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Say What? A Guide to Hard-to-Pronounce College Names

Laura Cobb January 20, 2022

Say What

I have a special place in my heart for correct name pronunciation. It all stems back to my younger days when my last name was ‘Begue.’ Growing up, I heard my name pronounced more ways than I can count – beh-GOO, behg-WAH, beeg, beige, bohg (not sure how they came up with that one…there's no 'o,' people!) – none of which were actually correct. Want to take a guess? 

It's pronounced ‘beg.’ As in, "I beg your pardon? Are you sure that's how it's pronounced?!" Yes, indeed it is. 

Of Course Yes GIF by Your Happy Workplace

Having gone through this experience, I now make a point to try to say names correctly. But try as I might, this sometimes doesn’t come easily in the world of college counseling. With over 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. alone, there are some pretty tricky names out there (we'll call them the ‘Begues’ of higher ed). To this day, I still have to consciously remind myself how to pronounce some of them. In an effort to help others in their pursuit of correct pronunciation, here’s a guide to ten of the most hard-to-pronounce college and university names.

Brandeis University: a private university in Waltham, Massachusetts ⇒ Is it BRAN-days, as in, “This is one of the days I eat bran?” Or perhaps it’s BRAN-dees, like, “My friend Brandy’s coming over tonight.” Actually, it’s neither. The correct pronunciation is BRAN-dise.

Earlham College: a private, liberal arts college in Richmond, Indiana ⇒ Given that Indiana is one of five U.S. states with the most pigs, you might think they’d pay homage by naming this school url-HAM. But as it turns out, there’s no swine shrine here. Instead, it’s pronounced UR-luhm.

Beloit College: a private, liberal arts college in Beloit, Wisconsin ⇒ French-speaking folks might be inclined to say bel-WAH, but to pronounce this college name correctly you’ll need to think ‘Detroit’ - buh-LOYT.
Fun fact: Belwah is actually an affectionate nickname for the college and can even be found written on the roof of a residence hall.

Bowdoin College: a private, liberal arts college in Brunswick, Maine ⇒ No ‘oy’ sound found here! It’s pronounced BOH-dyn.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: a private university in Troy, New York ⇒ This one’s particularly tricky, because the county surrounding the university is typically pronounced RENS-a-ler, whereas the university itself is pronounced rehn-suh-LEER.

Amherst College: a private, liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts ⇒ This one seems simple, but don't let it fool you! The 'h' is silent. It’s pronounced AM-erst.
Fun fact: You can sometimes spot t-shirts and stickers around campus with the saying: “Amherst—where only the ‘h’ is silent.” Both a pronunciation lesson and a tribute to their vibrant, outspoken community. 

Canisius College: a private college in Buffalo, New York ⇒ Sounds like ‘delicious?’ No, in fact the 'i' makes a long 'e' sound here. The correct pronunciation is cuh-NEE-shuss.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute: a private university in Worcester, Massachusetts ⇒ Pronounced WOOS-tah, WUH-staaaaa, WUH-stir, and even WIH-stir, depending on who you ask.
(Embarrassing admission: This particular school was my inspiration for this guide after having gone several years pronouncing it WOR-chester.)

Duquesne University: a private university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ⇒ This one truly just defies all logic. I mean, it clearly should be pronounced doo-KWES-neh! (I still silently say it this way in my mind when spelling it.) When saying it out loud, I perform a manual override of my brain to get my mouth to say doo-KAYN.

Union College: a private university in Schenectady, New York ⇒ clearly, ‘Union’ is not too difficult to say, but ‘Schenectady’ sure is! Turns out it’s pronounced skuh-NEHK-tuh-dee.

Now that you've mastered these names, check out the complete list of where our Estrela students have been admitted over the years and see if there are any others that stump you! We're betting on Bemidji State, Hiram, Muhlenberg and the University of Guelph. Good luck!

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Tagged: college admission, fun facts, college traditions

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