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March 24, 2010 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Odd pronunciations of proper names (in the UK and Ireland). See also this Wikipedia list, assuming Wikipedia recovers sometime in the near future. Sadly, neither list helps with the pronunciation of Raymond Luxury Yacht. (Inspired by the poll and a recent episode of QI).
posted by kmz (104 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd always known about names like Worcester or Leicester, but ones like Featherstonehaugh and Cholmondeley blew me away.
posted by kmz at 12:21 PM on March 24, 2010


Someone once told me there's a place in the UK named Sidebottom, pronounced sih-DAY-bu-TUM. A quick google search indicates its a location in Cheshire, and there are a bunch of people named Sidebottom. Here's their family crest.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:23 PM on March 24, 2010


They forgot Towcester, a Northamptonshire market town and a breakfast-time appliance.
posted by randomination at 12:26 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, but how do they pronounce 'MeFi'?
posted by bicyclefish at 12:26 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I once got into a long (pre-internet) argument about the pronunciation of Worcester, MA. No one would believe me that it's actually pronounced "wooster" (not to mention "woosta").
posted by octothorpe at 12:27 PM on March 24, 2010


Also, that's all well and good, but it's spelled Raymond Luxury Yacht.
posted by bicyclefish at 12:28 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


"St. John" --> Sin-jin
posted by Eyebeams at 12:28 PM on March 24, 2010


As someone who has been in Ireland for three weeks (first time over the pond), let me just say: That list is just the tip of the iceberg. All I can say is thank God I read Lord of the Rings as a kid.
posted by gcbv at 12:32 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stupid St. John Rivers. (I'll bet at least 90% of Americans first encounter that name there.)
posted by kmz at 12:33 PM on March 24, 2010


And yet Wooster, OH is pronounced WAR-ster by the locals! The mind boggles.
posted by Some1 at 12:36 PM on March 24, 2010


Handy limericks to help you remember!
posted by kenko at 12:41 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I used to love asking my English friend to pass the /ˈworˌsestərʃaɪːər/ sauce. It really got under her skin. "It's /ˈwʊstəʃɪr/." "What? That's what I'm saying. /ˈworˌsestərʃaɪːər/ Could you pass it, please, luv?"

Gritted teeth and slit eyes.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:42 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Featherstonhaugh always reminds me of Lord Peter Feathering-Walthamstone.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:44 PM on March 24, 2010


I can't get all the great little phonetic characters easily on this computer, so let me just add that Armada, MI and Allenton, MI are pronounced: ar-MAY-da and AL-LING-tin, respectively.
posted by beelzbubba at 12:45 PM on March 24, 2010


Esprit, I just read that comment like my mom reads leetspeek:

"I used to love asking my english friend to pass the forwad slash apostrophe wor comma sest schwa funny f ai colon schwa r forward slash sauce."
posted by TomMelee at 12:46 PM on March 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Here in Georgia, we have a lonely county called "Taliaferro" county... pronounced "Tolliver."
posted by FergieBelle at 12:48 PM on March 24, 2010


Am I too late?
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:53 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


They forgot Towcester...


I was going to mention that. And similarly of course, Bicester.
posted by opsin at 12:58 PM on March 24, 2010


How 'bout some New Yorkers & Texans get together for a nice chat about the correct pronunciation of Houston..?
posted by i_cola at 1:00 PM on March 24, 2010


There's nothing like Jeeves and Wooster (whose very name, along with the name of its author, P.G. Wodehouse, belongs on this list) to bring up ridiculous names like Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps. And in the TV series, those who don't have ridiculous names have ridiculous accents. Glorious!
posted by Madamina at 1:05 PM on March 24, 2010


It's pronounced 'BOU-quay'!

Alright Mrs Bucket.
posted by litleozy at 1:12 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Bah, Americans do it too!

Arkansas
Maryland
Connecticut
posted by metaxa at 1:14 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been wondering about the British executive named "Sinjin" on Mad Men. St. John, yes, of course.
posted by everichon at 1:14 PM on March 24, 2010


I think I've seen Sinjin for St. John and Fanshaw for Featherstonehaugh more than a few times in Finnish subtitles. But most of all I would like to see someone called Cockburn interviewed here.
posted by The Mouthchew at 1:16 PM on March 24, 2010


Big-boo-TAY! It's pronounced Big-boo-TAY!
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:16 PM on March 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


How 'bout some New Yorkers & Texans get together for a nice chat about the correct pronunciation of Houston..?

