13 Jun 2015

Where in the world is 'AH-ding-ligh'?

3:10 pm on 13 June 2015

The place names of Britain can trap an inexperienced broadcaster or speaker. They are often said quite differently from how they might seem.

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Some examples follow:

Leicester, Gloucester and Worcester are pronounced LEST-uh, GLOS-tuh and WOOS-tuh. [IPA: ˈlestə, ˈglɒstə, ˈwʊstə]

Hertford (Hertfordshire). Pronounced HAHT-fuhd and sometimes HAH-fuhd.

[IPA: ˈhɑ:tfəd, ˈhɑ:fəd]

By the way, Wikipedia provides links to early references to the town as Herutford. "Herut" is the Old English spelling of "hart", meaning a fully mature stag. And so we have a ford, where harts (stags) are found.

A town which appeared in early maps as Darby or Darbye has for centuries been spelt Derby, but is still pronounced DAH-bee. [ˈdɑ:bɪ]

Warwick, Keswick, Berwick, Chiswick, Dulwich, Norwich, Greenwich, etc.

These British places are pronounced without the "w", it would seem for much the same reason we leave out the "w" when we say write, wreck, answer, sword, and so on.

The BBC Oxford Pronouncing Dictionary of Names and other sources provide examples of more "curly ones". IPA transcriptions are included. In some cases, there are several acceptable pronunciations:

Ardingly in Sussex AH-ding-ligh ˈɑ:dɪŋlaɪ

Mousehole in Cornwall MOW zuhl (MOW rhymes with "cow") ˈmaʊzl

Cholmondeston, Cheshire CHOM-suhn or CHUM-stuhn ˈ ˈtʃɒmsən or ˈtʃʌmstən

Chelmondeston, Suffolk CHELM-stuhn ˈtʃelmstən

Cholmondeley, Cheshire CHUM-lee ˈtʃʌmlɪ

Stroxton, Lincolnshire STRAW-suhn ˈstrɔːsn

Keighly, West Yorkshire KEETH-lee ˈkiːθlɪ

Teignmouth TIN-muhth ˈtinməθ

Glamis, Tayside GLAHMZ glɑːmz

Gillingham, Kent JIL-ing-uhm ˈdʒɪlɪŋəm

Gillingham, Dorset GIL-ing-uhm ˈgɪlɪŋəm

Beaulieu, Hampshire BYOO-lee ˈbjuːlɪ

Osbournby, Lincolnshire OZ-uhn-bee 'ɒzsənbɪ

Trottiscliffe, Kent TROZ-lee ˈtrɒzlɪ

Laugharne in Wales LAHN lɑːn

Strathhaven, Sth Lanarkshire STRAY-vuhn ˈstreɪvn

Marlborough, Wiltshire MAWL-bruh ˈmɔːlbrə

Scone, Perthshire SKOON sku:n

Welwyn Garden, London WEL-in ˈwelin

Burgh, Suffolk, Cumbria BRUF brʌf

Chop Gate, Yorkshire CHOP-YAT ˈtʃɒpˈjæt

Thame, Oxfordshire TAYM teim

Bellingham, Northumberland BEL-in-juhm ˈbelindʒəm

Magdalen Hill, Winchester MAWN mɔːn

Wrotham, Kent ROO-tuhm ˈru:təm

Southwark, South London SUTH-uhk ˈsʌðək

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