Two Countries, Separated By A Common Tongue
April 20, 2015 3:45 PM   Subscribe

How to Pronounce UK Place Names (SLYT) "Anglophenia's Siobhan Thompson teaches Science Friction's Rusty Ward—and the rest of America—how to pronounce difficult British place names."
posted by Michele in California (144 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Apparently being from Massachusetts gives you quite the leg up on many of these.

Ely is just patently wrong though, you suck Britain.
posted by maryr at 3:52 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ely is just patently wrong though, you suck Britain.

Ely, Minnesota is pronounced the same way.

No eels, that I am aware of, though.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:57 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


When you see how the English have chosen to spell names in other languages it seems most likely it is either malice or a very drawn out kind of trolling.
"Padraig" is how they spell a name pronounced "Porrig".
"Peking" is the same city as "Beijing", but spelled by the brits.
And they do this to their own cities as well.
posted by librosegretti at 4:04 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Padraig" is how they spell a name pronounced "Porrig".

That's Irish spelling, not English.

"Peking" is the same city as "Beijing", but spelled by the brits.

Same town, but different names.
posted by Thing at 4:06 PM on April 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Cockfosters"
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:07 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Apparently being from Massachusetts gives you quite the leg up on many of these.

Having had family in MA from childhood, I'm still really bothered on some level by the spelling of Wooster, Ohio.
posted by Sequence at 4:08 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


cairo, illinois
mackinac city, michigan

i'm sure there are others the brits will not get right ...
posted by pyramid termite at 4:08 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Peking" is the same city as "Beijing", but spelled by the brits.

Istanbul, not Constantinople.
posted by arcticwoman at 4:09 PM on April 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Just so long as there's no lecturing about how to pronounce Pittsburgh.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:11 PM on April 20, 2015


cairo, illinois
mackinac city, michigan


Try Versailles, Indiana.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:11 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Edinburgh
posted by Lanark at 4:12 PM on April 20, 2015


I think Peking is the English attempt to spell the same name, not a different name.
posted by librosegretti at 4:12 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, Instanbul and Constantinople are names for the same place but with different etymologies. Peking and Beijing are, basically, different names based on different ways of reading Chinese. Peking isn't wrong, it's just not right.
posted by Thing at 4:12 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Islay has always perplexed me. It's "Ìle" in Gaelic, which is pronounced "ee-la", but in English it's pronounced "eye-la" and spelled "Islay".

And then you go to the bloody place and think you're all clever for pronouncing Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain correctly, but get the English-appearing Bowmore wrong. (Stress in on the "more" fact-fans!)
posted by sobarel at 4:15 PM on April 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


My parents were once on the train to Slough and asked the conductor how much longer it would be until they got to "Sluff". He wasn't entirely happy with their pronunciation.
posted by A dead Quaker at 4:16 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I work at an office in Cambridge, MA for a company based in Cambridge, England. We may not be able to understand one another entirely when we chat on the phone, but at least we all say the place names the same.
posted by briank at 4:16 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think Peking is the English attempt to spell the same name

Peking hasn't been used in the UK as the preferred spelling for decades. It's been Beijing since I was a kid. The Germans still use Peking though, and it's still generally Peking Duck you order in restaurants.
posted by sobarel at 4:18 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


and while we're at it: Brian Cox Scotch Pronounciations
posted by gwint at 4:22 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


In a rare example of reverse-poshing-it-up Belvoir castle Is pronounced "beaver".

English, as a language, is just fucking terrible, mostly because of the remains of languages of various invaders buried in it. The place names are interesting because they expose some of the archeology of that.

Other times it's just random.
posted by Artw at 4:23 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


How do you pronounce "Siobhan"?

Also... Arkansas River (ar-KAN-sus)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:23 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Brian Cox can't say Caol Ila for toffee.
posted by sobarel at 4:24 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


No Brits guess the pronunciation of Arkansas right ever.

I wouldn't even try with a lot of Washington state place names.
posted by Artw at 4:25 PM on April 20, 2015


"Cockfosters"

Scene: a Piccadilly-line tube train on the way in to London from Heathrow. An American family are standing in the carriage, with their luggage. “Daddy,” the small boy says.

“What is it?”

“What's a cockfoster?”
posted by acb at 4:25 PM on April 20, 2015


How do you pronounce "Siobhan"?

"Shih-VON", if I remember right.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:25 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Shiv-on. Just like it's spelled.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:25 PM on April 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


This is not so much a problem of pronouncing difficult names as it is a question of understanding that a former world-spanning empire that fancied itself the center of all human culture just decided to pronounce things however the hell they wanted and declare those pronunciations correct for Queen and country.

