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This week, students began classes at Gallaudet University, the nation’s preeminent school for the deaf, and probably the most mispronounced institution in the city.
Yes, little acknowledged fact about Gallaudet—-nearly everyone (hearing people included) says the name incorrectly.
So, your friends pronounce it this way. And your boss. And the people that mention it on the street. That still doesn’t make it right.
It’s not Gal-yoo-det. It is Gal-luh-det.
“I usually try to correct people,” says Karen Evans from the university’s public relations office. Evans, who has worked at Gallaudet for roughly six months, says that she mispronounced the name during her first week or two on the job. She majored in deaf studies in college, but says that she “knew about Gallaudet for a long time before I ever heard it spoken.”
Gallaudet is located in Northeast D.C., off of Florida Avenue, wedged between Eckington and Trinidad. As of fall 2007, the university’s student population was 1,633, including undergraduate and graduate students.
In a way, the mispronunciation makes complete sense: “It’s because people who are in charge aren’t running around correcting how hearing people talk,” says Judy Termini, associate professor of communications, and Director of the First Year Experience, who has worked at the university for 33 years (and, disclosure, is a family friend).
“People who work here, who are hearing, pronounce it correctly. But we don’t do a lot of voice talking on campus,” she says. “You can’t mispronounce the sign. There’s only one sign.”
But, can she provide absolute irrefutable proof that her way isn’t the flawed way?
“How do I know it’s right? I don’t know,” she says, then directs me to the university’s public relations office. Right there, on the department’s webpage, there’s a link entitled “Commonly Mispronounced Names.” Number two reads: “Gallaudet – gal”udet’ or [gal-luh-det]”