El Lay

My rant about “Silver Lake” and a subsequent conversation with Nicholas reminded me of some old struggles over how to pronounce “Los Angeles.” A series of fights that involved rival car dealers and a separate fight between the Los Angeles Times and the east coast.

Back in the 1920s, the Los Angeles Times promoted the Spanish “Loce Ahng-hail-ais” pronunciation, even printing the Spanish phonetic pronounciation below the editorial page masthead. The popular pronunciation was the anglicized “Loss An-je-les,” and when the U.S. Geographic Board officially recognized that pronunciation in 1934, the Times was outraged, complaining that the pronunciation made the city “sound like some brand of fruit preserve” and intimated that Easterners were plotting to remove Spanish pronunciations all along the west coast and that “Sandy Ego,” “San Joce,” and “San Jokkin” were next.

Meanwhile, the rivalry between Packard dealer and NBC broadcast station magnet Earle Anthony and Cadillac dealer and CBS broadcast station magnet Don Lee spilled over into pronunciation. The NBC stations (KFI and KECA) used the common “Loss An-je-les” pronunciation, however Don Lee insisted on a hard-G pronunciation for KHJ announcers: “Los ANG-less.” Lee died of a heart attack in the 1930s, but the hard-G pronunciation continued to be used through the late 1940s.

You can sort-of hear the early KHJ pronunciation in the 1931 aircheck file at the top of this page.

2011-07-15 update: The LA Times looks back at the different pronunciations.

Author: Chris Barrus

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