I, of course, am unfailingly amused when my rail-mad friend from Newcastle comes to visit me in "MerryLAND" and asks to visit "Boh-wee,"where rail-mad Brits go with their little notebooks. When pressed on where I find the "ing" in the correct regional pronunciation of Odenton, I can only reply that it's hidden in the same place as the F in lieutenant, which is to say that some things are pronounced the way they are just because.
posted by sonascope at 4:25 PM on April 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


Peking and Beijing are "northern capital city" in two different Chinese languages/dialects, plus the Communists introduced a new Romanization for the second language, one which writes 'b' for unaspirated 'p'. The first language was the dominant one at the 16th-century contact site and time-period. The 'j' in the new spelling system really is supposed to be pronounced as English 'j' -- I don't know why so many people use a French 'j' (zhhhhing) instead.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 4:26 PM on April 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


Surely everybody who watched TV news when Bill Clinton was president would know that Arkansas is pronounced “arkensaw”?
posted by acb at 4:27 PM on April 20, 2015


Irvine,Scotland is different than Irvine,CA
Once had a policewoman laugh at how we tried to pronounce Reims,France
posted by stuartmm at 4:28 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think a special mention should go to Shrewsbury, the residents of which have been engaged in internecine linguistic warfare for generations over whether it should be pronounced as "Shrowsbury" or not.
posted by sobarel at 4:28 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Surely everybody who watched TV news when Bill Clinton was president would know that Arkansas is pronounced “arkensaw”?

They'd just assume that was a different place.
posted by Artw at 4:31 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Louisville, Kentucky
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:34 PM on April 20, 2015


This is not so much a problem of pronouncing difficult names as it is a question of understanding that a former world-spanning empire that fancied itself the center of all human culture just decided to pronounce things however the hell they wanted and declare those pronunciations correct for Queen and country.

Huh? All the pronunciations given are for places in Great Britain. They come from the difficulties surrounding etymological spelling, local pronunciation, and the transposition of Celtic words into English. Broad "national characteristics" never really explained anything, least of all why Pontcysyllte and Hall i' th' Wood might be such stumbling blocks.
posted by Thing at 4:37 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of the first time I heard the Swedish pronunciation for Göteborg (Gothenburg).

Bonus: København / Köpenhamn (Copenhagen)
posted by needled at 4:38 PM on April 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Prairie du Chien, WI is a good example of the US keeping one spelling, but opting for the Brit style "we will pronounce it however the hell we like" pronunciation. It's roughly purr-do-sheen, apparently.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 4:45 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The butchering of the pronunciation of French names in Wisconsin and Idaho used to drive me crazy.

Benoit, Fond-du-Lac, Pend d'Oreille and my favourite, the close-to-me town of Coeur D'Alene, which is of course pronounced something like "Coordayleeen"
posted by sauril at 4:52 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


For every point of interest that video generated, it produced 1.2 points of annoyance, what with the characters alternately playing stupid and smug, and the whole minute before we got to the point of the bloody thing.
posted by JHarris at 4:53 PM on April 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


On the video itself, it was ok. But did they really need so many instances where Whatevercester is pronounced "Whateverster"?

And yeah, the smug/stupid thing...
posted by sauril at 5:00 PM on April 20, 2015


Well, Instanbul and Constantinople are names for the same place but with different etymologies.

Obligatory
posted by gimonca at 5:01 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't even try with a lot of Washington state place names.

I learned over the last weekend that Sequim, WA is pronounced "skwim" and definitely not "see-kwim". One syllable. Like squid, only with an "m" at the end instead of a "d". Six letters and I couldn't guess it correctly.

Dammit Washington, get your shit together.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 5:01 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


But did they really need so many instances where Whatevercester is pronounced "Whateverster"?

If they'd been smart, they'd have saved Cirencester for last.
posted by darksasami at 5:09 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


And yeah, the smug/stupid thing

In fairness to her, it's incredibly difficult to say anything at all in a high RP accent (plus whatever the edge to her accent that I can't identify is) without sounding smug.

As an aside, her Welsh pronunciation/accent is not as good as she seems to think it is.
posted by metaBugs at 5:10 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I visited England and Scotland as a kid, my parents told me this was done deliberately to catch spies. The theory being they might get the language and accent right, but would be tripped up by all the non-obvious pronunciations of the place names. I'm not sure there's any truth to that explanation, but it has a certain amount of truthiness to it.
posted by FishBike at 5:10 PM on April 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


I feel like I should add, it's nothing against the post, and I think the video is interesting and informative, and I think (after it ended) that I am better off for having seen it. It's just... why did they have to make it this way?

The gold (or some other metal) standard for these kinds of entertaining informational videos, I realized yesterday, are the RHNB, "Red Hot Nickel Ball" videos that The Whelk linked to a day or two ago. No words in those at all, no introductions, no branding, no banter! Just video after video of glorious materials getting vibrated into interesting chemical formations by a sphere of glowing metal. I didn't even mind the ads... well, that much.
posted by JHarris at 5:12 PM on April 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


How to pronounce Sequim

Spelling (I assume all three of these are pronounced the same): Jonesboro, Georgia and Jonesboro, Arkansas but Jonesborough, Tennessee.
posted by Michele in California at 5:13 PM on April 20, 2015


Here in the States, in the cornfed Midwest, you can tell whether someone is a native St. Louisan by how they pronounce Americanized-anglicized-creolified French place names like Creve Coeur, Bellefontaine, Gravois and Debaliviere.

