TWO Harbors or Two HARbors? It's a debate to the FinnishIf you saw my discussion about TWO Harbors versus Two HARbors in Sunday’s Duluth News Tribune, this conversation’s a little different. To find out why, you’ll have to stay to the end.
By: Robin Washington, Lake County News Chronicle
If you saw my discussion about TWO Harbors versus Two HARbors in Sunday’s Duluth News Tribune, this conversation’s a little different. To find out why, you’ll have to stay to the end.
Or to the Finnish.
For those who didn’t see it, here’s the debate: Whether the Lake County seat is pronounced TWO Harbors or Two HARbors. At the candidates forum on Oct. 18, incumbent Mayor Randy Bolen put the accent on the HAR while challenger City Councilor Mary Henjum Rosati hit the TWO.
I’d heard that distinction for years, enough to formulate a vague theory: that “TWO Harbors” (as opposed to three, or just one) is spoken more by people farther north in the county while “Two HARbors” is favored in the south.
That idea got a scintilla of support when Two Harbors City Council candidates Robin Glaser and Cathy Erickson both said Two HARbors, while George Pope of Silver Bay went the other route.
“TWO Harbors,” he said on the phone without prompting. “I think all the people that live here in Silver Bay call it that.”
Ditto for three co-workers of Verna Sinderman, our intrepid correspondent from Finland.
“TWO Harbors,” said Jennfier Vanhouse and Heidi Ellefson, both from the Finland area, and Beth Smuk of Silver Bay.
And so too for Greg Hull of Silver Creek, except he changed his answer when his wife told him he didn’t really talk that way.
That didn’t explain why there were Two Harbors natives like Rosati who accented the TWO — until Linda Kirchmaier wrote to tell of another demographic I hadn’t considered.
“The question to ask is whether the person stating the name is of Finnish heritage or grew up around Finnish people,” she emailed.
“An idiom or nuance of the Finnish language is to place the accent on the first syllable of a proper noun or name. I grew up in the DEtroit Lakes/PARK Rapids area among my family of Finnish descent and immigrant grandparents. When I was with people of another heritage I noticed they said DeTROIT Lakes or Park RAPids. Same with Detroit, Mich.,” said Kirchmaier, nee Laine, a Finnish name pronounced roughly “La-eye-nee.”
“There are no silent letters in the Finnish language,” she wrote.
Karl Aho of TWO Harbors, as he put it, concurred wholeheartedly.
“DETroit Lakes. Yeah. And my dad often went to MOOSie LAKie,” he said. “The accent is on the first syllable always. And every letter is pronounced.”
For an expert, Kirchmaier suggested Margaret Webster of Tamarack, Minn., an author and historian of all things Finnish.
Turns out she’d been practicing.
“TWO HARBors,” Webster said, throwing yet another accented syllable on the linguistic fire to explain that some compound words and phrases get the emphasis on the first and second words.
“I was experimenting with that after I read your article,” she said. “They definitely put the emphasis on the (TWO and the) HARB.”
That’s not what I wanted to hear, and frankly, I’d never heard it that way, though at this point, every possible variation is banging around my head.
Which leads back to Rosati, who was born and raised in the Agate City, grew up in the same part of town as Bolen and lives near him today (though Rosati had an absence of 30 years). And, it turns out, isn’t descendent from Finns.
“No, I’m Norwegian,” she said. “A Norwegian married to an Italian. So that blows that theory out of the water.”
I guess it does. The water, by the way, is Agate and Burlington bays.
You know, the Tw— oh, never mind.
Robin Washington is supervising editor of the News-Chronicle.