Even Texans can't agree. It's either "yew-ston" or "hyou-ston" with the h exhalation.
posted by Pants! at 1:19 PM on March 24, 2010


Yes, but how do they pronounce 'MeFi'?
(lights flash, klaxon sounds)

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
posted by eriko at 1:19 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have read WAY too many 18th and 19th century novels.

Love this stuff!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:20 PM on March 24, 2010


(I'll bet at least 90% of Americans first encounter that name there.)

Actually, my first encounter was with St. John Lord Merridew.
posted by Iridic at 1:22 PM on March 24, 2010


metaxa, what's weird about how Maryland is pronounced? It's not surprising that the vowels in a compound word are more "neutral" than in the words it comes from; this is pretty standard. It would seem strange to me if Maryland were pronounced like the two words "Mary land".

But Arkansas, on the other hand, I just don't get. Especially since it's not pronounced like Kansas. In 1881 the Arkansas General Assembly actually passed a resolution saying that the final s is silent.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:23 PM on March 24, 2010


There's a college in London, Ontario named for Featherstonehough. UK place name are really common in Ontario (Perth, Scarborough, Essex, Stratford etc...), but this one time, sense prevailed: it's Fanshawe College.
posted by bonehead at 1:27 PM on March 24, 2010


Strange that those who do not speak well should decide how names are pronounced.
posted by Cranberry at 1:31 PM on March 24, 2010


I once got into a long (pre-internet) argument about the pronunciation of Worcester, MA. No one would believe me that it's actually pronounced "wooster"

and yet Wooster, OH is pronounced WAR-ster by the locals!


And Worcester, PA - War-ses-ter

Versailles, OH - "Vur-sails"

Cairo, IL - KAY-ro

Wilkes-Barre, PA - Wilkesbury

And, of course, Philadelphia: Fluffya
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:34 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


metaxa, what's weird about how Maryland is pronounced? It's not surprising that the vowels in a compound word are more "neutral" than in the words it comes from; this is pretty standard. It would seem strange to me if Maryland were pronounced like the two words "Mary land".

Isn't it pronounced 'Mary-lin'?
posted by metaxa at 1:35 PM on March 24, 2010


(I don't think that Fanshawe College have used quite enough typefaces on their home page.)
posted by i_cola at 1:36 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


North Versailles, PA is pronounced North Ver-SAYLZ, which drives me insane every time I hear it.
posted by octothorpe at 1:38 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It was pointed out to me many years ago that I pronounce "Virginia" as if it starts with an F. Fuhjinya.
posted by JanetLand at 1:42 PM on March 24, 2010


A student of Gonville & Caius
Was endowed half-way down to his knaius.
The Chaplain's young wife
Said, "No, not on your life."
But the Chaplain himself said, "Yes, plaius."


Ha!

(It's pronounced "keys")
posted by djgh at 1:42 PM on March 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Let me just throw in there that Tennessee has Milan (MY-lunn), Lafayette (luh-FAY-ut), and Lebanon (LEB-nun).
posted by komara at 1:44 PM on March 24, 2010


A popular girl is Miss Cholmondeley,
She's youthful, attractive and colmondeley,
and never objects
to suggestions of sex,
but simply cooperates dolmondeley.
posted by 7-7 at 1:47 PM on March 24, 2010 [16 favorites]


affLECK

The mister and I pronounce Ben Affleck's last name like that, but that's because we use the same cadence as when saying Bela Fleck. Though I suppose if we wanted to be accurate, we'd call him bayna FLECK.

Anyway, I'm from New England and my daughter's middle name is Eilis, pronounced ay-lish, so I'm used to this stuff.
posted by Ruki at 1:49 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


In Indiana, we have Lebanon (LEB-nun), West Lafayette (LAHfeeyet) Versailles (verSAYLZ) Rensselaer (RensahLEER) and Brazil- pronounced correctly. Well, pronounced the same way we pronounce the country's name, BRUHzil.
posted by headspace at 1:52 PM on March 24, 2010


When I visited York earlier this month, MeFite Sova took Electric Dragon and I over to Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate:

"Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate – The shortest street in York. Known in 1505 as Whitnourwhatnourgate (and meaning 'what a street!) it was changed later into its present name. The footpath was paved in York stone by York Civic Trust in 1984."