Anyone want to guess on how we say those? (No cheating by people who live here.)

(And it's St. LouiS with an S on the end, by the way.)
posted by BlueJae at 5:28 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Benoit, Fond-du-Lac, Pend d'Oreille and my favourite, the close-to-me town of Coeur D'Alene, which is of course pronounced something like "Coordayleeen"

To which London brings Theydon Bois (pronounced “boyce”).

I remember seeing news reports of Hurricane Katrina and thinking that the French ambassador to the US had remarkable sang froid when he pronounced “New Orleans” the American way without hesitating or reacting in any way to this crime against the French tongue.
posted by acb at 5:28 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Michele in California: "How to pronounce Sequim"

Here's a different opinion on how to pronounce Sequim. However, given that it can't even pronounce Washington correctly, it's probably not to be trusted. Meanwhile, you can check out one of the other six zillion videos about pronouncing different American cities that are also great places to visit that the robot known as "Jesse Smith" has uploaded (accuracy not guaranteed).
posted by mhum at 5:29 PM on April 20, 2015


Wait, acb. Do you mean he said "New Orlans" or "New Orleens" or "Nawlins?"

Because it seems to me Americans aren't sure how to pronounce New Orleans . . .
posted by BlueJae at 5:30 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


When I visited England and Scotland as a kid, my parents told me this was done deliberately to catch spies. The theory being they might get the language and accent right, but would be tripped up by all the non-obvious pronunciations of the place names. I'm not sure there's any truth to that explanation, but it has a certain amount of truthiness to it.

It has been speculated that a lot of the more illogical aspects of language (as well as social customs, i.e., whether it's polite or impolite to eat one's food in a certain way) did evolve not out of sloppiness but because they served a function, namely that of identifying outsiders (to an ethnic/tribal group, or a class/milieu); i.e., a shibboleth. Certainly, pronouncing things as one might logically expect them to be pronounced and not by the open-secret shibboleth pronunciation one would be initiated into in the standard education for one's class can be a tell of a self-educated individual who does not quite have the right old school tie hanging in their wardrobe. The implications of this depend on how much social mobility there is at that particular point in history.
posted by acb at 5:33 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wait, acb. Do you mean he said "New Orlans" or "New Orleens" or "Nawlins?"

“New Orleens”, IIRC. Which is probably a sensible compromise; it's an accepted American pronounciation (unlike the French one) but would not be trying to pass as a local from anywhere specific.
posted by acb at 5:34 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Derail: There is a fair amount of prickly pear cactus around Sequim, which is surprising given that it's only a couple dozen miles from one of the rainiest places on the planet.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 5:34 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the first time I heard the Swedish pronunciation for Göteborg (Gothenburg).

Yeah, once you cotton to the fact that every g in Sweden is basically just a misshapen y, suddenly all the -burys in Britain start to make a lot more sense.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:34 PM on April 20, 2015 [38 favorites]


Sys Rq holy cow that is a revelation.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 5:36 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, once you cotton to the fact that every g in Sweden is basically just a misshapen y, suddenly all the -burys in Britain start to make a lot more sense.

Is this the actual case? I was under the impression that the Swedish 'g' is only pronounced as a 'y' when followed by one of several specific vowels (ö being one), and not at the end of a word.

And don't get me started on the numerous variations of the “sh” sound in Swedish...
posted by acb at 5:38 PM on April 20, 2015


Derail: There is a fair amount of prickly pear cactus around Sequim, which is surprising given that it's only a couple dozen miles from one of the rainiest places on the planet.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 5:34 PM on April 20 [+] [!]


Not surprising at all given that the rainy place you speak of is on the other side of the mountain and Sequim is in the mountain's rain shadow, making it the driest spot north of, I think, San Francisco on the West Coast (or some place in California).

(I interviewed via phone for an internship there. Interesting place. I had applied to the National Lab in Richland. I was shocked to be called about a position in a satellite office in Sequim. Frantic googling ensued.)
posted by Michele in California at 5:38 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is this the actual case?

No! Not every g. But as someone who learned just enough Swedish to make now trying to learn Danish completely fucking impossible, the former (sj's, kj's, and all) sure seems that straightforward.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:43 PM on April 20, 2015


(Oh, but in bergs and borgs, yep, them's y-y.)
posted by Sys Rq at 5:49 PM on April 20, 2015


It's all part of the deal. The Brits get to laugh at our pronunciation of their place names, and we get to laugh at the Brits for thinking there's a "special relationship".
posted by ckape at 5:52 PM on April 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


I guess it's true what they say: Reading is a nightmare.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:57 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


In other news, it turns out that vocal fry isn't a uniquely American phenomenon.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:00 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


we get to laugh at the Brits for thinking there's a "special relationship".

but there is - they're the rich uncle who gives us a summer cottage, a rolls royce and tuition money, and we're the spoiled brat nephew who turns the summer cottage into a walmart, trades the rolls royce for a camaro and a pickup truck, and takes the tuition money to invest in dodgy schemes that make us so much money, we can actually go back and buy the uncle's estate out from under him
posted by pyramid termite at 6:08 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have two rules to make my life as an American named Siobhan easier :

1. If I doubt I will ever talk to you again, my name is molly. (like at Starbucks or other places that ask for for name). This avoids a 5 min convo about my name.

