One of my first jobs after getting off the boat and headed the wrong way, was at a small Sheriffs Office working in dispatch. Over here Policing has three main visible arms, the local town police, she county Sheriff and the State Police. Then of course you have various Federal Law Enforcement, some in uniform, some not. As with anything, you are usually responsible to whoever signs the paycheck, so local Police Departments are controlled by the town, Sheriff Offices by the county government, and State by the State. In England which each local county has it’s own Police Force, they are all held to the same standard for training and discipline, over here you never know what training or experience any officer may have.
So anyway, I was working as a dispatcher, and was quickly on my own on night-shift as low seniority person, when no-other than the Sheriff himself made a traffic stop on his way home, and called in a registration for a check. Now my knowledge of American geography and history was pretty slim, I had not even heard of the State of Maine before I went there to work in college. In some ways this helped because I had not seen some town names written down before I heard them, so when I saw them written down I already new how to pronounce them. Towns like Bowdoin, Topsham, Allagash, Millinocket, Machias, Kennebec, Sagadahoc, Penobscot, Passadumkeag, Passamaquoddy, I had heard way before I had seen them written down. Then there are towns like Vienna, Madrid, Bremen, whose pronunciation I am familiar with from the European Geography, but bear no resemblance to the Maine pronunciation, but I would pride myself on handling the difficult names, strange pronunciations, without pause.
Then sometimes I am completely caught unawares. The Sheriff had stopped a car registered from somewhere I had heard of, but never seen written down. I was familiar with Kansas, after all, that was where Dorothy and Toto came from. But he called in on the radio with a registration check on a vehicle from “Ahhhhhhrkinsaaaww”. So I go look at the handy-dandy computerized drop-down window, with all of the states, but it is by abbreviation, not by pronunciation by a Mainer. Maine itself is ME, that always made sense to me, so does Florida – FL, some are less obvious, MT for Montana, NE for Nebraska, but what on earth do I choose for “Ahhhhhhrkinsaaaww”? I go through all of the A’s three times, nothing matches ‘Arkinsaw,’ I look through the whole list, nothing, by this time the Sheriff is asking if there is anything back on the plate, I tell him to wait, and purely out of desperation, choose Ar Kansas, and it works!
So to this day I think of Ar-Kansas when I hear the state. For an actual explanation of why Arkansas and Kansas are pronounced differently, try here