Date: Mon, 21 Feb 1994 20:39:23 -0600


Subject: Houston

The question of the origins of Houston had come up before on the Linguist list

as a side issue to the discussion of differences between /yust[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]n/ and /hyust[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]n

pronunciations. According to Norval Smith:

The funny thing is that the place that is ultimately the source of

the name Houston - whether the place in Texas gets its name from Sam

Houston or not - Houston in Renfrewshire, Scotland, is pronounced

[hust[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]n]. It is a Scots name, hoose (i.e. "house") + toon t[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]n (i.e.

"town" (actually rather "settlement")).

And Rosta of the U.K. wrote:

I have always pronounced _Houston_ as if the first syllable is that

of _who_ rather than that of _hue_. I wasn't arguing about URs in any

theoretical sense. There may be a British/American difference here.

Webster's 3rd lists /(h)yu:st[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]n/ - which conforms to your

expectations. _Houston_, being a proper noun, isn't in the OED or

other British Dictionaries I have to hand. But both Webster & OED

have _houstonia_, named after a scottish botanist. Webster gives

/(h)yu:'stouni[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]/, with alternatives /hu:-/ and /hau-/, but OED has

only /hU'st[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]Uni[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]/ (I reinterpret OED 1st edition pronunciation into

more conventional form). I've asked three other English people with

non- regional accents, and they all say _Houston_ with 1st syllable

as in _who_.

I hope those who wrote to the lInguist list in 1991 do not object to my

requoting their words; I found them most interesting.


Peter Gingiss PJGingiss[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Department of English (713) 743-2947

University of Houston

Houston, Texas 77204-3012