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Popular Place Names You’ve Probably Been Pronouncing Wrong

Listen, nobody’s asking you to sound like Alex Trebek saying “salon.” But if you want to see certain Parisian landmarks, you might want to try for at least a trace of French pronunciation—even if slightly Americanized—in case you need to ask for directions.

The name of the showstopping Avenue des Champs-Élysées that connects the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe (pictured above) should come out, more or less, as SHAHNZ-eh-lee-ZAY.

Elegant, town house–lined Place des Vosges in the Marais district was known as Place Royale until the French Revolution, when the square was renamed to honor France’s Vosges region—the first in the country to pay taxes in support of the revolutionary army. Blame them for making you learn to say PLAHS-deh-VOHZH. The end of the word should sound like the start of Doctor Zhivago’s last name. Come to think of it, a revolution gave him trouble, too. 

The hill and bohemian neighborhood of Montmartre has not one but two tricky French Rs toward the end of its name. Unless you learn to speak French like a native, you’re not likely to master the pronunciation, but mone-MAR-truh should get the job done. For the neighborhood’s hilltop basilica of Sacré-Coeur, SAK-reh-CUR will do. 

Finally, Louis XIV’s over-the-top Palace of Versailles located just west of Paris should sound something like ver-SIGH. We can only permit ver-SALES if you’re trying to be funny.