Welcome to Florida Wonders, a series where readers submit their questions about the Tampa Bay area and Florida and Times journalists find answers.
Reader T. J. Chaltry, 28, wanted to know: What’s the correct way to say Bearss Avenue and other tricky names around town?
Chaltry heard that Bearss is pronounced as if it rhymes with fierce. But not everyone agrees with him.
“I say that and everyone looks at me like I’m illiterate," he said.
There are also other street names that he struggles with — for example, Brorein, which trips up even longtime Tampa residents.
“I say it different every time,” Chaltry said.
We consulted local historians, books and newspaper clips in the Times archives and longtime reporters in our most far-flung bureaus to track down answers.
Here’s how to really say these names — and where they came from in the first place.
Where did the name come from? The road that connects Brandon to downtown Tampa is named for Dr. Frank S. Adamo. The Ybor City-born son of Italian immigrants was a surgeon who served as the Hillsborough County medical director until he left to join the Army Medical Corps in 1941.
According to the Times archives, Adamo was captured by the Japanese during the Battle of Corregidor and held captive in the Philippines for 2 1/2 years. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for creating a new gangrene treatment while he was still a prisoner. He returned to Tampa after being rescued from Japanese captivity in 1945.
“He came back here and was always just a voice in the medical community here," said Andy Huse, historian and librarian at USF’s special collections.
How do you say it? “Everyone wants to say Adam," Huse said. “Adam-oh.” But the proper Italian pronunciation is actually uh-DAH-mo.
Where did the name come from? Formerly known as the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the Ice Palace, the arena’s moniker changed again after Amalie Oil gained naming rights in September 2014.
How do you say it? AM-uh-lee, rhyming with family. Times reporter Christopher Spata wrote a story about the pronunciation of the arena in 2017.
Where did the name come from? The Bearss family were pioneers of the citrus industry in Hillsborough County, according to the Times archives. The family owned a 45-acre orange grove since the 1800s
How do you say it? Even though most people say the word as “bears,” the family pronounces it bierce (rhyming with pierce or fierce).
Where did the name come from? Brorein Street, which continues over the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa as the Brorein Bridge, is named after Carl Brorein Sr. He was the son of William G. Brorein, who founded the Peninsular Telephone Co. (now GTE) in 1902. Carl also served as president of the company.
There’s another Brorein aside from the street and bridge —Camp Owen J. Brorein. The Odessa-based Boy Scouts of America camp is the oldest one in the Greater Tampa Bay Council. According to Times archives, the camp is named for a scout who was fatally injured at the camp when “a stump-blasting project misfired.” Owen was the nephew of William Brorein.
How do you say it? Brorein is of the most heavily debated names on the list. One Tampa Reddit user pointed out that even local news anchors say it different ways.
Barbie Alderson, office support specialist for the city of Tampa at Transportation and Stormwater Services, says she and everyone else at the office — which handles the city’s street signs — say bro-REEN. We weren’t able to reach anyone from the Boy Scout camp, but the voicemail message also pronounced it like that. You can sing Brorein to the tune of Dolly Parton’s Jolene to help you remember.
Where did the name come from? The name honors Peter Demens, a Russian nobleman born as Pyotr Alekseyevich Dementyev. Demens defended the czar as a captain in the Imperial Guard. The story goes that Demens was inspired to come to America after a friend in Paris told him about a wonderful place called Florida, said Rui Farias, executive director of the St. Petersburg Museum of History.
Demens was in the lumberyard business in Florida, and when the owner of the Orange Belt Railway couldn’t pay off his debt to him, Demens gained ownership of the company. He is credited with extending the line to Pinellas County. The first train arrived in downtown St. Pete on June 8, 1888, carrying just one man.
John Constantine Williams, the richest man in Michigan, owned the land where St. Petersburg was founded. He wanted to call the area Williamsville. But Demens’ railroad brought the growth that allowed the city to grow and become what it is today.
“This is kind of what creates us,” Farias said.
