Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mackinaw vs. Mackinac - Spelling and Pronunciation

A reader recently inquired about the two different versions of spelling Mackinac/Mackinaw in Michigan place names. The following excerpt from a Joe Grimm article that appeared in the Detroit Free Press is a wonderful explanation for the variation in spelling and the proper pronunciation.

How do you say it? It ends in "awe," never "ack". Never, ever. Make Mackinac rhyme with Saginaw. Doesn't that sound nicer? If you simply MUST say "ack", you can call the bridge "The Big Mac." That's the only time you can say "ack".

So, what's with the spelling? Well, it's confusing. So, while we're at it, let's get the spelling right, too.

Mackinac Island
Mackinac Bridge
Straits of Mackinac
Fort Michilimackinac
Mackinaw City

Why the confusion? Blame the French. And the British. You can even blame the area's Native Americans. When Europeans got here (the French first), they picked up on all these words spoken by the local people and tried to write them down in their own language.

Are there other Mackinaw things? You bet. A mackinaw can also be cloth or coat made from thick woolen material, pronounced with an "awe."

What does Mackinac - or Mackinaw - even mean? Mackinac - and Mackinaw - are abbreviations for Michinnimakinong. Michinnimakinong is four words mashed together; mish-inni-maki-nong. In English they mean great connecting sound fault land or place. That, of course, is a good way to describe the Mackinac area.


Kathleen said...

Fascinating! And helpful. Thanks!

Melinda said...

Very interesting! I always wondered.

Jane said...

Ah, you said NEVER make it rhyme with Saginaw, but it does rhyme with that great Michigan city. It should never rhyme with hacky sack!

Laura Payne said...

Thank you. I believe there was a punctuation issue when I originally copied the excerpt from Joe Grimm's article. I have corrected it.

Ken Ingham said...

Wow, such confusion. My spell checker was driving me whacky! Thanks for the help.

KiAnnaFleur said...

Holy Mackinaw Joe! We had a fine day at Fort Michilimacknac in Mackinaw City. The view across the Straits of Mackinac is awe-inspiring, and aww fudge! but the Mackinac treat is purely delightful. I was awfully proud when Mike Rowe changed a lamp on the Mackinac Bridge right on national TV: Big Mike Rowe on Big Mack! I am looking forward to an awesome Ghost Hunters episode filmed on Mackinac Island. It was quite the "Aww shucks!" moment when Jason Hawes Tweeted, "Going to a place with no cars, in other words: Heaven." Awwww! How sweet!

P.S. Dear Jane, there is a period after "Never, ever."
"Make Mackinac rhyme with Saginaw" is a new sentence.

KiAnnaFleur said...

Well awww shoot! I didn't read your follow up to Jane's comment, Laura -- sorry about that!

Donna said...

@Jane. You have to read the sentences using the punctuation. The never ever refers to the sentence before it...Never ack. The sentence following stands alone: Make Mackinac rhyme with Saginaw.

Anna said...

Drives me nuts when people misspell it. It's a big pet peeve of mine.

Anonymous said...

You misread it completely. He said it DOES rhyme with Saginaw. :)

Anonymous said...

I was told by the people in the visitors center, that the city was spelled with a "w" because people couldn't seem to say "aw" when it's spelled "ac"

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