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STATE NAMES

Why are the state names "Arkansas" and "Kansas" pronounced so differently?

According to editors at Merriam Webster Inc., the proper nouns "Arkansas" and "Kansas" derive from European spellings of the people who inhabited these areas, the Acansa and the Kansa Indians. The final "s" of both state names was originally the plural added to indicate that the words referred to a group of people (as we might, for example, refer to the "Apaches" or the "Hurons"). The plural "s" is prounounced in English but not in French, and the French settlers of the Arkansas territory would not have pronounced it in the territory's name, though they used it in the spelling. It is an accident of history that the official name of the territory came to be spelled with that silent final "s." In the case of "Kansas," on the other hand, the final "s" was for some reason pronounced, and so the name comes down to us with a spoken "s."Etymologists are not certain of the meanings of "Acansa" and "Kansa" in the native languages. The name "Acansa," however, was used by the Illinois tribe to refer to the Quapaw tribe. The Quapaw did not use the name themselves, and it is doubtful that it was a complimentary epithet.