Even Massachusetts Residents Mispronounce This SouthCoast Town Name
Many Massachusetts towns have names that those who aren’t from the Bay State comically mispronounce. Just ask anyone who isn’t from around these parts to say “Worcester,” “Gloucester,” “Reading,” “Leominster” or “Billerica” and hear them try to say them the way they’re spelled.
Yet even people who are from those oddly-pronounced towns probably botch a SouthCoast locale that appears, on paper, to be an easy read: Assonet.
Technically, Assonet isn’t a town unto itself; it’s a village within Freetown, a town of 9,206 people according to the 2020 U.S. Census.
Ask anyone from outside the SouthCoast how to pronounce it, and more often than not, they’re going to say it as “Ass-ON-it," like you're sitting down on something, which is incorrect.
Those of you who aren’t from the area are probably asking, “Well, then how do you pronounce it correctly, then?”
Read on – but first, a little background on this little village.
How Did Assonet, Massachusetts Come to Be?
Assonet was part of the 1659 Ye Freemen’s Purchase, in which the English purchased the land that included what became Freetown, Assonet and Fall River. What did they pay for the land? According to the publication A History of the Town of Freetown, the price was “20 coats, two rugs, two iron pots, two kettles, one little kettle, eight pairs of shoes, six pairs of stockings, one dozen hoes, one dozen hatchets, and two yards of broadcloth and a debt satisfied to John Barnes.”
Where Does the Word “Assonet” Come From?
The Wikipedia page for Assonet has some information on this, but it also directly points out that it does not have citation of any sources on it, so take it with a grain of salt.
“The word comes from the local Wampanoag Indians, who had a settlement in the area, and has two meanings: ‘place of rocks’ and ‘song of praise.’” Wikipedia states. “Those meanings are traditional, but the former can be segmented as (h)assun-et where hassun or assin is a word used by southern New England Algonquian to mean stone. The -et is a locative suffix, to give the meaning ‘at the place of the stone.’”
Assonet’s Infamous Ghost Story
Assonet has had a storied history, but in recent years it has become known worldwide for its connections to the paranormal.
As the concept of the paranormal vortex known as the Bridgewater Triangle has gained notoriety, the subject of the Assonet Ledge is a major part of that story.
The ledge, located in the Freetown State Forest, is known as a spot for sightings of all types of paranormal phenomena: ghosts, UFOs, and even the mythological creatures known as pukwudgies, a Native American trickster being.
Perhaps the most famous tale is that of “The Lady of the Ledge.” As the story goes, a Wampanoag princess asked her father for permission to marry the English colonist with whom she had fallen in love. Her father forbade it, and so in a fit of anguish, she leaped her death from atop the ledge into the murky waters below. Some versions of the tale add the epilogue that the colonist himself did the same when he heard of his beloved’s suicide.
The only problem? The ledge came about in the 19th century when it was the site of a quarry, so there was no ledge for her to have jumped from during the colonial era.
That hasn’t stopped people from reportedly encountering “The Lady of the Ledge” up there. As the story goes, she appears dressed all in white, walking along the edge of the ledge and is especially bothersome to men. It is also said that those who stand on the edge themselves are overcome with a feeling of grief and an overwhelming desire to jump; indeed, there are numerous suicides that have taken place there since the quarry was dug out.
Assonet, Massachusetts Was Part of a Podcast Sensation
In 2021, Aaron Mahnke – the man behind the hugely successful podcast LORE – launched a new podcast series titled Bridgewater.
Based in the Bridgewater Triangle, it was the fictional story of a professor investigating the disappearance of his police officer father decades before inside the Triangle. It starred the voice talents of Misha Collins, Nathan Fillion, Hilarie Burton Morgan and Wil Wheaton, among others, and incorporated some of the real-life legends and lore of the Bridgewater Triangle.
As part of the storyline, the Assonet Ledge is discussed. As expected, because it was produced by and stars non-locals, it was pronounced as “Ass-on-it.”
Mahnke released the second season of Bridgewater in Fall 2022.
The Fall of Assonet’s Profile Rock
At the outskirts of Assonet Village, on the opposite side of the Freetown State Forest, is a large hill known as Joshua’s Mountain. It is named after Joshua Tisdale, who first settled in the area.
However, it became better known as “Profile Rock" came about because locals believed the "face" in the mountain created by an outcropping of rocks bore a resemblance to the great Wampanoag chief Massasoit.
The rocks were in jeopardy by the late-2010s, as some had already begun to fall and vandalism had taken its toll on the “face.” Eventually, it had to be closed off from public access. Then, in June 2019, the remainder of the rock “face” fell from the side of the hill, and Profile Rock was no more.
So How Exactly Do You Pronounce “Assonet?”
A true SouthCoaster knows it is pronounced “Ah-SO-net.” Keep your ass off it.