you learned to speak it).

Hopefully you agree with these statements so far.

What seems clear is that the ORIGIN of the word has no bearing on your argument. The only origin that is relevant is the region it is spoken in. If the first time you hear it is one way, that's the right way.

This is the fundamental question — what is the origin of any word and any pronunciation? Should that matter in any regard or should we simply speak however we see fit and as long as we are understood, it's all good?

I'll argue on your behalf, with:

4. It does not matter how a word was spoken in the past. All that matters is how it is spoken in the present.

5. If a word was spoken one way in the past and a different way in the future, that is part of an "acceptable" form of the evolution of language.

The thrust of my counter argument, and my defeat of your logic is as follows: "It does not matter to you NOW how the word is spoken."

You see, it is the present tense that is so fundamental — the present tense that you claim is such an informative authority on the rightness or acceptableness of language pronunciation.

So let me tell you a very short story in order to frame my own point. During the Colombian revolution, the occupiers could never quite figure out the correct way to say the word "Francisco" no matter how hard they tried to blend in as spies and land-takers. A famous general once rounded up a bunch of suspects and asked them to loudly pronounce the word. Any true local easily expressed the subtlety. All the rest were summarily thrown into the river to drown.

Time and time again, history tells of of occupations and conquerors, where the locals know exactly how things are said and how to tell who is an outsider and who is an authenticlocal.

"The locals cringe when they hear Appalachia pronounced differently than they way they would speak it."

I assure you, there are times and places when it matters how you say a word, when it matters that you are in your homeland or you are an invader. And should you dare to actually ask and wonder, just for the sake of argument, would the origin of the word actually be a way to know who is the enemy? To know who — if they were there — would have sympathized with the Trail of Tears? Who still to this day believes as those Men did, who might just not have any sense of time or history or humanity?

So let me ask you this, if you can for a moment imagine something other than the NOW, what if, just for the sake of augment, you were helpless and staring at a sharp arrow notched in a tautly strung bow aimed straight at your throat, held in the very capable hands of a Cherokee and you were asked,

"How do you say the word A-p-p-a-l-a-c-h-i-a-n?" The letters spelled out carefully for your previously deaf ears...

I think we both know the answer.

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