I don't even want to think about how to pronounce either version.

Also, I used to live in 'tucky, near Vurrrsales. All the cities out there are named after European ones...yet, not quite.

This is a fun post; I love it!
posted by iamkimiam at 1:58 PM on March 24, 2010


On the subject of place names, Wisconsin has its share, but at least some are pronounced oddly because of anti-German sentiment from WWI and WWII. Not an easy thing to do when a large portion of your ancestors came from Germany anyway, but some towns which didn't change their names completely were forced to change pronunciation. We now boast both BER-linn and New BER-linn.
posted by Madamina at 2:12 PM on March 24, 2010


Iowa is a great contender for place name mangling:

Madrid - mad-rid
Lamoni - la-mon-eye (long 'o' in 'mon')
Nevada - nah-va-dah (long 'a' in 'va')

Minnesota has:

Lac Qui Parle - Lackey-parell
Le Sueur - la-sir
Cloquet - klo-kay
Albert Lea - albert-lee
Wayzata - why-zet-ah (famously mispronounced way-zah-tah on the premiere episode of the original 90210 to establish from whence some characters had moved from to arrive in BH

Wisconsin won't be outdone:

New Berlin - new burr-linn
Weil Street, Milwaukee - wheel street, muh-waukee

Michigan boasts:

Saline - say-line

I know there are others in these states, just can't think of them now :(
posted by kuppajava at 2:17 PM on March 24, 2010


I'd always known about names like Worcester or Leicester, but ones like Featherstonehaugh and Cholmondeley blew me away.

kmz (and OP!)
I still feel a faint flush of anger when I see the last two names; my mother was raised in Fiji when it was still under the thumb of the colonial administration (i.e. her parents!) and all the girls at her Suva school were expected to seriously memorize those required pronunciations as if the knowledge was a crucial part of their education.

It's possible my mother told me about it when I was going through some teen anti-establishment phase - because I remember it made me want to punch a toff on the nose!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:23 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lac Qui Parle - Lackey-parell
Le Sueur - la-sir
Cloquet - klo-kay


Those do look weird in English, but your transliterations are within shouting distance of how they would be said in French. I'm sure that syllable emphasis has shifted, but those are pretty intact versions of the original pronunciations, as close as American English can reasonably get, really.
posted by bonehead at 2:34 PM on March 24, 2010


As a new Londener, this stuff kills me. So hard to coordinate what someone says to what something written looks like.

Just down the block from me is an area named Rotherhithe. Of course, that's pronounced "Redriff". Shoot me now.
posted by qwip at 2:34 PM on March 24, 2010


They should try New Orleans, where half the streets are named after muses, and all are mispronounced.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:36 PM on March 24, 2010


My great-grandmother (from what is now Oklahoma, but in her childhood was still "Indian Territory) pronounced Pueblo, Colorado as "Pee-eh-bluh". I've met a few old-school folks from there who say that's still a somewhat common pronunciation.
She also said "deesh-rag" (dishrag, or dishcloth) and "warsh cloth" (washcloth).
posted by dbmcd at 2:37 PM on March 24, 2010


half the streets are named after muses

Oh what times I had on Rue Kristin Hersh.
posted by everichon at 2:39 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


kuppajava:
"Michigan boasts:

Saline -
say-line"

Actually, it's pronounced suh-leen. Not say-leen (as in saline solution) or say-line (as in I don't know what).
posted by axiom at 2:56 PM on March 24, 2010


I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Palestine, Texas. Last syllable STEEN, no matter what T-Bone Burnett said in the song on his last album. There was a lot of mocking in my in-laws' house about that one.

The story is they all had read their Bible when they founded the town, but nobody had ever heard the place name pronounced correctly.
posted by immlass at 3:05 PM on March 24, 2010


Byoolee
posted by veedubya at 3:07 PM on March 24, 2010


metaxa: the "d" in Maryland is hard to hear, but it's there, in my (Philadelphian) pronunciation. But on the other hand, the OED actually has "(d)" in the pronunciation of "Maryland", which I take to mean that the /d/ sound is optional. I did not know this, despite living within an hour's drive of the state.

Can anyone who's actually from Maryland help us?
posted by madcaptenor at 3:14 PM on March 24, 2010


Just down the block from me is an area named Rotherhithe. Of course, that's pronounced "Redriff". Shoot me now.

Either this is a clever joke that's gone over my head or someone's winding you up. It's "Rovverive".
posted by tigrefacile at 3:22 PM on March 24, 2010


I'm sorry, but that list on Wikipedia doesn't have Loughborough on it. The town that you're supposed to pronounce as Luffburra.

Yes, I know I could add it myself!
And Aghoghill is completely intuitive if you come from Northern Ireland.
And Naas isn't pronounced as it is spelt because it is a shit attempt to anglicise An Nás.

Pah.

posted by knapah at 3:23 PM on March 24, 2010


Some background on Brett "Farve"
posted by kurumi at 3:31 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here in Georgia, we have a lonely county called "Taliaferro" county... pronounced "Tolliver."

And, of course, the inexplicably silent L in DeKalb. I've been living here 15 years and still have to stop and think about how to pronounce it.
posted by deadmessenger at 3:36 PM on March 24, 2010


I knew it!

South Carolina has been mispronouncing Beaufort for years.
posted by thivaia at 3:39 PM on March 24, 2010


My first encounter with St. John as "sinjin" was Airwolf.
posted by emelenjr at 3:44 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the subject of place names, Wisconsin has its share

Yes we do. And since we tend to favor indian names, when I'm on a call with someone from out of state, and they are trying to pronounce some of the locations here, I just cruelly sit and let them work through it:

"Wa...kesha?

"Waukesha, the emphasis is on the first syllable. Wah, Kih, Sha."

"OKo...Noc...O...mwok?"

"'Oconomowoc', Oh, Con, O, Moe, Wok, it's pronounced just like it's spelled..."

"Oco...no..."

"Never mind, just go onto the next one,"

"Oh this should be easy, New Berlin"

"Actually, it's 'Newburl'n'"

"Huh?"

"Newburl'n"

"Why do you hate me?"

And so on.

"Oconomowoc" is actually one of my favorites, because as kids living in the area, we used to play games with names, "Home Depot" was (and, sadly, still is) Home Despot. Red Owl (an old grocery store) was "Dead Fowl" and Oconomowoc, with an "O" before every letter, was something approaching 'Ok o Nok o mo wok" (there is an extra "K" sound in there) and it threw off visitors completely.

We were dumb and easily amused.

posted by quin at 3:49 PM on March 24, 2010


Either this is a clever joke that's gone over my head or someone's winding you up. It's "Rovverive".

Well, to be fair, I don't think they say Redriff these days, more like "Roterhide". But there's a Redriff street in Rotherhithe that shows it's heritage. There's a passage online that notes "After the appearance of Part 4 of “The Oddest English Spellings,” in which I mentioned, among other things, the place name Rotherhithe allegedly pronounced redrif".

So, take that for what it's worth.
posted by qwip at 3:56 PM on March 24, 2010


Is it really that mind-blowing that in -cester the first 'e' is unstressed? I don't really understand why Americans who say ICEcream and NEWyear and BOYscout should find it so bizarre to say GLOUcester rather than glouCESter.
posted by Phanx at 3:56 PM on March 24, 2010


I asked many people when I was in England but no one could explain why Greenwich is Grennich, Dulwich is Dulich, Norwich is Norich, but Ipswich is Ipswich.
posted by interplanetjanet at 4:11 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is it really that mind-blowing that in -cester the first 'e' is unstressed? I don't really understand why Americans who say ICEcream and NEWyear and BOYscout should find it so bizarre to say GLOUcester rather than glouCESter.

I don't know about anybody else, but for me it's the silent 'ce' in -cester. It's GLOUster.
posted by kmz at 4:40 PM on March 24, 2010


Pff. You Americans. This is all very simple and straightforwards. Now a real challenge is something like Washington State.
posted by Artw at 4:44 PM on March 24, 2010


As someone who has been in Ireland for three weeks (first time over the pond), let me just say: That list is just the tip of the iceberg. All I can say is thank God I read Lord of the Rings as a kid.

When I read your comment I tried to think of a few examples, but being an Irish person I couldn't think of any off the top of my head since none stood out. I had to cast an eye over google maps as though I were a tourist to come up with a few. I'm curious which ones stand out for you though.
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:48 PM on March 24, 2010


When I read your comment I tried to think of a few examples, but being an Irish person I couldn't think of any off the top of my head since none stood out. I had to cast an eye over google maps as though I were a tourist to come up with a few. I'm curious which ones stand out for you though.

I'm curious as well, perhaps they were as Gaeilge?
posted by knapah at 4:53 PM on March 24, 2010


Milngavie. Kirkudbright.
That will be all.
posted by scruss at 4:55 PM on March 24, 2010


Yeah I suspected most would be as Gaeilge also, but then there are places like Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dunleery) which are the Anglicised names but retain the Irish language spelling (without the fada). Other examples I thought might apply would be Phibsborough (fizz burra) or possibly Ballybough (bally bock)
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:04 PM on March 24, 2010


Can anyone who's actually from Maryland help us?

Heavily-accented locals, when we've grabbed our Naddybohs dere and are headin' downy ayshun, will say "Murlin." Less-accented locals will say something like "Mair-lynn." If the medial vowel is pronounced, the final consonant often will be too: "Ma-rih-lynnd." I have never in all my years heard the state's name pronounced as two separate words: "Mary Land."

There's been linguistic research done on the Middle Atlantic accents, as I remember, and a common characteristic was dropping or eliding syllables, and softening consonants. Cf. "Fluffya" for Philadelphia above.
posted by BrotherFeldspar at 5:14 PM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


In Indiana, we have Lebanon (LEB-nun), West Lafayette (LAHfeeyet) Versailles (verSAYLZ) Rensselaer (RensahLEER) and Brazil- pronounced correctly. Well, pronounced the same way we pronounce the country's name, BRUHzil.

Don't forget Valparaiso (valpuhRAYzo) and, of course, Indianapolis (indeeNAPlis).
posted by worldswalker at 5:16 PM on March 24, 2010


most of all I would like to see someone called Cockburn interviewed here.

Obligatory urologist reference.
posted by flabdablet at 5:23 PM on March 24, 2010


I asked many people when I was in England but no one could explain why Greenwich is Grennich, Dulwich is Dulich, Norwich is Norich, but Ipswich is Ipswich.

That's easy! It's because that's just how it is.
posted by pompomtom at 6:10 PM on March 24, 2010


I heard a most amusing story that Bill Gates gave a speech at the British Museum, trying to establish himself as an important art collector, and was immediately dismissed as a boorish American by repeatedly mispronouncing the name of his recent multimillion dollar art purchase, the Codex Leicester. Oh how I would have loved to be the one to tell him of his humiliation.

Sorry Billy boy, you may have all the money in the world, but you can't buy your way into civilized society if you are an uncivilized college dropout. You are nekulturny.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:11 PM on March 24, 2010


Gowanus.

That is all.
posted by i_cola at 6:31 PM on March 24, 2010



Heavily-accented locals, when we've grabbed our Naddybohs dere and are headin' downy ayshun, will say "Murlin.
"

Don't forget than murlin is the center of the "hun" belt, as in " 'ey hun, lets go bow-lin" (Duckpins of course).
posted by 445supermag at 8:45 PM on March 24, 2010


On the subject of place names, Wisconsin has its share

like...Kinnikinnick?

anyway...ahem...

There was a young lady of Worcester
Who usest to crow like a roosester
She usest to climb
Two trees at a time
But her sisester usest to boosest her.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:54 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


It causes me no end of amusement to hear my own employer's automated telephone attendent mispronounce the name of one of our branches. Chinguacousy just rolls off my tongue as ching-coosy. The local street name of Guelph is another one that gets mangled for some reason. Sadly, I still stumble on queens quay (key). I just can't help reading it phonetically.
posted by saucysault at 9:10 PM on March 24, 2010


like...Kinnikinnick?

*cough*cough*Kinnickinnic*cough*


Sorry, I had a pedant stuck in my throat.
posted by quin at 9:35 PM on March 24, 2010


Just down the road from Dildo, Newfoundland, you'll find Spread Eagle. Go a little further to get to Tickle Bay.

I may have that backwards.

Anyway, point being, the locals pronounce those without laughing.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:59 PM on March 24, 2010


Paging Dr Spaceman. Paging Dr Leo Spaceman.
posted by cerulgalactus at 11:55 PM on March 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Having lived when I was a child in Salisbury (not the one in England but pronounced the same) and now living part of the time in Bicester and the rest of the time in Ireland, I feel your pain.
posted by Logophiliac at 1:02 AM on March 25, 2010


When I visited York earlier this month, MeFite Sova took Electric Dragon and I over to Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate:

Just be thankful they skipped Grape Lane (NSFW).

