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Berkshire County is increasingly a landing spot for tourists and new residents, but consensus on how to pronounce the county’s name remains out of reach.

“Berk-sherr” — or is it “Berk-sheer”? (And certainly not “Berk-shire”!)

Twitter users from Berkshire County and beyond engaged in a debate Wednesday over how to pronounce the name of Massachusetts’ westernmost county.

Of the 288 votes cast in a Twitter poll created by Julie Linnell Cowan, MassDevelopment’s vice president of business development for the four western counties, 51.4 percent said “Berk-SHERRS,” while 46.2 percent opted for “Berk-SHEERS.” Votes also went to “Berk-SHIRES,” which 2.4 percent of people picked.

Several elected officials who weighed in vouched for “Berk-sherrs,” including North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, and state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield.

Meanwhile, state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, threw his support behind “Berk-sheers.”

Pittsfield native Michael Bloomberg suggested that “Berk-sheers” was regional to Southern Berkshire County, much of which Pignatelli represents in the Statehouse. In response, Pignatelli offered “the Shire,” a nickname for the county, as a way to settle the debate. 

But, that didn’t stop Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, from calling the pronunciation issue “the first real test of the Downing campaign.” Ben Downing, a candidate for governor who served in the state Senate as a Pittsfield Democrat, showed strong support for the “Berk-sherrs” position.

Downing’s brother, Nick, said the survey brought “the most attention the westernmost county has had in a while.”

Berkshire County got its name in 1761 from British Royal Governor Sir Francis Bernard, who named it after his home county in England.

Across the pond, it’s pronounced “Bark-sherr.” Or is it “Bark-sheer”?

Danny Jin, a Report for America corps member, is The Eagle's Statehouse news reporter. He can be reached at, @djinreports on Twitter and 413-496-6221.