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You asked: Why do locals call Alexandria ‘Alek?’

If you’ve spent any time here, you know the locals shorten up the word “Alexandria” when referring to the town.

So, how do you say it? Is it “Alek” or “Alex?”

0 Talk about it

It turns out there are a lot of opinions, theories and guesses as to why the “x” is not pronounced and it’s often called “Alek” (but always spelled Alex).

It was tough trying to nail down a definitive reason why or where it all started. So, we went to the people and they offered up the following fascinating, fun and perplexing theories:

● Coni McKay, executive director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce: “I am not sure why, but when I came here almost 17 years ago I was told that using ‘Alec’ instead of ‘Alex’ was a way to identify the tourists or new residents. Kind of a ‘secret handshake’ in verbal form!”

● Jody Hanson, publisher, Echo Press: “I’ve lived in the area all my life and it has been ‘Alek’ since I was brought into the world! It’s just too hard to say Alexandria with a German, Swedish or Norwegian brogue! (I know brogue is to be used in the Irish or Scottish terms but we adopted it.). Saying ‘Alexandria’ or ‘Alex’ just sounded rather uppity!”

● Taryn (Nelson) Flolid, volunteer researcher, Douglas County Historical Society: The Cardinalette on the Alexandria danceline in 1973-74 said, “Well, it’s part of the school song – ‘Cheer, cheer for Alex (pronounced Alek); Shout ‘til the rafters ring…’” Taryn taught second grade and her theory is that Alek is easier for little kids to pronounce than Alex.

● Joe Korkowski, interactive manager, Voice of Alexandria: “I suspect that it began when someone back in the early 1900s mispronounced Alex and it caught on from there. I can envision some young teenagers throwing the newfound abbreviation around among their peers. Eventually it would become a way they could tell if kids were part of their crew or not. As parents heard the expression grow in use, they adapted it and eventually began to use it as a barometer for who lived here and who was just visiting (that parental adaptation is evidenced today by all of the texting, Facebook and Instagram use by “older adults”).

● Corliss Stark, United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties: “Here 55 years. I have no idea how that happened, but I remember you could always tell someone new to the community on their pronunciation.”

● Jake Odland, director, Douglas County Library: “I actually use Alex and Alek interchangeably. Alek is the quicker word to say, but Alex feels more correct as it is part of the full name of the city. I guess that I use one when I try to speak more ‘formally’ and the other when I speak more ‘informally.’”

● Patty Wicken, “Alexandria Encyclopedia” and radio personality, KXRA Radio, Voice of Alexandria: “I am fourth generation Alexandrian. You can tell a tourist or a newcomer by the way they say ‘Al-ex!’ News anchors and radio announcers who are new to the state have to be taught that it is ‘Alek’....always has been. If you say the town name correctly, speaking Minnesotan, it is ‘Alek-sandria.’ Not ‘Alex-andria.’ Don’cha know.”

● Jennifer Guenther, local business owner: “I think it is a secret test that has been passed down from generation to generation to distinguish original locals. If you sound out Alexandria, one would say it is five syllables like, ‘Al-ex-an-dre-a.’ But we say ‘Alec-zan-dre-a.’ So maybe we just shorten it up for testing purposes. An example test sentence, if a local were to hear this: ‘We were up North to Alexx this weekend and stayed on Lake Carloos’ not pronounced like ‘Carlis’ and then followed up with ‘took the Osackis exit’ know they aren’t from around Alex (Alek).”

● Mark Anthony, announcer, KXRA radio: “I would say that it is because many Scandinavians have our ‘accent’ and pronounce Alexandria more with a ‘k’ sound or a hard ‘c.’ So to shorten it we come up with the Alec!”


We also asked the Facebook crowd to weigh in on the matter. Here’s what we got:

● Bernie Obrigewitsch: “Easier to say LOL.”

● KellyAnne Kitchin: “Interesting question! My family just moved here a few weeks ago from Winchester, VA. We’ve been wondering about this.”

● Taryn Rosenberg Steeke: “You can tell if they are from Alek or not.”

● Tessa Chornuk: “No idea why, but it’s so wrong haha.”

● Kayla Marie Nelson: “I always say ‘Alec’ but spell it ‘Alex’ always have, always will.”

● Sheri L. Alm-Randall: “My Dad’s parents, both of my parents and now my children and I have called Alexandria our hometown for a few generations. I have always used Alexandria because back in the day people hadn’t heard of ‘Alex’ when I was asked what town I lived in. It could be that because of the growth of Alexandria, and younger generations, people have started using ‘Alek.’”

● Kayla Warborg: “I’ve never seen someone spell it with a K. Always an X or C.”

● Laura Holzschuh Knudsen: “I think it is a secret code that allows native Alexandrines to recognize each other. Much like the native residents of Carlos call it Carlis.

● Troy Mills: “Scandinavian shortening of the sounds of letters.”

● Deena Safarik: “I’ve lived here 21 years and have always called it Alex.”

● Beth Drake Ryzyk: “If ya don’t say Alec, ya just go on and move up Nort where ya belong.”

● Marci Henke: “Alexandria is too long and formal. ‘Alex’ is much more friendly. And always pronounced as a k because pronounced with the x would be a person. (I know that’s not always true but works for this.).”

● Robin Niedenfuer: “Have lived here most of my life, my parents and grandparents were locals. It is just what they said back then. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”

● Joyce Rylander: “We’ve called it Alec for 50+ yrs, it sounds wrong when you say Alex (which I agree is more a person’s name) but I also think Alex makes it sound more like a plural. Just saying....”

Here's another theory we received via email on Friday:

● Annie Clark: "I just read your article in the Echo Press. If you research the etymology of Alexander (name), Alec is the British English (as opposed to American English) abbreviation for the name. I bet our "Alec" nickname came from settlers with this ancestry. Just a guess..."

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133