The "gate" in York street names comes from the Viking "gatta" meaning street and may well have been pronounced more like "gat" than "gate".
posted by hardcode at 1:10 AM on March 25, 2010


knapah: And Naas isn't pronounced as it is spelt because it is a shit attempt to anglicise An Nás.

This is kind of a thing with a lot of the misleading Irish ones - Breaffy as An Bréachmhaigh isn't tricksy but it is if you're thinking in English. My boss last year threw a sequence of names at me on a car journey and by the end, Killavally/Killawalla (kill-a-WAL-ya) followed by a pub named McEvilly's (mack-EV-ill-ees), I just couldn't...use...words anymore.
posted by carbide at 3:10 AM on March 25, 2010


like...Kinnikinnick?

*cough*cough*Kinnickinnic*cough*

Sorry, I had a pedant stuck in my throat.


and locally (Milwaukee) pronounced KK (kay kay). I think I like the abbreviations even better than the names, like in headlines and whatnot.

"Tosa (Wauwatosa) man reattaches own severed foot" etc, etc
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:29 AM on March 25, 2010


Try the name of Roncesvalles Ave. in Toronto. Hint: You pronounce every letter as though you were the stupidest speech-synthesis program ever invented.
posted by joeclark at 5:52 AM on March 25, 2010


Some Strine pronunications of places and suburbs:

Prahran [PRAren], Carnegie [KARnegie], Moe [MO-Wee], Traralgon [traRALgon], Wangaratta [wongaRADa], Warrnambool [WARnembool], Launceston [LONceston], Stawell [stall], St Kilda [sinKILda].

Also, I often hear overseas visitors say [melBORN] rather than [MELbun] which is how we pronounce it.

Having hardly ever left Victoria I'm sure I've missed out on more than a few beauts from other states.
posted by moody cow at 6:08 AM on March 25, 2010


Maine has a town named Calais that's pronounced Cal-us (as in a callus on your foot). Keepin' it classy! Not Maine-ist, I actually loved visiting Calais in college for the short walk across the border to legal drinking land.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:18 AM on March 25, 2010


Ooops, correction: Prahran = [pruRAN] (Got myself mixed up with the incorrect pronunciation. Please hope the 5 minute edit window).
posted by moody cow at 6:18 AM on March 25, 2010


Every time I've taken a train on the Ipswich line I've been fascinated by the many and varied pronunciations of Ebbw Vale.
posted by h00py at 6:52 AM on March 25, 2010


London, Ontario. Home to:

Cumming Cockburn

I felt like I shouldn't have googled that at work.

(that name is a surprisingly common business name - there's one in London, Waterloo, Richmond Hill, Ottawa, and then outlier in Florida).
posted by molecicco at 6:52 AM on March 25, 2010


The "gate" in York street names comes from the Viking "gatta" meaning street and may well have been pronounced more like "gat" than "gate".

Sounds about right. Nearby Harrogate is pronounced more like HAIR-uh-git.
posted by molecicco at 6:54 AM on March 25, 2010


TwoWorldReview, the Irish place names that used to get me were "Raheny" (which I pronounced "RA-hen-nee", but is actually pronounced "Ra-HEE-nee") and Cobh ("cob" versus "cove").

Around here, I've also heard people mangle Navan "(Na-VAN instead of NAH-ven"), Antigonish ("An-TI-go-nish" as opposed to "Andiga-NISH") Newfoundland ("New-FOUND-Land" as opposed to "Noofun-LAND")
posted by LN at 7:13 AM on March 25, 2010


I'm sorry, but that list on Wikipedia doesn't have Loughborough on it. The town that you're supposed to pronounce as Luffburra.

Well, yes, you're supposed to, but it's much more fun to pretend it's Australian and call it Loogabarooga.

