Indiana and Kentucky Both Have a Daviess County But Pronounce it Differently – Why?
Aside from being neighbors, Indiana and Kentucky share similar traits. Both are predominantly filled with down-to-earth, hard-working, blue-collar residents and are known for their hospitality (Hoosier hospitality and Southern hospitality, respectively). And what you may or may not know is that both have a Daviess County. Now, depending on which side of the Ohio River you're on, you may have pronounced that name differently even though both counties are named after the same person and spell it the same way. But, why? Let's dive down the rabbit hole and see if we can figure it out.
There Once Was a Man Named Joseph Hamilton Daveiss
Joseph "Jo" Hamilton Daveiss was a lawyer by trade but gained notoriety during his time in the military who ironically wasn't a native of either Indiana or Kentucky. Born and raised in Virginia in 1774, Daveiss and his family moved to Kentucky when he was five years old. It was there he would study and eventually begin practicing law before being named the United States Attorney for the State of Kentucky in the early 1800s. He joined the military in 1811 and fought against the Native Americans in Indiana alongside General Harrison during the Battle of Tippecanoe. Unfortunately, he would never return home to Kentucky as he died during the battle.
His work in the courtroom and his sacrifice on the battlefield made Daveiss a recognizable name across the then-developing midwest which led to him being honored not only in Indiana and Kentucky, but Illinois and Missouri as well, with counties that bear his name.
Despite being a revered figure of the time, when his name was first used to name a county it was misspelled D-A-V-I-E-S-S, instead of D-A-V-E-I-S-S due to a clerical error. The spelling stuck and each county that bears in name technically spells it wrong. It's the thought that counts, right?
I don't know when the misspelling was discovered or why it wasn't changed after someone figured it out, but I assume because that by the time someone figured it out, each county had enough people living there that it was too late, or they were too lazy.
Day-vis vs. Day-vees
I live in Evansville which is about an hour southwest of Daviess County, Indiana, and about 45 minutes west of Daviess County, Kentucky. The Indiana version is predominantly pronounced DAY-VEES, while nearly everyone in Kentucky pronounces their version as DAY-VIS. I've always wondered why, but never really bothered to do a deep-dive into the reason until recently. Since the two are just over 80 miles apart from each other and are covered by most of the Evansville-based media outlets, I thought it could be to help differentiate the two. However, adding "Indiana" or "Kentucky" to the end of whichever one being talked about would be an easier fix then changing the entire pronunciation, so that's not it.
I searched through several different sites, but couldn't find a specific answer. The best I could find was this video from the summer of 2021 posted by Dennis Daily on his YouTube channel. Dennis is from Daviess County, Indiana and claims DAY-VEES is the correct pronunciation because that's how the proper spelling of his name would be pronounced. However, he also attributes (blames?) Indiana dialect as a reason for the difference.
For what it's worth, according to the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society, "in most parts of the county Daviess is pronounced the same as “Davis” with a short 'i'." However, they do note some people do pronounce it the other way, but say those are typically people who aren't from the county.
So, while it seems to me that neither way is the right nor the wrong way to pronounce it, what I have learned by living in the area is that if you're talking to someone from Daviess County, Indiana, you don't call it "DAY-VIS," and if you're talking to someone from Daviess County, Kentucky, you don't call it "DAY-VEES," or you will be corrected. Maybe you just have to live in either one to understand the difference.
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LOOK: Best counties to raise a family in Kentucky
Gallery Credit: Stacker