Are you using the original pronunciation of this popular California tourist destination?

Dec 18, 2015

ALSO: ROH-blays or ROH-buhlz: How do you say wine country?

Most people are in agreement that an artist colony on San Luis Obispo County's northern coast is a favorite stop among both locals and tourists. However, when it comes to how the town's name is pronounced, not everyone is on the same page.

There is much disagreement over the proper pronunciation of Cambria, Calif.
Credit KCBX News

Is it KAM-bree-ah or KAYM-bree-ah?

Our journey to learn the proper pronunciation for this small coastal village was tainted from the start, as both our Google and Apple mapping apps gave us directions to what sounded like: KAYM-bree-ah.

When we hit the town's Main Street for a human perspective, just about every tourists we interviewed was in the same general camp.

But, when we went to the village's Historical Society and spoke with docent Consuelo Steward Macedo, she gave us our first taste of how many long-time residents say it: KAM-bree-ah.

"This is [KAM-bree-ah], it always has been," said Macedo. She says the town was originally called Santa Rosa, but that name was already taken by a town in Northern California, so the U.S. Postal Service said, pick something else.

"Peter Aloysius Forrester, who had mapped the town, proposed the name Cambria—the name of the area where he came from, where his family came from—Cambria County, Pennsylvania," said Macedo.

Given the connection to that part of the country, we decided to check, to make sure that is how it's said there. Chris Goch is the head of the reference department for the Cambria County Library and confirmed for us that the name is indeed said with short letter 'a.'

"C-A-M, Cam—yes, you pronounce it rhyming with ham, yes," Goch said.

Just as the California town was named for the Pennsylvania County, much was the story of this Pennsylvania county's naming.

"Cambria is a traditional name for the country of Wales and a lot of the first settlers here were Welsh miners, Goch explained.

We made one more call to the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Britain to help explain the Welsh connection. Public Program Coordinator Dr. Douglas Palmer explained that the museum is named for the man responsible for naming the Cambrian period of geology, Adam Sedgwick.

In the mid 1800s, while mapping rock layers in Wales, one of the nations that make up Great Britain, Sedgwick "decided to call the older rocks, the Cambrian system of strata, named after the Roman/Latin name for Wales, Cambria," according to Palmer.

The confusion over how to pronounce Cambria, California may have gained traction in the late 1920s when a development company run by a couple of brothers began sponsoring radio music shows in Los Angeles and Fresno. Richard Jones is a surviving family member and confirmed to us that radio spots and a large crew of salesmen were pitching homes in Cambria Pines by the Sea, with a long 'a' sound.

VIDEO: A Cambria Pines sales party from the late 1920s or early 1930s: