It’s Jaguars. Easy. Right? Well, hold on a minute.
Paul, a WJCT News 89.9 listener from St. Johns County, wrote us Monday to say he heard the name of the team mispronounced on-air, which resurfaced a long-running debate. Is the proper pronunciation "jag-wahrs" or "jag-wires?"
Pronunciation has always been an issue with the team, according to Cole Pepper, who is a sports anchor and reporter at News4Jax, a WJCT News partner.
"If you go back to the early days of the franchise, 1995-1996, there were folks nationally who would say 'jag-wires',” Pepper previously told WJCT News. “At the time, it was very important for the organization to create awareness of the brand. And so there were conversations had, and emails sent out and letters sent to talk about the pronunciation, and that it was 'jag-wahrs' and not 'jag-wires'.”
The word jaguar is believed to have originated with tribes in the Amazon centuries ago, so "jag-wahr" is most likely the correct pronunciation as well as the preferred one. So, where does "jag-wire" come from? According Josef Fioretta, linguistics professor at Hofstra University, it all has to do with vowels.
“Long story short, vowels are not stable in the mouth," Fioretta previously told WJCT News. “There’s a rotation of the vowels, of monophthongs and single vowel sound diphthongs to vowel sounds. So the transition from the ‘wahr’ to the ‘wire’ is not so far.”
However, Fioretta said that vowels aren’t the only culprit.
“Also the word ‘wire’. They know that a word exists like that as well. I mean there’s an actual word," he said. "And then it sticks and that’s basically what’s happening in a nutshell.”
Fioretta also points to a disconnect between the word people have seen on paper, and the one that comes out of their mouths.
Ask Cole Pepper and he’ll tell you it doesn’t really matter how you pronounce it.
“I’m fairly certain that the way the people on the street are pronouncing the team name has very little to do with the ability of the team to convert a third down or score in the red zone. So I think as far as the team’s concerned, as long as you’re buying tickets and showing up to the games, you can call them whatever you want," he said.
You can follow Cyd Hoskinson on Twitter @cydwjctnews.