Signs of the Times

Ever wondered how to pronounce those weird looking place names that crop up with great regularity in England?


I read in The Times newspaper (acknowledgment for the graphic) that Google is developing an app to help Americans with pronouncing English place names. Although I’m sure it’s not just American visitors who need that kind of assistance. (And probably some of us natives as well.)

Apparently Worcester is the town that gives visitors the most problem – trying to ask for a train ticket to War-cess-ter when they actually want Wuster. As with a lot of the place names in England you just need to remember to leave out half the letters. Yorkshire has some great examples. If you’re ever trying to get to Slaithwaite – the locals call is Slawit. One of my favourites is Barnoldswick – lovely name, you think – it has been reduced to Barlick. And how sad that the delightfully named Mousehole in Cornwall is known as Mowzle.

If you find place names in England difficult, best not to venture into Wales. That is, as they say, another country. And another language altogether.

But it’s not just places. There are numerous examples of surnames that sound very different from how they look. Here are just a few that come to mind:

Cholmondeley – Chumlee

Marjoribanks – Marchbanks

Wavertree – Wawtry

Dalziel – Dee-el

Menzies – Mingis

Please feel free to add to this list.

The fascinating thing about the English language is how it evolves over time and incorporates words from other languages as well.

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