A few more that I've come across:

- Holborn (station on the London Underground): HO-burn
- Magdalen (as in Magdalen College, Oxford University): MAWD-lin
- Magdalene (as in Magdalene College, Cambridge University): also MAWD-lin, in a strange case of Oxford and Cambridge at least being ridiculously contrary only to the rest of the world and not each other
- Harwich (port on the Essex coast): Harrij

And don't even start on Wales. If you can correctly pronounce Pwllheli you're a better man than I.
posted by ZsigE at 7:13 AM on March 25, 2010


What's hard about "Pwllheli"? You just have to remember that in Welsh, 'w' is a vowel roughly similar to 'oo' and 'll' is a sound vaguely similar to 'th' that doesn't exist in English.
posted by salmacis at 7:37 AM on March 25, 2010


Raheny definitely wouldn't have occurred to me as having an odd pronounciation since I grew up there! :)
posted by TwoWordReview at 8:21 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I asked many people when I was in England but no one could explain why Greenwich is Grennich, Dulwich is Dulich, Norwich is Norich, but Ipswich is Ipswich.

That's easy! It's because that's just how it is.


Ha ha! That's the usual answer I got. Or "because Ipsich would be silly."

There's a Houston in Delaware too and it's pronounced the same as in New York. I think.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:56 AM on March 25, 2010


interplanetjanet: "65I asked many people when I was in England but no one could explain why Greenwich is Grennich, Dulwich is Dulich, Norwich is Norich, but Ipswich is Ipswich."

Ooh, I could tell you a likely reason for that...it most probably has to do with articulatory phonetics!

When you make an 'n' sound the tongue tip closes off the airflow through the mouth at the alveolar ridge (go ahead and try it...say 'nah' and you'll see that your tongue will be smashed up at the roof of your mouth, right where it rises up more drastically). An 'l' sound is a very similar motion, with the tongue tip at the top and one or both sides of the tongue body lowered so that air can pass (if you try to make an l sound while breathing IN, you can feel if one or both sides of your tongue is colder, which will show you how you probably make your l's - right side lowered, left, or both). The 'r' is similar to the 'l' in some respects, but not worth getting into here. 'R's are complicated.

Now an 's' sound is very different. Your tongue heads toward the alveolar ridge, but it doesn't actually touch it. It gets close enough, without touching, so that the air that passes through is turbulent and causes frication. This is why an 's' is called an alveolar fricative.

Lastly, a 'w' is approximant, meaning it is like a fricative in so much as the articulators involved get close to each other without touching (like a fricative), but not enough to cause turbulence (like a vowel). Additionally, the lips are rounded at the same time as back of the tongue raises toward the soft palate. It's a rather complicated gesture, involving two places of articulation (lips and velum = labio-velar) and an airstream that is not quite fricativey, not all vowel-like, and with the tongue not quite touching anything.

So when you consider the shortcuts we can take while speaking, you might see how going from an 'n' or an 'l' into a move where the tongue, lips and velum have to go out of their way to perform tricks before getting to that vowel, rather than from the 's', where the tongue tip is already almost touching...it's all set up...all you have to do is raise the back of the tongue and round the lips and stop fricating (which you would to get ready for the vowel anyway).

That may not make sense. But if you think of it as a series of dance moves, it kinda starts to. Also, people might just be analogizing from one form to another, too. If Greenwich is pronounced Grennish, then Dulwich is pronounced Dulich! I see, we're dropping w's! (but Ipswich is still exempt).
posted by iamkimiam at 8:57 AM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


er, Grennish = Grennich
posted by iamkimiam at 8:58 AM on March 25, 2010


most of all I would like to see someone called Cockburn interviewed here.

My iPod will pronounce Bruce Cockburn as it looks, rather than Co-burn as it should be. I'm starting to do it to, which is pretty terrible.
[It also pronounces Gogol Bordello as "Bore-dello", rhymes with whorejello]
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:46 PM on March 25, 2010


Skaneateles, NY, is pronounced "skinny atlas."
posted by Eideteker at 4:20 AM on March 28, 2010


And for me, I just go with what I'm comfortable with. When I say "Worcester" and people go "No, WUHSTAH," I say, "Clearly, you know what I meant." But when y'all say "Bill Ricka" and I'm supposed to know that's "Billerica"? Doesn't work so well. So I'll keep "mispronouncing" things and being understood rather than trying to learn all your BS mispronunciations.

Yes, I call "Bogota, NJ" bo-go-TA, like the capital of Columbia. In MA, I say "Lee-oh-min-ster" and "Quin-see" and "Pee-body". I don't have a problem with "Scituate" (situate), though. That one makes sense.
posted by Eideteker at 4:25 AM on March 28, 2010


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