Have We Been Pronouncing Tucson Wrong This Whole Time?

By Ginny Reese

October 13, 2021

Photo: Getty Images

Monty Python's John Cleese sat down for a Zoom interview with Tucson.com last month from a Toronto Hotel. And apparently, he had some questions for Tucson residents.

Cleese said, "What does the name mean and why do you call it Tucson when it's Tuxson?"

He laughed. "I want to say that Tucson is a name- I'm making this all up but you can use it- that has something to do with Tohono O'odham Nation and possibly Father Kino. But that's a whole other story that I would just be making up."

This all was to prove the point of Cleese's "Why There Is Not Hope" tour. Is there really any hope left if you can't tell people the origin of your hometown's name?

That got me thinking about the origin of Tucson's name.

According to Byrd Granger's book Arizona's Names: X Marks the Spot, Tucson literally means "black base." The book states that the name comes from the that given to Sentinel Mountain by Tohono O'odham, Ts-iuk-shan. This refers to the fact that the base of the mountain is darker than it is at the summit. So since Native Americans typically name things after nearby landmarks, according to the book, Tucson's name was born.

You can see John Cleese on tour in Tucson on Saturday, October 16th at 7:30 p.m. at Tucson Music Hall. Tickets range anywhere from $67 to $124. Click here for tickets.

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