Posted by: travelrat | February 6, 2012

It’s the Way that you Say It ….

When I was stationed in East Anglia, we had several American friends from the local USAF bases. They were usually amused by the name of the nearby village, Happisburgh … and somewhat disappointed to learn it’s pronounced ‘haiz-borro’

That’s the thing with English place names. We’re all familiar with places like Leicester, Gloucester and Leominster, none of which is pronounced like they’re spelt.

I used to have a bit of an issue with foreign publications telling you that you that you don’t sound the I in Salisbury, or the S in Carlisle. Do readers really need to know that? But then, I thought: What about places like Ravenstonedale (Rassendel) or Appletreewick (Attrick) ? Probably a bit of a heads-up on pronunciation is needed here?

On one of the Vaughantown schemes, I met a lady from La Jolla, who insisted on us saying the name of her home town properly. La Hoya.

‘In that case’ said a Canadian gentleman ‘Why don’t you say Des Moines properly?’

La Jolla seems to be one of the few European place names to survive a transatlantic crossing. In one of his books, Bill Bryson (who comes from Des Moines!) noted that, in the town of Norwich, Connecticut, the inhabitants used to sound the W, and some of them had only recently taken to not sounding it ‘like the city in England’

Well, no, actually … most people I know from Norwich, Norfolk, tend to pronounce it to rhyme with ‘porridge’ … except the older inhabitants, who tend to say ‘Naarj’

There is, I’ve concluded, no absolutely correct way to pronounce a place name. Take, as an example, Bury, in Lancashire … which a friend from there tells me is pronounced ‘burry’ if you live there, and ‘berry’ if you don’t. Likewise, Derby and Shrewsbury.

I could go on and quote many more examples, but I must go and catch a bus. I am going to a town my French friends call ‘Soo Tamton’!


  1. Hi Keith,
    I have a lot of trouble pronouncing names outside my own country, I tend to pronounce them the way they are spelt, which is incorrect most of the
    time. 🙂

  2. Well, I think most places in Oz are pronounced the way they’re spelt (like Ad-lide and Sinny :D) … one rare exception being Brisbane, which should, I believe, be said as if the final E wasn’t there?

    Not sure about Launceston … do they say that like it’s spelt, or like the one in Cornwall?

    • Launceston is pronounced:
      Lawn-ces-ton. 😀

      • I’m not 100% sure about the one in Cornwall. The person who called it ‘Lawn-ston’ was Cornish, also spoke of ‘Snoives’ and ‘Snarstell’… which I had trouble finding on the map, till I realised he meant St. Ives and St. Austell 😀

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