It seems that back in the early history of Arkansas there were debates and arguments about how to pronounce the Natural State.

Is it Ar-Can-Saw or Ar-Kanz-Ahs? Why is Kansas pronounced so differently from Arkansas? In Kansas, they even pronounce the Arkansas River as the Ar-Kan-zhas river.

Where Does the Name Arkansas Come From?

Amazon, Anley Store
Amazon, Anley Store
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Both Kansas and Arkansas were inspired by the name of a native American tribes in the area the Quapaws and the Kansa.

According to sos.arkansas.gov:

The Quapaws, or OO-GAQ-Pa, were also known as the “people who live downstream,” or UGAKHOPAG. The Algonkian-speaking Indians of the Ohio Valley called them the Arkansas, or “south wind”.

 

Arkansas map with pin - Canva
Arkansas map with pin - Canva
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Why is the 'kansas' in Arkansas Pronounced Different Than Kansas the State?

The pronunciation of the two states basically boils down to the English and French settlers in America. In the state of Arkansas, we say it with the French influence. Yes, you heard right.

The English influenced the way we say Kansas. But the French don't pronounce the 's' at the end of a word so that is why we pronounce it Arksasaw. By the way, the Arkansas area or territory was also at one time spelled Akansea (in the 1600s), then Acansa, Arkansaw and finally Arkansas.

There Was a Big Debate on How to Pronounce Arkansas

Debate concept
Brad Calkins
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Even though Arkansas became a state in 1836, there was always a debate about how to pronounce it. Two senators from the state were always in so much disagreement about the pronunciation that in 1881 while officials were putting together the official state motto and nickname, they also decided to agree on an 'official' pronunciation.

the state’s General Assembly passed resolution 1-4-105 declaring that the state’s name should be spelled “Arkansas” but pronounced “Arkansaw”

 

Is it Really Against the Law to Pronounce Arkansas Wrong?

Justice is served
james steidl
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So, yes it actually is against the law to pronounce Arkansas wrong. The good thing is even though it may irritate or offend some people, it is not a criminal offense. It is interesting to note that Arkansas is the only state in the U.S. that put it in the state books for correct pronunciation. I guess the state officials back in 1881 were pretty serious about it and wanted to make sure everyone else took it seriously too.

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