2. I only correct you 3 times, maybe even less. In fact, I've mostly given up correcting people because it turns out other people do it for me.

I was so glad when there was a contestant on American Idol named Siobhan a while back because it significantly lowered the amount of times I have had to explain my name.

I still haven't figured out most of the things with dgghgdgh in the middle tho. I guess it's like French where you just ignore most of the letters... Qu'est-ce que c'est? Kess kuh say. The less you say the better. Brigghaidggdhhbercester... Brister. Right?
posted by sio42 at 6:10 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


And here in PA, we can tell when you ain't from these parts because you will say Lan-cas-ter instead of Lank-as-ter.


I was about 10 before I realized that "lebnin" bologna was Lebanon bologna. Leb-anon is the country. Lebnin is the place around here that makes bologna.
posted by sio42 at 6:13 PM on April 20, 2015


Americanized-anglicized-creolified French place names like Creve Coeur, Bellefontaine, Gravois and Debaliviere.

Anyone want to guess on how we say those? (No cheating by people who live here.)


Well, I'll give it a shot:

Creev-Core, Bell-fountain, Gravy and Deb-oliver
posted by indubitable at 6:16 PM on April 20, 2015


Cholmondeley.
posted by sonascope at 6:17 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Having to say Ver-sales kills me.

Also, people/places with Lamontange as a name that pronounce it Lamonty.

Blech. I feel dirty.
posted by sio42 at 6:18 PM on April 20, 2015


If you are an American and are moved to do an audiobook of a Jeeves and Wooster story involving a character called Edgar Gascoyne Bickersteth, 8th Duke of Chiswick, and you pronounce the last bit Chis-wick (it's Chizzick, goddam it. And it's the sort of place that would so never have a Duke, Plum nails it - as always), it really doesn't matter how well you do the Edgar, the Gascoyne or the Bickersteth. I will listen through once, delete the file and salt the rows and columns of the flash memory die it once polluted.

Well done for having a pop, though!
posted by Devonian at 6:22 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


it's Chizzick, goddam it. And it's the sort of place that would so never have a Duke

Isn't it full of posho rugger-bugger LandRover types these days? Surely some of them would hold aristocratic titles of some sort.

(I imagine in Wodehouse's time, it may have been a lot more proletarian, as was Chelsea, for example.)
posted by acb at 6:25 PM on April 20, 2015


I don't know what it's like today, but when I lived in Chiswick some coughahem years ago, it was the sort of place a young man might lose his virginity on the stairs of a rented house to the secretary of the local CAMRA, who was also a trainee accountant. That doesn't merit a dukedom.

I have no doubts that dukes have - and quite possibly do - live in Chiswick (or Gunnersbury, if you want to really broaden the net). But there would never be a dukedom named after the place. Far too... middling.
posted by Devonian at 6:32 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


BlueJae: (And it's St. LouiS with an S on the end, by the way.)

Yeah, but then we couldn't rhyme it with “so long, screwy”.
posted by traveler_ at 6:35 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Having to say Ver-sales kills me.

We have one of those here near Pittsburgh too and even after living here half my life it pains me to pronounce it that way.
posted by octothorpe at 6:37 PM on April 20, 2015


Berlin, MA vs. that other Berlin.
posted by adamg at 6:42 PM on April 20, 2015


So, what rules can we deduce? So far I've noticed:
- internal 'h's and 'ce's are silent, with 'ce' also silencing the proceeding vowel ("Gloucester" -> "Glouster")
- single 'i's without a trailing consonant in a syllable are long ("eye") ("Cirencester" -> "Cierenster")
- single 'e's without a trailing consonent in a syllable are pronounced as short 'a' ("aah") ("Derby" -> "Darby")
- 'ie' and 'e' on their own pronounced as 'ee' ("Dumfries" -> "Dumfrees", "Ely" -> "Eely")
- 'o' -> 'oo' ("Frome" -> "Froome")
- Internal 'le' is pronounced as its own syllable instead of swallowed. It's not like the end of "bottle." ("Hartlepool" -> "Hartleypool")

Double vowels in general seem to be a trap for the unwary. "Mousehole" becoming "Mauseole," "Reading" said "Reeding," etc.

I'm not even gonna try to figure out Welsh placenames, it'd be like sicking my hand in a bag of snakes.
posted by JHarris at 7:25 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Menzies
posted by triggerfinger at 7:43 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


acb: Certainly, pronouncing things as one might logically expect them to be pronounced and not by the open-secret shibboleth pronunciation one would be initiated into in the standard education for one's class can be a tell of a self-educated individual who does not quite have the right old school tie hanging in their wardrobe. The implications of this depend on how much social mobility there is at that particular point in history.

Also depends upon how much literacy there is at a particular point in history since a non-phonetic spelling presents no obstacle to someone who isn't learning a language or remembering vocabulary via reading.

ckape: The Brits get to laugh at our pronunciation of their place names, and we get to laugh at the Brits for thinking there's a "special relationship".

Of course AUSCANZUKUS has a special relationship with Airstrip One!
posted by XMLicious at 7:46 PM on April 20, 2015


So, what rules can we deduce?

The pronunciation of some place names and words in English has persisted through the Great Vowel Shift; Derby, Berkshire, Berkley (also "clerk" in British English is pronounced "clark").

"Hartlepool" is from Anglo-Saxon, denoting a place where harts (deer, as in "the white hart" that was the emblem of Richard II) drank from a pool (the 'le' is probably from Norman French).

Frome is another case of retaining the pre-vowel shift pronunciation.

And Welsh is a similar alphabet but a different language; once you have an idea of the relationship between the letters and sounds in Welsh it's not that hard (apart from the "ll", which is kind of like a sound midway between "f", "th", and clearing your throat with a bit of an "l" tacked on to the end).
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 7:47 PM on April 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


an audiobook of a Jeeves and Wooster

It's Jeeves and Worcestershire, get the spelling right!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:54 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


(apart from the "ll", which is kind of like a sound midway between "f", "th", and clearing your throat with a bit of an "l" tacked on to the end).

I've read though never confirmed that the names Floyd and Lloyd are the same name in Welsh.
posted by Rumple at 8:17 PM on April 20, 2015


the Communists introduced a new Romanization for the second language, one which writes 'b' for unaspirated 'p'....The 'j' in the new spelling system really is supposed to be pronounced as English 'j' -- I don't know why so many people use a French 'j' (zhhhhing) instead.

....and the 'c' as 'ts', and the 'x' as something like 'sh', and the 'q' as something like 'ch', which of course means that English must adopt these spellings unaltered, to keep things simple and unpronounceable.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 8:18 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The "close enough" Welsh secret decoder ring:
c=k
dd=th
f=v
ff=f
w=u/w
u=i
y=i/ee
ch=the same as the ch in Scottish loch
ll=make your tongue move like you're going to make an L sound but blow air between the sides of your tongue and teeth...or just say "hl" if that's too much trouble.
Vowels are pretty regular but join together. So ae = ah eh = "aye"

See here for something more accurate.
posted by delicious-luncheon at 8:43 PM on April 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is all very delightful but the woman in the OP is dead wrong about the pronunciation of Ruislip.

It's RICE-lip, not RIZE-lip.

Not that there's any particular reason to say it. Or to go there. Five tube stations and NOTHING TO DO, as the unusually accurate YT comment said.
posted by motty at 8:46 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Peking isn't wrong, it's just not right

"Peking" is how "Beijing" is pronounced in Japanese. It's not as though "Beijing" as pronounced by an English speaker is somehow the correct pronunciation.
posted by Nevin at 8:47 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle, only in the narcissistic minds of Kansans is the Arkansas River pronounced Ar-kanz-az. In Colorado, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, it is pronounced Ark-(an/en)-saw. Arkansas City, KS, being in Kansas, is correctly pronounced Ar-kanz-az.

Basically what I'm saying is that if it's something that belongs to your state, you can make up whatever pronunciation you like, but if it isn't, it isn't your name to mangle.
posted by wierdo at 8:53 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think a special mention should go to Shrewsbury, the residents of which have been engaged in internecine linguistic warfare for generations over whether it should be pronounced as "Shrowsbury" or not.

I was taught that "Shrewsbury" sounds like "SHRUZbry"
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:58 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I once visited beautiful Buena Vista, Virginia. Yep, that's right—Beeyuna Vista.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:24 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I defy an Englishman, or for that matter anyone raised east of the lovely mississip, to pronounce three quarters of the cities in CA and CO the way the locals do. As a native of one and long-time resident of the other, it's always funny to hear folks over-spanish-ize CO (the 'a' is like the one in 'hat,' dammit) and then butcher something like "Pueblo," which is still pretty much pronounced the Spanish way. Even locals, at least the gringos, tend to mangle Buena Vista pretty hard.

Northern CA has "San Rah-fel" and "Va-Lay-Ho" and a whole host of other fuckery.

and then I move to DC and have to deal with things like "Havre de Grace"
posted by aspersioncast at 9:34 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


infinitewindow, that's the way half the Coloradans say it too. Ich.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:35 PM on April 20, 2015


I think it's very quaint how you all talk about British accents as if there were only one.
posted by walrus at 9:53 PM on April 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


infinitewindow, that's the way half the Coloradans say it too. Ich.


That's the half of Colorado that's from Texas.
posted by univac at 10:16 PM on April 20, 2015


Saline, MI does not sound like saline as in "saline solution"
posted by axiom at 10:19 PM on April 20, 2015


I've read though never confirmed that the names Floyd and Lloyd are the same name in Welsh.

"Floyd" would be from an English person trying to write down "Lloyd"--"Fl" was apparently as close as they could get to the Welsh "ll" sound (Shakespeare spelled "Llywelyn" as "Fluellen").
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 10:31 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


She got Pontypridd wrong.
posted by fullerine at 11:00 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


“What's a cockfoster?”

The joke when I lived in London was, on that same Picadilly line:

The American asking: "Is this Cockfosters?"
And the response: "No, it's mine."
posted by chavenet at 11:42 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


French 'j' (zhhhhing)
misshapen y
short 'a' ("aah")
dd=th
the same as the ch in Scottish loch
Ark-(an/en)-saw


The world would be a better place if schools just taught some basic linguistics. And the IPA.
posted by wachhundfisch at 12:30 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


> I defy an Englishman, or for that matter anyone raised east of the lovely mississip, to pronounce three quarters of the cities in CA and CO the way the locals do.

Most Englishmen couldn't pronounce three quarters of the place names in England the way the locals do. I'm going to Cornwall for the first time this year and I'm already beginning to feel the impending mispronunciation embarrassment.
posted by ZipRibbons at 1:00 AM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sian Penn.
posted by clavdivs at 1:11 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


hipscesters?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:16 AM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Sa-lean" Michigan.
Ishpeming Michigan!
posted by clavdivs at 1:16 AM on April 21, 2015


Not to mention the truly local oddities, like for example Magdalen Street in Oxford being pronounced Maudlin Street (But of course pronounced Magdalen, as in Mary, everywhere else)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 1:53 AM on April 21, 2015


Slaithwaite = Slowat

chavenet, can you show me the way to Cockfosters?
posted by asok at 2:16 AM on April 21, 2015


I live not too far from the town of Southwell. Almost everyone outside Southwell pronounces it 'Suthall' (rhymes with 'shovel'), even people who live just a couple of miles away. But traditionally the townspeople of Southwell have called it 'South Well', with emphasis on the first word and the 'well' compressed a bit (w'll).

In recent decades it's come to a point where an influx of outsiders and the gradual dying off of the old residents has created an equilibrium between the two pronunciations within the town itself. 'South Well' is on the way out, it seems. But maybe it should be. There's a village a few miles away called Norwell that's always been pronounced 'Norrell'.

I also live near Gotham. You pronounce it 'Goat-um'. Sorry Batman.
posted by pipeski at 2:43 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


chavenet, can you show me the way to Cockfosters?

Drink it warm, mate.
posted by chavenet at 3:09 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


For some reason Albany, CA is pronounced Owl-bany instead of All-bany.
posted by octothorpe at 3:38 AM on April 21, 2015


I was hoping for "Pwllelli". Go on Americans, have a go.
posted by salmacis at 3:44 AM on April 21, 2015


> (And it's St. LouiS with an S on the end, by the way.)

Meet me in St. Looie, Looie,
Meet me at the fair.


Against Judy Garland, all the natives are wrong.
posted by jfuller at 4:07 AM on April 21, 2015


coming from the nation that makes descendants of burgers of Wien (vienna) pronounce their name "wine-burger" (yuk!), you've got nothing to lecture us about
(veen-boorger, to patronise you)
posted by maiamaia at 4:16 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


- internal 'h's and 'ce's are silent, with 'ce' also silencing the proceeding vowel ("Gloucester" -> "Glouster")

As a MA native for whom these pronunciations are quite familiar, I'm not sure I quite agree. The 'ce' isn't silent, so much as it is mashed into the center of the word to the point of being almost imperceptible. I swear, though, it's still in there, as a sort of faint doubling of the sibilant 's'.

So, "Wooster" and "Worcester" aren't the same thing.
posted by tocts at 4:36 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


St. John: Sin-gin
Home: Hyume
posted by dhens at 4:36 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Always a delight to see visitors from the UK react to how we pronounce 'Thames' in New London, CT. On a more obliging note, Norwich, CT is locally rendered pretty much as they do over there, inna disemvoweled stylee.
posted by Kinbote at 4:39 AM on April 21, 2015


I also live near Gotham. You pronounce it 'Goat-um'. Sorry Batman.

It's pronounced "Bat'm".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:50 AM on April 21, 2015


Apparently being from Massachusetts gives you quite the leg up on many of these

I dunno... I came across a number of places in MA and CT whose pronounciation was not what I'd expect. Worcester, Shrewsbury, Leominster, the River Thames.

And boy, did I get it wrong with Calais, ME...
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 5:03 AM on April 21, 2015


I'm not even gonna try to figure out Welsh placenames, it'd be like sicking my hand in a bag of snakes.

Ah, but in Welsh, what you see is what you get... Rhosllanerchrugog... Machynlleth... Llanaelhaearn... Llanuwchllyn... pronounce it as it is written, even if the pronounciation may tie your tonsils in a knot.

(just nobody mention the Llanfair place... not a proper Welsh place name at all)
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 5:13 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah, but in Welsh, what you see is what you get... Rhosllanerchrugog... Machynlleth... Llanaelhaearn... Llanuwchllyn... pronounce it as it is written, even if the pronounciation may tie your tonsils in a knot.

In Wales, I couldn't make the slightest connection between what was written on the road signs and what came out of people's mouths. Everyone was really nice about it, but asking directions was an adventure.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:36 AM on April 21, 2015


Hooray for silent letters.
posted by h00py at 5:56 AM on April 21, 2015


Instanbul and Constantinople

Instanbul for when you need it quick, Constantinople for when you need it all the time.
posted by Segundus at 5:56 AM on April 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm going to Cornwall for the first time this year and I'm already beginning to feel the impending mispronunciation embarrassment.

Fowey

Launceston

Tideford

Liskeard
posted by howfar at 6:09 AM on April 21, 2015


St Ives and St Ive.
posted by howfar at 6:10 AM on April 21, 2015


wachhundfisch, you try typing IPA symbols on your phone. If you still feel like complaining, well, at least then you'll know you're a fucking masochist.
posted by wierdo at 6:28 AM on April 21, 2015


The secret to pronouncing English place names is to be drunk on the train first thing in the morning. You will get to where you are going eventually because it is a tiny tiny country so you can always just get off and stumble the rest of the way. However, it will cost you a billion quid because British Rail (*note that is either 1000 million or 1 million million because haha fuck it the machines are not working and the train ticket teller doesn't know the difference and HSBC will steal the difference).
posted by srboisvert at 6:33 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


and while we're at it: Brian Cox Scotch Pronounciations

Some of which actual Scots have told me are wrong, fwiw. :-(

Islay has always perplexed me. It's "Ìle" in Gaelic, which is pronounced "ee-la", but in English it's pronounced "eye-la" and spelled "Islay".

Well, there were various kinds of Gaelic involved in the island's history, whose details of pronunciation differ, as well as Norse, Pict, and English influences, and that "Il" root probably isn't actually even Gaelic but more likely Pictish (I have read from several sources) -- so it's no wonder the matter is ambiguous! (Plus people who live there call themselves "Ileach" (ˈiːləx), to further confuse drunken tourists) (for those who don't know there are a lot of serious Scotch distilleries on this relatively small island).
posted by aught at 6:34 AM on April 21, 2015


There's Beauchamp Place in London, which is pronounced "Beechum Place" but that's probably just cocking a snoot at ould Boney.
posted by chavenet at 6:50 AM on April 21, 2015


No mention of the fact that Beauly (Inverness-shire) and Beaulieu (Hampshire) have the same pronunciation?

(Brian Cox is from Dundee, which like most of the east coast south of Aberdeen has about as much idea about pronouncing Gaelic as the average English person)
posted by Vortisaur at 7:01 AM on April 21, 2015


There's Beauchamp Place in London, which is pronounced "Beechum Place" but that's probably just cocking a snoot at ould Boney.

I know someone with the last name Beauchamp here in the states and they pronounce it the same way.
posted by Atreides at 7:01 AM on April 21, 2015


It probably doesn't help pronunciation-of-Islay-wise that pretty much all the actual inhabitants of Islay were kicked out during the Clearances so industrialists would have room to sow their wool and graze their whisky or whatever. Population in 1841: Fifteen thousand. Population in 2011: Three thousand.

Also not helping pronunciation matters: Donovan.

(My great-great-great-grandfather was from Islay. His name was Farquhar, which rhymes with marker.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:06 AM on April 21, 2015


Seeing my old stomping grounds of Aberystwyth was awesome ... Except she pronounced it wrong!
posted by saucysault at 7:13 AM on April 21, 2015


DuBois (DOO-boyz) and Dauphin County (DAW-fin), Pennsylvania.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:50 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Plus people who live there call themselves "Ileach" (ˈiːləx), to further confuse drunken tourists)

I find it easier to pronounce Fèis Ìle correctly after a few drams, appropriately enough.
posted by sobarel at 8:21 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is the guy trying to be annoying on purpose for comedy or does he just come off that way? And the whole video is kinda ruined by the fact that the guy's obviously not trying to pronounce things properly. The patterns become apparent and while I couldn't guess most of them properly I came a lot closer than he did. How many "-cester"s do you need to see before you catch on to how they're pronounced?

Though "mousehole" should probably be pronounced as "mousehole" because, hey, come on, "mousehole". I'd go there and get some money and open up a restaurant called "Mouth-hole" because it'd be punny.
posted by I-baLL at 8:55 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]



They didn't mention my favourite (I guess cuz it's not a place name):
Cholmondeley (pronounced “Chumley”).

