Dear Straight Dope:
Why on Earth is Arkansas pronounced "ark-an-SAW"?
SDStaff Mac and SDStaff Tech reply:
Because, unlike other states (Illinwaw, for instance), the original French pronunciation stuck.
Of course, as native Kansans will tell you, “Arkansas” is pronounced ahr-KAN-suz.
Seriously, Arkansas is a French variant of the Siouxian word Quapaw (also a tribe located in the area around the area where Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas almost meet, and, additionally, a town in northeastern Oklahoma, between Miami and Baxter Springs, Kansas). Quapaw means, literally, “downstream people.”
How the French got “Arkinsaw” from “Quapaw,” on the other hand, is a mystery to us.
Send questions to Cecil via firstname.lastname@example.org.
STAFF REPORTS ARE WRITTEN BY THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD, CECIL'S ONLINE AUXILIARY. THOUGH THE SDSAB DOES ITS BEST, THESE COLUMNS ARE EDITED BY ED ZOTTI, NOT CECIL, SO ACCURACYWISE YOU'D BETTER KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED.