My mate Kev and I were chatting idly the other day, and we re-raised an interesting cultural gap. People in the US struggle with British placenames. They’re happy with, say, pronouncing Arkansas as if it were Arkansaw, they can handle Punxsutawney, but English places leave them going, ‘What the hell?’

Anything with a ‘cester’ in it will have them floundering. Leicestershire is not pronounced ‘Lie kester shire.’ It’s ‘Lestershuh.’ Bicester isn’t ‘Bi kester,’ it’s ‘Bister.’ Worcester? Not ‘Wor kester’; it is ‘Wuster.’

Then we have the minefield that is Cirencester in Gloucestershire. Not ‘Kiren kester,’ but ‘Sirensester.’ It’s in ‘Glostershuh.’

If you’re an American, you’ll struggle with Mytholmroyd. ‘Might holem royd?’ Nope. ‘Mythmroyd.’ Oswaldtwistle? Go on, go for it. It’s ‘Ozzltwissl.’

Wales? Wales itself is Cymru, which confusingly is pronounced ‘Cumri.’ Don’t even think about Welsh placenames. Too many consonants, and not enough vowels. Try Pwllheli on for size. I’m not going to even try to do a phonetic rendition of that. Llandudno is a bit easier. ‘Chlandidno,’ with the ch sounded as in the Scottish word ‘loch.’

On the topic of Scotland, how do you deal with ‘Cruickshank’? It’s in Aberdeen, and it’s pronounced ‘Crookshank.’ Kirkcaldy? ‘Kirkoddy.’ Lerwick in the Shetland Isles is ‘Lairwick,’ but just over the Scottish border in Northumberland, Alnwick is ‘Annick.’ I don’t know why, so don’t ask. In Yorkshire there’s a Slaithwaite. Some people have this as ‘Slowit,’(the ow is sounded like a cry of pain), some as ‘Slathwait.’

Just a last one. In Rutland there’s a Belvoir Castle.’ That’s ‘Beaver Castle,’ thank you very much, and all beaver jokes are inherently funny.

You may be safer sticking to Cranky Corner (it’s in Louisiana.) At least you can pronounce that.

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