One of the quickest ways to "out" yourself as being "from away" is to travel to a place and mispronounce its name.

It's easy enough to do in a state like Maine, which has dozens of geographic names with foreign spellings and pronunciations. And with thousands of tourists set to visit Maine -- and Acadia National Park --  this summer we figured it would be helpful to prevent a travel travesty by letting folks know the correct way to say Mount Desert Island. Is it Mount Des-ert Mount Des-ert?


Widely debated for centuries, one of the best explanations I have seen for the valid vernacular comes to us by way of a blog.

According to All Things Maine, there's a history behind how the name is supposed to be said. Quoting an argument from the late 1800s, the piece proposes the correct pronunciation stems from French navigator and explorer, Samuel de Champlain's description of this lonely island:

"We have seen that Champlain called the place the "Isle of the Desert Mountains," and from this, doubtless, it came to be called Mount Desert. The French words for this name are Mont Desert the last word pronounced as though written 'dezer'... It is true Champlain did not call the Island a desert, only its mountains, but the words 'Mount Desert' or 'Desert Mount,' convey the meaning intended by him, and the word Desert with the accent on the first syllable used in its ordinary sense of solitary, unfilled, uninhabited, is part of the name. "

Chris Popper
Chris Popper

Based on that, Mount Des-ert became the widely accepted pronunciation, and it was adopted by the Maine Historical Society. In fact, if you call the Mount Desert Island Historical Society after hours, the friendly recorded voice on the other end says "Des-ert."

Not that anyone's going to call you out for it if you happen to choose to put the accent on the other syllable. In fact, many locals emphasize the second syllable, i.e. Des-ert, like something you eat after dinner.  We're told it's about 50-50.

Either way, you'll be fine. It's not like you're saying Bang-er instead of Bang-or, or Cal-ay instead of Cal-ais.

But, for this debate, it's officially Mount Des-ert. That's what the historians say, anyway.

But, hey, to each his own. Take our poll below.

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