Fife OAP in Pittsburgh campaigns for US city to be pronounced Scottish way

A PENSIONER is campaigning for residents in the US city of Pittsburgh to be made to pronounce it the Scottish way.

Downtown Pittsburgh from Duquesne Incline. Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Dllu/CC BY-SA 4.0

Robert Thomson, 76, is fuming that people living in the city in Pennsylvania have been mispronouncing the name for centuries.

Mr Thomson, originally from Dunfermline, Fife, emigrated to Pittsburgh more than 30 years ago but has grown exasperated at hearing the name pronounced wrongly and considers it a slight to his roots.

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Locals pronounce the name as 'Pitts-burg' but the OAP insists this is wrong and it should be pronounced 'Pitts-burra'.

Pittsburgh, known as America's 'Steel City', was founded in 1758 by a Scot, General John Forbes, also from Dunfermline, and named by him in honour of former British Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder.

Mr Thomson is lobbying local politicians on the the issue and earlier this month gave a speech at a meeting of the city council.

He said: "The spelling is right but you are pronouncing it the wrong way, you are pronouncing it the German way.

"It's ridiculous. The town was created by the Scottish people from my hometown in 1758.

"Twenty years after that there was a lot of Germans came here and they pronounced it 'burg' rather than 'burra' like how Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is pronounced.

"Burg is the German name for town whereas burra is the Scottish name for town.

"The spelling was created by the Scottish many, many years ago and it is how they would have pronounced it.

"I would like to see this corrected. You all speak the British language so you should be pronouncing it the way I'm telling you."

Mr Thomson, a retired electrical company worker, says he has told hundreds of people in the city over the years how to pronounce it properly to no avail.

The city council have said they will consider his comments and he has won backing from one politician.

Councilman Anthony Coghill, who has Scottish ancestry, said: "My Scottish roots kind of got me into this.

"He’s very passionate about it, and I’m not sure of all his reasons. I said, ‘Why don’t you come down and publicly speak?’ Obviously he’s on a mission."

Andy Masich, president of the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, said: “I think the real answer to this is, do we want to go down this road?

“If we really want to go back and figure out the language of origin and figure out how it was originally pronounced, we’re going to open a can of worms.

"Pittsburghers have such a deep history of mispronouncing things, why change now?”

General Forbes was born on his family's Pittencrieff Estate in Dunfermline in 1707, the son of an army officer.

In 1758, he led an expedition to capture the French stronghold of Fort Duquesne, which later became Pittsburgh.