Talking Like a Local
by Carol Dunn
It’s easy for the locals to spot us “come-lately” residents. All they have to do is get us to say Pueblo. It’s a dead giveaway. If you’re a linguistic perfectionist, you’ve got a lot of compromising to do on this one. If you cannot force your tongue and lips to say it the “local” way, you will forever be branded a foreigner (being from Denver or California). It’s your choice.
The first time I heard the term “Pee-eblo” was about twenty years ago. A rancher from Timpas introduced me to this unique local dialect. Then another from La Junta (La Hunna). I fought it – with every molecule in my body I fought it. It made my skin crawl. It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Every time I said Pueblo, I enunciated it very clearly (Poo-eh-blo), with the hope that the locals would see the error of their ways. What was I thinking? That someone from Pennsylvania could teach a local how to say a local word? Talk about an exercise in futility – or more precisely, traveling the road to insanity. Eventually Pee-eblo became a part of my memory bank. I could accept it, like listening to a Briton say tomato (toh-mah-toe), but I could NOT say it. I tried, but I ended up spitting afterward, like I had just taken a bite of apple and found half a worm. Ok, so I got used to hearing it.
And then, the unimaginable happened. I heard someone else say Pueblo, but it came out Pwee-eblo. Pwee-eblo? Ever hear Pleb-lo? Oh PUH-leese! How many variations of this must we suffer through? Your honor, can we get a ruling on this?
How about La Veta? Isn’t it supposed to be pronounced La Vay-ta? Purgatoire? Purga-twa-ray. In some circles, Buena Vista is Byoona-vista.
We live on the Cucharas River. It comes from Cuchara. Does that mean it is actually Cuchara’s River? I’ve noticed this “s” phenomenon, but I’ve tried not to let it get to me. For instance the spelling of the restaurant Alys’ – no foreigner knew how to say it, it was a setup. But the locals were thankfully very patient with us. I know I wasn’t the only one who called it Allees. There’s Safeway’s, Carl’s, Cliff Brice’s – grin and bear its.
The bottom line is, as my sister used to tell me (and it really irritated me when she said it) “shut your ears.” I guess it just rubs you the wrong way when your sister tells you that. But in this case, she’s right. The word Pueblo belongs to southern Colorado, and the locals can say it any way they want to.