There is a myth that says Williams and Demens flipped a coin on Central Avenue to see who would win naming rights. The story isn’t true, but ultimately the city did become St. Petersburg, after Demen’s hometown. Demens Landing is an homage to him, too.
How do you say it? According to a sign by the landmark, the correct pronunciation is deh-MENS.
“It’s definitely not demon’s landing,” said Farias, who explained that Demens’ original Russian name doesn’t even sound close to the word demon. “I try to correct it one person at a time.”
Where did the name come from? According to “Brief History of Dunedin, Florida 1965," the area was already named Jonesboro. This name came from George L. Jones, who put up a sign bearing that name over his general store in 1877. Two Scottish men, J.O. Douglas and James Summerville, arrived in the area a few years later. They did not like the name Jonesboro, so they asked local leaders if they could add a post office and name it Dunedin. Soon the town itself became known as Dunedin.
Dunedin is the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, where the two men hailed from. There is also a town in New Zealand with the same name.
How do you say it? This name is one of the most likely ones to trip up visitors, who often guess a version of doon-done. According to Dunedin’s website, the correct pronunciation is done-EE-din.
Where did the name come from?The Hillsborough town is named for two brothers, C.E. and W. P. Lutz, who helped to bring the railroad to the area.
How do you say it? Loots. According to a Tampa Reddit user, the slogan “Lutz, rhymes with boots,” used to appear on bumper stickers and T-shirts.
Where did the name come from? This Hernando County town is named after Tomas Masaryk, the founder and first president of Czechoslovakia.
The idea for the name came from Josef Joscak, the editor of a New York-based Czech newspaper. Joscak had written a number of stories encouraging fellow Czechoslovakians to join him in sunny Florida and went on to found the community in 1924.
How do you say it? According to reporters in our Hernando County bureau, the proper pronunciation is muh-ZER-ick-town.
Where did the name come from? The area’s thick wilderness, filled with pine trees, left a mark on the Spanish settlers who came to the area.
“The Spanish called it ‘Punta Pinal,’ or ‘pine point,’ because there were so many pine trees,” Farias said.
Maps from the late 1800s label modern-day Pinellas Point as “Pt. Pinelos.” Eventually, this became Pinellas.
How do you say it? According to the archives, some old timers and longtime residents call it PINE-ellis. Newer imports go with pin-EL-lis.
Where did the name come from? Thonotosassa comes from the Seminole-Creek words meaning “flint is there.” The Hillsborough County town shares the name with Thonotosassa Lake, which is near a handful of flint quarries, according to the book Places in the Sun.
How do you say it? Tho-no-ta-SASS-a.
Where did the name come from? The name for this Hernando County river also comes from the Seminoles. It means “little spring.”
How do you say it? WEE-key WAH-chee.
Where did the name come from? There are two Florida rivers with this name. The southern one runs through Pasco and Hernando counties. The book Florida Place Names states: “The name is taken from the Creek we, ‘water,’ thlako, ‘big,’ and chee, ‘little,’ or little big water."
How do you say it? with-la-KOO-chee.
Where did the name come from? The town in Hillsborough County is named after a mashup by the first local postmaster. In 1903, Captain C.H. Davis created the word by combining letters from the names of his three daughters — Wi from Wilma (who also went by Willie), mau from Maude and ma from Mary.
How do you say it? WHY-mama.
Where did the name come from? Ybor City is named for the man who founded it, Vicente Martinez-Ybor. The Spaniard was also responsible for bringing the first cigar factory to the area in 1885. By the time the industry reached its peak in Tampa during the 1920s, there were about 200 cigar factories in the area.
According to Times archives, Ybor founded the first brewery in Florida. The 200th anniversary of his birth was in September 2018.
How do you say it? Eee-bore.
How do people around town usually say these names? We took to the streets to find out:
What questions do you have about the Tampa Bay area or Florida? Fill out the form below or email your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Need inspiration? Here’s what other readers were curious about: