City Council pronunciation guide: How to say your elected officials’ names

The city’s legislative body is about to be back in session. Make sure you know how to talk about it.

Philadelphia City Council

Philadelphia City Council

Philadelphia City Council on Flickr
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Philadelphia City Council will officially return from summer break this Thursday.

As the municipal legislative branch, Council is essential to the function of local government. So if you want to be engaged, these are people whose names you want to know — and be able to pronounce. That’s often easier said than done. Even councilmembers themselves have been overheard mispronouncing their colleagues’ names.

Have no fear — we’re here to help.

To make sure we had the proper pronunciations, Billy Penn reached out to each councilperson and asked them to record themselves saying their full name. Then we teamed up with a local phonetics expert, Swarthmore linguistics professor Jonathan Washington, who transcribed the recordings in accordance with the International Phonetic Alphabet (aka those weird letters you see next to the words in the dictionary).

Now, we are proud to present this definitive guide, in alphabetical order: How to pronounce the names of everyone on Philadelphia City Council.

Cindy Bass (District 8)

ˈsɪndi ˈbæs

See how this can get confusing? This Northwest Philly councilwoman’s name is pronounced bass, not bass.

Jannie Blackwell (District 3)

ˈʤeəni ˈblækwɛl

One of just three members who didn’t participate. Couldn’t convince Councilwoman Blackwell to send along a recording from her West Philly office. Just sound it out.

Darrell Clarke (District 5)

ˈdeɻəl ʼklɒɻk

Council President Darrell Clarke of North Philly also declined to join in this pronunciation guide. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Allan Domb (at large)

ˈælɨn ˈdɑm

Allan Domb provided us a video with crisp audio quality and what we can only assume is an out-of-focus view of the desk where he recorded it.

Derek Green (at large)

ˈdeɻɨk ˈgɻin

Not easy to mispronounce, but if you had any doubts…

Bill Greenlee (at large)

ˈbɪl ˈgɻinli

With a name about as simple as it gets, Councilman Bill Greenlee still graciously offered an audio instruction on how to pronounce his name. You’ve got no excuse to get this one wrong.

Helen Gym (at large)

ˈhɛlɨn ˈgɪm

One of the most-widely mispronounced names on Council. No, it’s not like that kind of gym.

Bobby Henon (District 6)

ˈbɑbi ˈhinɨn

When he’s not running Northeast Philly, he’s sending Billy Penn extremely straightforward recordings of his name.

Kenyatta Johnson (District 2)

kɨnˈjɑɾə ˈʤɑnsɨn

Is it just us, or is this recording cut off? What are we missing? Was Councilman Johnson about to reveal all his secrets about South Philly?

Curtis Jones, Jr. (District 4)

ˈkɚɾɨs ˈʤoʊnz ˈʤunjɚ

Why does this recording make the West Philly councilman sound like he’s taking part in a spelling bee? (That’s a good thing, Councilman!)

Brian O’Neill (District 10)

ˈbɻɑɪ.ɨn ˌoʊˈnil

After multiple attempts, Billy Penn couldn’t convince Councilman O’Neill’s office to send over a recording of his name. Maybe just gossip about politics of the far Northeast over text?

David Oh (at large)

ˈdeɪvɨd ˈoʊ

Here’s a cameo from yours truly, Billy Penn reporter Michaela Winberg. While working on this project, I coincidentally bumped into Councilman Oh at an event and flagged him down for a recording.

Cherelle Parker (District 9)

ʃɚˈɛl ˈpɒɻkɚ

Councilwoman Parker took time from her work in Northwest Philly to send along this recording — for that, we’re grateful.

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez (District 7)

maˈɾia kiˈɲones ˈsanʧes

Dang, Councilwoman, this sounds so clear we’re thinking maybe you have your own recording studio in your Kensington or City Hall office.

Blondell Reynolds Brown (at large)

blɑnˈdɛl ˈɻɛnəldz ˈbɻaʊn

Greetings to you too, Councilwoman!

Mark Squilla (District 1)

ˈmɒɻk ˈskwɪlə

Assuming Councilman Squilla sent it from his district, this recording could’ve come from almost anywhere along the Delaware River. It’s a little fuzzy, but it does the trick.

Al Taubenberger (at large)

ˈæl ˈtɒbɨnˌbɚgɚ

We can’t blame anyone for stumbling over that long name. Plus, Councilman Taubenberger went above and beyond for this project: he sent us an adorable video that includes his entire staff laughing. (With him or at him, unclear.)