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Gonzaga: Say it loud, say it proud, but say it right

We’ve all been there before. Sitting in our favorite chair, just minutes before the tipoff of a nationally televised Gonzaga basketball game. Our favorite tasty beverage within arm’s reach.

Then the announcer says it.

Wait. Did he really just say Zaw-Guh? As in Gun Zaw Guh?

It’s hard when you hear it at home. Grates on your nerves worse than fingernails on a chalkboard.

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But you should hear it in a packed bar, like the way 24 Taps in downtown Spokane was on Saturday as the Bulldogs played their way into the school’s first Final Four.

The crowd would groan collectively each time the TBS broadcast crew mispronounced the name of our local university … even yelling the correct pronunciation, nearly in unison.

A winning basketball team can really bring a community together, almost as much as saying its name incorrectly can.

It almost would make a great drinking game. Every time a national television announcer says Zaw Guh, you take a drink. Except we’d all be hammered by halftime.

We shouldn’t take it personally.

Well at least not until a message from the mayor of Phoenix welcoming us to his hometown for the biggest game in the Zags’ history makes the same mistake. He did.

Or Lester Holt.

Yep, on Monday evening’s “NBC Nightly News,” the snappiest-dressed national news anchor with the best nonregional dialect you’ve ever heard, said the name of our school in a way that made my heart drop faster than the water currently rushing down the Spokane Falls.

Since moving to Spokane in August, one of my favorite things is to ask people from here how to pronounce things. And Gonzaga is at the top of the list.

It’s running about 50-50 on the first part. Is it Gone or Gun? Even in our newsroom, it’s split.

I spent some time with members of the Zags basketball team a few weeks ago. The interviews were recorded, so I went to the tape. Even they’re split if you listen to how they actually say it. Not on the Zag part. They nail that part. It’s that first syllable that fluctuates.

The official pronunciation, straight from Gonzaga University’s “Facts & Figures” page is clear.

Gone - ZAG (as in “bag”) - uh.

That’s an exact quote. And I love it.

One of the best tricks someone told me when I first arrived was that listening to how someone pronounces the name of our city on the telephone is an easy way to tell if you’ve been called by a telemarketer.

If the person on the other end says Spoh-Cane, you know you’re talking to someone you don’t need to continue having a conversation with.

Or you’ve been called by a national broadcaster.

Makes you want them to try to pronounce Przemek Karnowski, doesn’t it?

But until they learn the right way to say Gonzaga, we in Spokane will sit in our favorite comfy chairs and yell at our TVs in unison.

It’s Zags. Not Zawgs.




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