The name of Arkansas is of Algonquian derivation, denoting the Quapaw Indians, who were, however “removed” in 1834, and sent on to present-day Oklahoma.
Historically, the name Arkansas has been pronounced and spelled in a number of ways. The region, part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, was organized as the Territory of Arkansaw on July 4, 1819, but the territory was admitted to the United States as the state of Arkansas on June 15, 1836.
In the early days of statehood, there was disagreement among the senators in the state on the spelling and pronunciation of Arkansas. One preferred to be called the Senator from Arkansaw and the other preferred to be called the Senator from ArKansas.
In 1881, the conflict was resolved when the state General Assembly passed Concurrent Resolution No. 4 stating that the state’s name was to be spelled “Arkansas” but pronounced Arkan”saw”. The act was modified in 1947 to add clarification. The Act is now codified as Arkansas Code 1-4-105:
2012 Arkansas Code Title 1 – General Provisions Chapter 4 – State Symbols, Motto, Etc. § 1-4-105 – Pronunciation of state name.
Whereas, confusion of practice has arisen in the pronunciation of the name of our state and it is deemed important that the true pronunciation should be determined for use in oral official proceedings.
And, whereas, the matter has been thoroughly investigated by the State Historical Society and the Eclectic Society of Little Rock, which have agreed upon the correct pronunciation as derived from history and the early usage of the American immigrants.
Be it therefore resolved by both houses of the General Assembly, that the only true pronunciation of the name of the state, in the opinion of this body, is that received by the French from the native Indians and committed to writing in the French word representing the sound. It should be pronounced in three (3) syllables, with the final “s” silent, the “a” in each syllable with the Italian sound, and the accent on the first and last syllables. The pronunciation with the accent on the second syllable with the sound of “a” in “man” and the sounding of the terminal “s” is an innovation to be discouraged.”
In 1861, Arkansas withdrew from the United States and joined the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Upon returning to the Union, white rural interests continued to dominate the state’s politics until the Civil Rights movement in the mid-20th century.
Today, Arkansas has a number of distinctive characteristics, including the fact that Murfreesboro, Arkansas, is the home of the only diamond mine open to the public in the world.
More importantly, Arkansas now ranks first in production of bromine, accounting for about one-half of the world’s output. You may know what diamonds are and for what they are used, but what in the world is bromine?
Bromine, from the Greek word brómos (meaning “strong-smelling” or “stench”) is a chemical element with the symbol Br and atomic number of 35. It is used as an ingredient in flame retardants (added by law to children’s synthetic-fiber pajamas, for example), as a gasoline additive, and in swimming pool and hot tub maintenance. Citrus-flavored sodas often use brominated vegetable oil as an emulsifier.
Next time you’re downing your citrus-flavored soft drink, raise a glass to Arkansas!