"They call Los Angeles the City of Angels," said The Stranger in the film "The Big Lebowski," using the pronunciation “Loss-AN-guh-lus.” (United Archives, via Alamy)

The city of … ‘AHNG hayl-ais’? How L.A.’s pronunciation evolved

For part of the 20th century, a common pronunciation of Los Angeles used a hard G, as in “dangle” or “sangria.”

Various pronunciations of the city had been competing for prominence since its founding in 1781. In the early 1900s, the Los Angeles Times felt so strongly about the correctness of a Spanish pronunciation that it included a daily reminder under its masthead: “Pronounced Loce-AHNG hayl-ais.”

The Los Angeles Times masthead from a 1909 edition included a pronunciation guide.

But as Midwesterners poured into California, the historian D.J. Waldie told LAist, “they had no patience trying to twist their tongues” around Spanish sounds. Pronunciations along the lines of “Loss-AN-guh-lus” and “Loss-AN-guh-leez” entered the parlance.

In 1934, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names sought to settle the matter with a decree affirming an Anglicized “Loss AN-ju-less.” Mortified, the Times predicted the East Coast bureaucrats would next declare that San Joaquin should become “San JOK-kin.”

But the newspaper was fighting a losing battle. In 1952, Mayor Fletcher Bowron impaneled a jury of local experts to decide the city’s official pronunciation, once and for all. “Loss An-ju-less” won the day.

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Hear Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty call it “Loss-AN-guh-lus” in 1968. 👉 YouTube

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