Ever since we opened the Spectrum Scientifics store in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia, we have carried Orion Telescopes. They are good quality telescopes and they stand behind their products. But in the Philadelphia region, we have noticed something rather odd. Say the word ‘Orion’ out loud. You probably said it ‘Oh-Rye-on’ if you are like 98% of the US population.
But in the Philadelphia region, you might not pronounce it that way. It was something we noticed in the store almost from day one. For some odd reason people in this region prefer to pronounce it “Ore-ee-on”. The reason for this, we could not understand.
Philadelphians certainly have their accent. We pronounce ‘Water’ as ‘wudder’ and the PA region is sometimes fond of pronouncing “creek” as “crick”. Accent quirks are certainly not unknown to us. But there is no follow through here. Changing water to wudder, of saying ‘jeet’ in place of ‘Did you eat?’ doesn’t make Orion turn into a different word.
Now Orion, despite being one of the most recognizable constellations in the sky (and one of the few that looks like what it is supposed to be) is not a familiar word to most people. But a sample survey of Facebook friends found that most who knew about the constellation (or should know about it) pronounced it normally. But still whenever we were called by a perspective local telescope buyer they would ask “Do you carry the…Ore-ee-un Observer 70?’. This pronunciation seems to happen anywhere else in the country. We could not figure out why this happened.
Then it struck us. The problem lies with Philly media culture. In fact, the ‘blame’ may lie with this woman:
What this woman is talking about is not relevant to this blog post. What is important is who she is. She is Orien Reid Nix, a prominent consumer reporter for channel 10 news for many years. Here name, at least in the Philadelphia region, is pretty much a household name. She has been a reporter in the Philadelphia region for decades, her first name, Orien, is actually pronounced “Ore-eeh-un”, and it is unusual enough that it wuold stick with most people’s memory So with that in mind an average person in the Delaware Valley would probably default to the pronunciation of her name based on their cultural memory as there is but one letter difference between Orien Reid Nix and Orion Telescopes.
So there you have it. Thanks to the fame of a local reporter an entire region has trouble pronouncing the name of a constellation and telescope company!