Today in 1836, Arkansas became the 25th state in the Union.

It’s one of just a handful of states whose names sound different than they’re spelled.

And if you’re wondering why it’s pronounced Arkan-SAW instead of Ar-kansas, well, that’s what we’re here to explain.

The story starts with the people who lived in this area before the United States.

They called themselves the Quapaws, meaning “the people who live downstream.”

Native communities who spoke Algonkian referred to them by the word Akansa, which meant “south wind.”

That’s the name the French began using when they arrived in the 17th and 18th centuries.

But they ended up changing the word in a couple ways.

They added an R to Akansa, and then because it referred to a group of people, they added an S at the end, which in French you wouldn’t pronounce anyway.

And that’s where the modern spelling of Arkansas came from, though there were some attempts to spell the word with a W at the end so the letters would match the sounds.

It gets even more complicated when it comes to the pronunciation.

There’s not only the state of Arkansas, but also the state of Kansas.

They’re geographically close and spelled almost identically, but pronounced differently.

In 1881 the Arkansas Historical Society put together a pamphlet called “Fixing the Pronunciation of the Name Arkansas.”

It found that Kansas is pronounced KAN-sas because that’s a standard English way to say those syllables.

Arkansas had largely stuck with the hybrid pronunciation, though for a time the new state’s US Senators were introduced differently, one representing “Arkansaw” and the other hailing from “Arkansas,”

This, plus a dictionary entry that referred to the state as “Arkansas, formerly Arkansaw,” prompted state officials to make a resolution declaring that Arkansaw was the official way to say Arkansas.

But that doesn’t mean the name isn’t always cut and dried.

For example: what do you call someone who’s from Arkansas?

Depending on who you ask, Arkansan, or Arkansawyer.

And if that wasn’t enough, Walt Whitman apparently suggested the term “Arkansian.”

Today is the second day of the Le Mars, Iowa Ice Cream Days.

Le Mars has been home to a huge ice cream plant, so it calls itself the Ice Cream Capital of the World.

So the festival includes – what else – several ice cream socials.

How Did Arkansas Get its Name (Arkansas Secretary of State)

Why Arkansas Is Never Pronounced ‘Ar-Kansas’ (HowStuffWorks)

Le Mars, IA Ice Cream Days

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Photo by Stuart Seeger via Flickr/Creative Commons