Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify the pronunciation of Camarillo.
California has been a state or territory of three countries in the previous 200 years, and for thousands of years it has been the home of Native Americans, all of which has resulted in a mix of city, county and place names coming from different languages.
Of Native origin, it is used in a county name as well as for the Tuolumne River. It might be tempting to pronounce the “n” in Tuolumne, but it’s actually silent and pronounced as too-aw-luh-mee.
According to the county’s historical society, “Tuolumne is translated by some as a Me-Wuk word “Talmalamne” meaning a cluster of stone dwellings.”
The city of Camarillo got its name from the family who owned the ranch that eventually became the city. Camarillo is a Spanish name, so make sure to pronounce the two l’s as a y, as in kah-ma-ree-yo.
The Santa Barbara County city adjacent to Vandenberg Space Force Base is often butchered by non-locals. Despite looking easy enough to pronounce, the ‘poc’ at the end is what usually trips people up. It’s not “pock,” but rather “poke.” Tell your friends if they ever want to catch a rocket launch on the Central Coast, be sure to stop in lom-poke.
The San Diego-area city is also Spanish in origin. While some may pronounce the “j” in English, as in the word ‘joy,’ the name of the city is pronounced law-hoy-a.
Another city that has the double-L carried over from the Spanish language. Vallejo occasionally gets pronounced va-le-jo (with the second syllable similar in sound to ‘leg’), but it’s also pronounced va-yeh-ho.
It might be tempting to pronounce it as swee-sun, but if you’ve ever been on BART in the Bay Area, you might have heard the correct pronunciation: suh-soon.
A Native American word, this National Park has one of the names with more variations and a very unique and mysterious origin.
Although some may mispronounce the name with three syllables, as in yoh-se-might, the more correct way is with four syllables, as in yoh-seh-mih-tee. You may even hear some people pronounce the first syllable as in ‘you.’
San Luis Obispo
Home to the Cal Poly Mustangs, the county and city bear the name that translates to “St. Louis the bishop.” Don’t pronounce the middle part of the name like King Louie or Louise, the youngest of Bob Belcher’s children. Think more like comedian Lewis Black or the second largest city in Missouri: san loo-iss oh-biss-poe. Locals will usually just call it SLO, aka, “slow.”
Another SLO County entry with a bit of a divisive pronunciation methodology. The town’s full name is El Paso de Robles, which is Spanish and translates to “The Pass of Oaks.” The Spanish pronunciation would have you say pa-sow row-bless, but locals tend to pronounce the last bit more like “row bowls.” Either way is fine, though.
The small Ventura County city, known for its hotels and scenery, is pronounced oh-hai, similar to how you would say hello to someone as soon as you spot them (oh, hi!).
As one Creedence Clearwater Revival fan noted on Facebook, it’s not “Oh Lord, I’m stuck in (lo-dee) again.” For this city’s name, it’s pronounced low-dye!
Although a more “correct” way of pronouncing it would be as it is pronounced in Spanish, tooh-la-reh, it is commonly pronounced in English as too-lair-ee.