Here at MeatEater, we’ve taken a little flack for how I pronounce Coues deer in our Arizona Coues deer episode. The most spirited of these corrections came from a fine correspondent named George. He had this to say:
“Watched your show last Sunday about Couse deer in southern AZ. I just couldn’t believe you said the dirty COOOOOOOOOZ word. While you will hear it said that way by many, that is not the correct pronunciation. Of all the TV folks out there I thought you would be the one who said it correctly. You let me down buddy. The correct pronunciation is COWS, just like a herd of mama cows. The alternate is COWSE, pronounced cow with an se sound as in the word course. I am fifth generation Arizonan and about thirty years ago lost $100.00 on a bet that it was pronounced as you said it. Losing the hundred was bad enough but doing it in front of a very large group was the worst. My father used to say that the deer got their name from the saying, “when the cows get up to water the deer soon foller.” Truth is they were named by an Army/Cavalry Colonel stationed near what is now FT. Huachuca. Anyway, I do enjoy your show and the above is not to be taken as a spankin. You are always fairly factual so I thought I would drop you a note. Keep up the interesting stuff like cooking Javelina in their own gut.”
My reply to George is as follows:
George: I appreciate the kind letter and I’m happy to receive the constructive criticism. However, I used the cooz pronunciation quite deliberately. Of all the folks I know, the ones who are most intimate with those deer prefer to say cooz rather than cows. When I was vacillating on what pronunciation was best, I consulted the expertise of Chris Denham, who publishes Western Hunter magazine and has probably printed more articles on Coues deer than other man on earth. His words speak volumes: “I’ll say cooz deer until I’m dead.” I also checked with Jay Scott and Dar Colburn, two master Coues deer guides with many great animals to their credit, and they prefer the cooz pronunciation as well. What’s more, I’ve been told on good authority that the Mr. Coues who you mentioned (his name was Elliot Coues) probably would not have pronounced his name as either “cooz” or “cows.” As you consider this, keep in mind that I use buffalo rather than bison, and antelope rather than pronghorn. For me, traditional and widespread pronunciation uses are often more valid and clear than technically correct (or perhaps incorrect) pronunciations. However you say it, George, I’d love to hunt these deer with you some day. Best wishes.