General James Birdseye McPherson's Surname?

July 19, 2017


The McPherson family name, how do you say it? McFEARson or McFURson?

Well, that is the question? Many claim that it is McFURson, but still others say McFEARson.


Throughout the years there has been debate among some people of the correct pronunciation. After a long debate by some professionals in the Washington DC area, Dr. Richard Sommers, the leading Civil War expert at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania was asked for the final word on the General's name. He acknowledged the debate among many, but added, "There's no fear in McPherson." So it seems plausible this is why many say McFURson, though many people with the surname of McPherson pronounce it McFURson. On the other hand, some are still not convinced.


Growing up in Clyde, Ohio, during my early years, I always heard it pronounced McFEARson, but to my surprise when I started as the curator of the Clyde Museum I was informed that the name is pronounced, McFURson. So out of simple curiosity, I ask many when the subject arises of the General and his family, how do you pronounce his last name? The result seems to be half and half, many saying it with the "FUR" pronunciation and the other half with the "FEAR" pronunciation.


So again, what is the correct pronunciation? Well after much investigation, the concensus is that the correct pronunciation should be based upon the most common use. Because names evolve, most often people come to accept a popular pronunciation based on its most common use, no matter how different from the original it may be.


So what is the most common use, well, the verdict is still out on that one. Recently, a McPherson family descendant of the General's family was discovered, and he said, quote, "I and my family have always pronounced it Mc"Fur"son. Although others have pronounced it "Fear" and I certainly respond to it. I also see no difference between Mc and Mac - although my family, along with the General's have always been Mc's."


So, I have decided that since most families with the surname McPherson pronounces it McFURson, this curator will go with that pronunciation. After all, there is no official committee on the English language. Hoping this was informative for you, as much as it was with for me.

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