There are viewer complaints every time the town of Matteson is in the news. If we pronounce it “MAT-ti-sin”, viewers will call to complain that it should be “MATT-sin”. Yet if we pronounce it that way on the air, other viewers will complain that it should be three syllables. There has seemingly been controversy and confusion over the proper pronunciation of Matteson for about a century. I wonder what late Illinois Governor Joel Aldrich Matteson would think of all this bickering.
I got to thinking about this because the WGN assignment desk sent out a staff email today to set everyone straight for the umpteenth time:
“A call to the village hall and to the police both yielded this pronunciation of the town’s name: Mat’-ti-sin.”
I’m sure assignment editors are tired of answering viewer calls and emails about Matteson. Many people cite the two syllable pronunciation in the commercial and jingle for the Matteson Auto Mall a few years ago. A quick Google search brought up this Chicago Tribune story from 1993 which mentioned that “descendants of Joel Matteson visited the southwest suburb recently and confirmed, “once and for all,” that the proper pronunciation is “Matt-e-son.”
While in Matteson on assignment last year, I was told by one resident to just say “MATT-sin” because that’s what everyone is used to hearing even though it’s wrong. I’ve used both pronunciations on the air. But I will stick with three syllables from now on. It’s what Governor Matteson would have wanted to hear. Though in his final years after leaving office, he would have made news for — I bet you can guess — corruption.