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It’s Nuh-VAD-uh, not Nuh-VAH-duh

RENO — Brian Williams was looking ahead to Nevada’s presidential caucuses during a broadcast of the "NBC Nightly News" last week when he struck a raw nerve.

The anchor mispronounced the state’s name as "Nuh-VAH-duh," prompting a flurry of phone calls and e-mails from angry Nevadans who demanded he utter it as they do, with the "a" like in "cat" — "Nuh-VAD-uh."

Williams was just the latest among countless public figures to unwittingly become caught up in a controversy dating to the Silver State’s founding during the Civil War.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was booed for saying "Nuh-VAH-duh" when he moderated a presidential candidates forum in Nevada last year. And President Bush and U.S. Sen. John Kerry both came under fire during the 2004 campaign for botching the name.

For Nevadans who complain the name of their home is mispronounced by outsiders more often than any other state, Williams’ slip was "the straw that broke the camel’s back," said Guy Rocha, the state archivist who is leading a crusade to get the rest of the nation to adopt the local usage.

Westerners generally pronounce the state’s name correctly, but others inadvertently show disrespect when they can’t get it right, Rocha said.

"This onslaught has got Nevadans to the breaking point and they’re not going to take it anymore," he said. "You need to pronounce it the way we do."

The issue resurfaced at a time when the nation’s fastest-growing state is gaining influence in national politics and more attention from presidential candidates because of its early caucuses on Saturday.

The "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" featured a segment that poked fun at the flap this week. Chris Matthews explained the "correct" pronunciation on his MSNBC political show. And Robert Siegel, host of National Public Radio’s "All Things Considered," corrected two correspondents who called it Nuh-VAH-duh.

Leading into an NBC story aimed at clearing the air Wednesday evening, Williams said: "We haven’t always said it (Nevada) the same way and there is a correct way."

The story by reporter George Lewis about "an entire state of confusion" concluded:

"Memo to all those political candidates trying to win votes in the Silver State: It’s Nuh-VAD-uh, not Nuh-VAH-duh. … According to the official NBC Handbook of Pronunciations first published during World War II, it’s Nuh-VAD-uh."

Representatives of ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox said in the future they also will pronounce the state’s name as Nevadans do.

"We try very hard to get pronunciations right," CBS spokeswoman Sandy Genelius said. "Our understanding is the correct pronunciation is Nuh-VAD-uh."

Presidential candidates seem to be catching on to how sensitive Nevadans are about it. Unlike Bush and Kerry, no major candidate has mangled the pronunciation this campaign season, although the narrator doing a voice over for one of Republican Duncan Hunter’s radio ads running in Reno this week got it wrong.

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