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Staying True To Gen. McPherson's Good Name

The statue of General McPherson looks down on the square named after him, which has served as a home to Occupy DC protesters for the past few months.
Mallory Noe-Payne
The statue of General McPherson looks down on the square named after him, which has served as a home to Occupy DC protesters for the past few months.

As long as the Occupy DC protesters remain at Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square, you will hear stories about the demonstrations on WAMU. 

There's no controversy about how to pronounce "freedom" but there is a dispute about how to pronounce "McPherson," as in U.S. Civil War Gen. James Birdseye McPherson, for whom the square is named.   

D.C. natives unanimously say mc-FEAR-son, but you will no longer hear that pronunciation in our stories. 

After a newsroom debate involving several emails, phone calls to numerous towns around the United States also named after the general, and even one Twitter consultation, we decided to check with Dr. Richard Sommers, the leading Civil War expert at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., for the final word on the General's name.

He acknowledges the debate, but adds: "There's no fear in McPherson." That's why we are saying mc-FUR-son. 

As an addendum, the general's middle name is not pronounced "bird's eye" but rather "bird see," according to Sommers.

Class dismissed.

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