Some of my favourite place names in Ohio:
  • Bellefontaine [Bell FOUNT n]
  • Fairborn [FAY er bo urn]
  • Versailles [Vrr SALES]
  • Medina [Muh DINE uh]
  • Conneaut [CON nie ott]
  • Rio Grande [RYE oh GRAND (??)]
  • Berlin [BUR lynn]
  • Lima [LIME uh]
  • Mantua [MAN a way]
  • Newark [NERK]
  • Galipolis [GAL uh police]
  • Wooster [WAR-chester*]
In neighboring Michigan, up by landlocked Ann Harbor there are the towns Milan [MY lnn] and Saline [Sss LEAN].

Then there are all those place named for M. Gratiot, like:
[GRAY shot], Ohio
[GRAT ee oh] County Michigan
[GRAT shit] Avenue in DEE-troyt

In Northeast Ohio, locals are about evenly split as to whether to pronounce Cuyahoga with a porcine connection. The Iroquois were not available for comment.

Byte it’s aye-kye, becayese bayesed ayein the kincistint *vile rising* I’m hearing frayeme repyrters and nize-readers on the Bye Bye Sigh ayend ayether sirces, ile viles – ayeven rinded wines, sych is /o/ aynd /u/ -- will, Seine enygh, be prininced “aye”. Thine, Ehmyrikyns wynt be ible te ayenderstayend ennathing a Brit size!


----------------------------------------
*Just kidding, it’s locally pronounced more or less as it’s spelled.
posted by Herodios at 9:09 AM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


It has been speculated that a lot of the more illogical aspects of language (as well as social customs, i.e., whether it's polite or impolite to eat one's food in a certain way) did evolve not out of sloppiness but because they served a function, namely that of identifying outsiders (to an ethnic/tribal group, or a class/milieu); i.e., a shibboleth. Certainly, pronouncing things as one might logically expect them to be pronounced and not by the open-secret shibboleth pronunciation one would be initiated into in the standard education for one's class can be a tell of a self-educated individual who does not quite have the right old school tie hanging in their wardrobe. The implications of this depend on how much social mobility there is at that particular point in history.

This is definitely a thing where I live. (I can't give examples because then I will be killed). During the span of my own life, I have seen some pronunciations change towards more mainstream. Mostly those that were hard to pronounce, but it also has to do with homes in some areas being converted into offices, thus less indigenous defenders being around.
posted by mumimor at 9:16 AM on April 21, 2015


"Wooster [WAR-chester*]"

Whoah whoah whoah whoah, hold on a sec, stop right there

There's a place, in Ohio, that's spelled how "Worcester" is pronounced but is pronounced how "Worcester" is spelled?!! Mind blown.
posted by I-baLL at 9:40 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Note that pesky asterisk Herodios added; Wooster, Ohio really is just pronounced "Wuh-ster.")
posted by koeselitz at 9:46 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Named, of course, in honour of the famously incompetent but fabulously wealthy Revolutionary War General, Bertie Wilberforce Wooster. You can visit his birthplace, an humble wodehouse on the edge of town.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:37 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Byte it’s aye-kye, becayese bayesed ayein the kincistint *vile rising* I’m hearing frayeme repyrters and nize-readers on the Bye Bye Sigh ayend ayether sirces, ile viles – ayeven rinded wines, sych is /o/ aynd /u/ -- will, Seine enygh, be prininced “aye”. Thine, Ehmyrikyns wynt be ible te ayenderstayend ennathing a Brit size!

Ire yi sire yi're nyt ine Nei Zeileind?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:02 AM on April 21, 2015



Iss.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:04 AM on April 21, 2015


Who mourns for Raymond Luxury-Yacht?
posted by blue_beetle at 2:33 PM on April 21, 2015


Query: Devonshire. Do most pronounce this as "Devon-shear" or "Devon-shyer"
posted by clavdivs at 3:11 PM on April 21, 2015


Devon-shuh.
posted by sobarel at 3:21 PM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


dee-VON-shuh-RAY
posted by Sys Rq at 4:26 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


THROTE wah-blur MAN-grove SHAY RAY
posted by Herodios at 4:32 PM on April 21, 2015


Ipswich?
In my Lauder voice, "ip-switch"
Ips-witch?
Cold bloody place to say.
posted by clavdivs at 5:40 PM on April 21, 2015


I'll add Cadiz Kentucky to the list. It's a small town in my vicinity of Western Kentucky. When I moved to Kentucky, I had no idea how to pronounce it. I went with "Cu - as in cup, and diz - as in dizzy: CUH-diz. I was finally corrected. It's KAYdeez.
posted by persephone's rant at 6:49 PM on April 21, 2015


Is that "Deez" or more a "da-iz"
Seriously.




I think the auto corrects may conspire.
posted by clavdivs at 7:58 PM on April 21, 2015


« Older "I was doing fine until they started bunting."   |   A nude female corpse is allowable, of course. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments