Letters: Cuyahoga River

A rest to the controversy over the pronunciation of Northeast Ohio's Cuyahoga River. Melissa Block and Robert Siegel read from listeners' e-mails.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Finally this hour, it's time for your letters - a clarification, sort of. We aired a story yesterday from reporter Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland marking the 40th anniversary of the day a once-polluted river caught fire. It's how he and I pronounced the name of that river that got us into hot water. Here's how we said it yesterday.

DAN BOBKOFF: The story about the burning Cuyahoga became an environmental rallying cry.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Cuyahoga. Well, Jo Ellen Ross(ph) in Philadelphia was just one of many listeners who wanted to set us straight. She writes, egads, I'm listening to the segment on the Cuyahoga River, and as someone who grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio along said river, I am horrified at how your reporters are pronouncing Cuyahoga. It is not Cuyahoga.

BLOCK: To all of you out there who are firmly in the Cuyahoga camp, rest assured we did our due diligence. The story's editor, Ken Barcus, insisted on the hog-a pronunciation yesterday, and he stands by it. He lives in Cuyahoga County. He's not alone. We took an informal survey this morning. And among those who agree that it is hog-a are the county archives, the county department of central services and the county sheriff's office.

SIEGEL: But among the pro-hogas are the Western Reserve Historical Society, the county public library and the office of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. We also called the county's three commissioners, and guess what? Two say hog-a and one says hoga.

And for the last word, or a last word, I'm joined by Connie Schultz. She's a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Hi, Connie.

Ms. CONNIE SCHULTZ (Columnist, Cleveland Plain Dealer): Hi, Robert, how are you?

SIEGEL: Fine. What do you say?

Ms. SCHULTZ: I say hoga.

SIEGEL: Hoga.

Ms. SCHULTZ: And I did my own little informal survey in anticipation is when I got a call this morning your - one of your people, your intern Margaret. And I also set it up on Facebook. I put up the question - are you on Facebook, Robert?

SIEGEL: No, I'm not, actually. No.

Ms. SCHULTZ: Oh, Robert. Come one, get with it. Get on it - friend me. We're going to have talks, okay?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SCHULTZ: So, I put it up there and I said, so what do you call it? I loved - a woman named Lori Garrett(ph) said that she was taught hog-a, and her high school English teacher taught them this little ditty to remember it: A disgusting man asked a woman to dinner and she responds, see you, ya hog, ya. And she said she never forgot that it was Cuyahoga.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Now, then I also heard from Darren Toms, a radio guy here in Cleveland, he said he always pronounced it hoga, and he said it was Seneca Indian for winter is going to suck the life out of you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SCHULTZ: So, obviously, they were not taking my question very seriously, although, it did seem to split along regional lines, to some extent. It seems like those who grew up - you know, the Cuyahoga River splits us in many ways, not just literally - and we've had fights for decades and decades. I see the gentleman sitting across from me nodding his head. It just divides the city.

SIEGEL: Cleveland, the river runs through it.

Ms. SCHULTZ: That's exactly right. In fact, I just drove over that river. I lived on the east side for many years. Now I live on the west side. On the west side they tend to say hog-a more. On the east side they tend to say hoga more. And frankly, with all - I'm so surprised you got all three commissioners to answer your question because we have this huge scandal going on right now in Cuyahoga County.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SCHULTZ: So, here's what I'm thinking - since we seem to mostly call it Cuyahoga, we need new ideas. Let's start and rename - let's call it Cuyahoga, honor the Indians that we stole the land from, and start all over again.

SIEGEL: What a great idea. Connie Schultz, always a pleasure.

Ms. SCHULTZ: Thank you, Robert. Good to talk to you.

SIEGEL: That's columnist Connie Schultz of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who lives in, let's just say, Cleveland.

BLOCK: If you say tomato and we say tomato, please send us an email. You can go to npr.org and click on Contact Us.

As for Cuyahoga or hog-a, I think we're done with that one.

(Soundbite of song, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off")

Mr. LOUIS ARMSTRONG (Musician): (Singing) Let's…

Ms. ELLA FITZGERALD (Musician): (Singing) Let's call the whole thing off.

Mr. ARMSTRONG: (Singing) …call the whole thing off. Yeah.

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