'me-hear-ons' or 'me-hyur-ons'? How to pronounce the name of a beloved central Vermont market
Noah Waxman of Starksboro asked us to settle a regional debate involving a market in central Vermont that’s been around for more than 80 years.
Brave Little State is the show where you, the audience, ask us questions about Vermont. And we try to find the answers.
One of the most common genres of questions we get has to do with local dialect and pronunciation. Today, we hone in on the pronunciation of a beloved central Vermont institution: Mehuron’s Supermarket.
Note: Our show is made for the ear! We recommend pressing play on the audio posted here. We also provide a written version of the episode below. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
(parking lot sounds)
Josh Crane: I’m working on an episode of Brave Little State…
Brooke Haynes: Sure.
Josh Crane: …about this store. And, specifically, how you pronounce the name of it…
Brooke Haynes: (big laugh)
Josh Crane: This is Brooke Haynes, who I intercepted in a crowded parking lot on her way to the car. She just emerged from a market in Waitsfield, and she’s laughing because I’ve asked her a question she’s often asked herself: How do you pronounce the name of this store?
Brooke Haynes: (laughing)
Josh Crane: If you were to give it a stab, what would you say?
Brooke Haynes: me-“hair”-ons? Me-me-“hear”-ons?
Josh Crane: It’s spelled like this: M-E-H-U-R-O-N-S.
Brooke Haynes: I recently moved here last summer. And my first internal monologue was the little gremlin fromThe Muppetsthat says, “mahna-mahnam.” So I will still tell my colleagues that I'm going to mahna-mahnam’s.
Josh Crane: Brooke is not alone. I only had to spend 30 minutes approaching shoppers in this parking lot to discover a range of possibilities:
Jo Palmer: me-“hear”-ons
Niclas Thein: me-“who”-runs
Josh Crane: How do you pronounce it?
Gail Helmer: me-“hear”-ons
Brian Albrecht: me-hyur-ons!
Karen Rookwood: Oh that’s easy, me-hyur-ons
Celia Cadwell: me-hur-ons. If you’re my mom, me-heeeeear-ons!
Josh Crane: Say it again?
Scout Vitko: me-“hear”-ons
Toby Bellows: me-“hear”-ons. It’s pronounced me-“hear”-ons.
Noah Waxman: myur-ons?
Josh Crane: How long have you been coming here?
Dick Atkinson: 40 years.
Josh Crane: 40! So, how do you pronounce the name of it?
Dick Atkinson: me-hur-ins
Josh Crane: Say it one more time?
Dick Atkinson: No.
Josh Crane: The guy who originally sent me down this pronunciation rabbit hole is Noah Waxman.
Noah Waxman: Well, we are here because I feel like there is an enduring mystery in this part of Vermont about how to pronounce the store that we're sitting outside of.
Josh Crane: Noah and his family moved to Starksboro three years ago. They’re about 15 minutes from the store, and it didn’t take them long to stumble upon it. Once they did, it was basically love at first shop.
Noah Waxman: I came back to the house. And I was like, “I found the best grocery store. It's amazing! I wonder if all grocery stores in Vermont are this good?” (laughing)
Josh Crane: Part of what makes it good, according to Noah, is all the options. Yes, they’ve got your local beer, cheese, and ice cream — the stuff you’d expect. And there’s stuff that’s harder to find, like a variety of miso pastes, rare bottles of wine, and organic dog treats. Products aside, the other part of what makes it good is the vibe. Noah says it’s really down-to-earth and friendly.
Noah Waxman: So, it has all the things you need to go to a pretentious store to buy. But it's not at all pretentious.
Josh Crane: The market quickly became an important part of Noah’s family’s life — for the groceries, and also for the endless possibility contained in the market’s name.
Noah Waxman (montage): I was saying me-“who”-rons… my wife was saying meh-rons… her sister was staying with us, and she speaks Arabic… like, mech-rons… myur-ons is a very common one in Starksboro… I've also heard it called morons… it started as a joke, but we all refer to it as moy-rens. You know, envisioning it as sort of, like, I don't know, a family from a shtetl somewhere that moved to Vermont, and it's sort of, like, from the old Yiddish, moy-rens.
Josh Crane: It’s amazing how malleable that that name is.
Noah Waxman: That word is, yeah.
Josh Crane: After meeting Noah, I reached out to one of my colleagues who grew up near the market to get her take on the pronunciation.
Anna Van Dine: Every single person says it slightly differently.
Josh Crane: Anna Van Dine is a reporter for Vermont Public.
Anna Van Dine: I always say me-hyur-ons. But there is absolutely debate, like, I don't know the answer. And I grew up, like, 15 minutes away from the store. But I know that there's a real answer, because there are people who run the store and have for a long time, and this is their last name!
Josh Crane: That’s right. The store bears the last name of the family that’s operated it for more than 80 years.
Tom Mehuron: I've been fighting that my entire life since I entered high school.
Josh Crane: Like people always mispronounce it?
Tom Mehuron: Or they just come to it and they go me-me-me-me-me-meron, something like that.
Josh Crane: This is Tom. His last name adorns the sign on the front of the market, which means we have arrived at the answer to our pronunciation mystery:
Tom Mehuron: And it’s pretty simple, me-hyur-on.
Josh Crane: So that’s the… say it one more time?
Tom Mehuron: Me-hyur-on.
Josh Crane: Pretty simple, Tom says: me-HYUR-on. Except, I have a confession. The first 100 or so times I listened back to this recording, I thought Tom was saying me-HEAR-on — “hear” as in hearing, rather than “hyur” as in “Lake Huron.”
I played the recording of Tom saying his own name for Noah:
Noah Waxman: I almost feel like he says it different the first time and the second time. Me-HYU-ron.
Josh Crane: I also played it for Noah’s wife, Lia.
Lia Waxman: “Hear.” It’s more of a “hear,” I would say. Me-“HEAR”-on. Yeah, “hear.”
Josh Crane: I guess it’s a little like an audio Rorschach test. me-“hear”-ons or me-hyur-ons? The difference is, admittedly, very minor. Maybe it’s just a malleable word. I double-checked with Tom and his family, though, and they emailed me a written pronunciation. And so, me-HYUR-ons it is. me-HYUR-on, as in, Lake “Huron.”
The market’s been handed down over four generations of Tom’s family. His grandfather, Elmer, set up shop in 1941. Now his stepson, Bruce, is in charge.
Bruce Hyde Jr.: You know, we try to be all things to everybody here. So, I mean, my favorite thing every, you know, couple months is some, somebody from New York comes here and they'll, like, grab me and go, “Do you have any idea, like, what this is? Like, what this bottle of wine is? Like, this has been sold out in New York for, like, a year,” or you know, or the cheese or whatever it is. And you're just like, “Yeah, buddy, we're not all, like, hicks up here.” You know, I mean, we like good things too.
Josh Crane: To the Mehuron family: Thank you for helping to settle a debate that has — apparently — been raging across the region. But also, you know, thanks mostly for stewarding this cornerstone of central Vermont.
Thanks to Noah Waxman for the great question, and to all the people we spoke with outside the market. That’s Brooke Haynes, Jo Palmer, Niclas Thein, Gail Helmer, Brian Albrecht, Karen Rookwood, Scout Vitko, Toby Bellows, and Dick Atkinson. Special thanks to Anna Van Dine, Anna Ste. Marie and Celia Cadwell.
This episode was reported and produced by Josh Crane with support from the rest of the BLS team: Angela Evancie, Myra Flynn and Mae Nagusky. Ty Gibbons composed our theme music. Other music by Blue Dot Sessions.
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