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Column: This is how you pronounce Casas
Shannon Casas
Shannon Casas

When I got married almost 15 years ago, I traded the last name Rohrabaugh for Casas. It has half as many letters and seemed much easier to pronounce.

It’s certainly easy to spell when someone asks — you can do it all in one breath, just be careful to enunciate the S’s so they don’t sound like F’s — CASAS.

With Rohrabaugh, though, I spelled it ROHR-RABA-UGH. My mom often said ROH-R-A-BAUGH. Same thing either way, obviously, but I don’t have to put as much thought into spelling my name for folks these days.

Growing up, most people didn’t even attempt to say Rohrabaugh when reading it off a class roll or at some kind of award banquet. Those that did try butchered it many different ways. Every once in a while someone got it right and pleasantly surprised us.

It’s ROAR-uh-buh, though I’ve heard some say the right way is ROAR-uh-baw.

Casas seemed a no-brainer to me. I took Spanish in school and figured everyone knew casa is the Spanish word for house — as in “mi casa es su casa,” Spanish for “my house is your house.” If people do know the word casa, they have not connected that my last name is Spanish. 

One side of my husband’s family can be traced back to Texas and further back traced to Mexico, with many of the genealogical records coming from a Catholic church just across the border. His grandfather was born in Texas and his first language was Spanish.

One thing I like about the Spanish language is that it’s much easier to pronounce because the vowels always say the same thing. There’s no rule about the vowel saying its name when the word ends in e, for example ate vs. at. And never mind that you don’t pronounce that e at the end of ate at all. In Spanish A, E, I, O and U always say ah, eh, ee, oh and oo. So casas is CAH-sahs. Except for one thing. I don’t know how generations back pronounced the name, but I most often hear Cah-suhs. We English-speaking folks like to substitute the uh sound for lots of vowels, at least at the ends of our words. Just look back at ROAR-uh-buh. The original German was pronounced ROAR-bach, with that throaty, spitty sound at the end that I don’t know how to type with English letters and an ah sound just like the composer Bach.

Here are a few words ending with uh vowel sounds despite no presence of an uh: festival, what, professional. I don’t know if there’s a rule used in teaching reading that tells you when to sub in that uh sound.

That’s not the sound that gets subbed in when people mispronounce Casas, though. It’s often pronounced CA-sis like it almost rhymes with cat sits. Sometimes cay-sus or cay-sis. Neither of these is right. Again, it’s Casas, CAH-sus.

Of course plenty of people have issues with last name pronunciations.

My sister just got a new last name in October. It’s Weiner, like the hot dog, not whiner like a child who isn’t getting his way.

I don’t know how often people will mispronounce it, but I’ll stick with Casas over Weiner. I also understand why she went ahead and dropped the Rohrabaugh even when the other option was Weiner.

There was one advantage of Rohrabaugh, though, it always stood out.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.