odd pronunciations of English names

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odd pronunciations of English names

Post by Archived Topic » Sat Oct 30, 2004 8:39 am

English mysteries introduced me to Dalziel(Dee-el),and
Chalmondley(Chum-lee), and I coasted with those for a while.
My eyes popped when a Google Search gave me Beauchamp (Beecham), Cockburn (Kohbern), Featherstonehaugh (Fanshaw), Menzies (Mingis), and Woolfardisworthy (Woolsey). It's like eating potato chips. I want more. Got any?

What happens? Is it like the action of time and tide on beach pebbles?
Submitted by C L Case (toronto - Canada)

Some of us would be lost if the word,"bedlam", had not evolved, for how else to describe there where we, often, are. I remember a book in which a Ruthven was a character. To say,"Ruth-ven"is no big deal, but I liken it to stubbing a toe. When the author put forth a passage in which the pronunciation was revealed--RIVVEN--I loved it!

Many of these names appear as their pronunciations dictate:

Wooster, Maudlin, Beecham, Fanshaw, Woolsey, Chumley. I wonder if their owners could not take the hassle. I remember a prospective employee, Chalmondley, who applied at the firm at which I worked. As she sat before me, I, with application in hand, said, "Ah, yes, Chumley". She looked at me as she would the devil incarnate. She was not with us long. I hope she is all right. Did she become a Chumley? .....Thanks, Joshua

And thank you, too, K Allen.
If the reason you give is the reason Illinoisans(?) do what they do, what wonderful perversity! I am jealous. I come from an older part of the country where we have had longer to cook up eccentricities, but I can't think of any. Is there a New Englander out there who can match BENLD?
Submitted by C L Case (toronto - Canada)

Actually, C L, we Illinoisans (the "s" is still silent) don't necessarily give new pronunciations to older names on purpose. I think some of those names were established by early pioneers who had seen the original names but didn't know how they were pronounced. Over time, the mis-pronounced names just sort of stuck.

Another one that is pronounced differently is my home town, the podunk of Louisville, which--unlike the city in Kentucky--is pronounced LEW-us-vil. The town founders submitted the name to the State as "Lewisville," named after a founding family (Lewis). Since Illinois already had a Lewistown, however, the State decided to change the spelling to avoid confusion. The town accepted the spelling, but continued to pronounce the name as though it were still "Lewis."

An interesting side-note about Benld. I have no idea where the name originated, but the town itself (another podunk halfway between Springfield and St. Louis) was quite notorious during the gangster era. Apparently, Benld served as kind of a "summer home" for Al Capone and his gang--a place for them to get away from the hustle and bustle of running the mob in Chicago! Who knew?
Reply from K. Allen Griffy (Springfield, IL - U.S.A.)

OK, I have to weigh in with Alabama place names. We have a small hamlet in south Alabama named Cuba and pronounced "Cuber," and Arab, Alabama, is pronounced "A-[long a]rab." Of course, "Mobile," if you're a true Southerner, is not just accent on the last syllable, but it's pronounced "Mo-BE-yul." *G*

Lois, March 12
Reply from Lois Martin (Birmingham, AL - U.S.A.)

H.L. Mencken's The American Language, chapter 10 : Proper Names in America,(Geographical names) declares that Benld came from Benjamin L. Dorsey, " a local magnifico".
Reply from Cat Dart (Dunstable - U.S.A.)
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odd pronunciations of English names

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Oct 30, 2004 8:53 am

Here are a couple (I won't vouch for the spelling, though):
Bethlehem (Bedlam - when used for the hospital/insane asylum St. Mary of Bethlehem), Magdalen (Maudlin, when used as the name of the College), Worcester (Wooster), St. John (Sinjin), Ruthven (Rivven - a first name in the G&S work Ruddigore).
Reply from Joshua Gutoff (Huntington Station - U.S.A.)
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odd pronunciations of English names

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Oct 30, 2004 9:08 am

It's not just English names that are pronounced oddly, either. Here in America (especially Illinois), there are lots of oddly pronounced names, too. In fact, I recently encountered one on your list as someone's surname. I was talking on the phone to a "Ms. Beecham" and requested some information from her. Imagine my surprise when I received a letter from her and found out her last name was "Beauchamp"! That was a new one on me.

For place names, I think Illinois has quite a few with very odd pronunciations. The trend here is to name a town after a more famous location, but pronounce it completely differently. Here are just a few examples: Cairo (CARE-oh), Athens ([LONG A SOUND]-thins), New Berlin (BUR-lun), San Jose (san-JOE'S), and my favorite, Bolivia (BALL-uh-vee)! None of those are quite as good as the ones found in the UK, but I still get a kick out of hearing them mis-pronounced by non-natives. And the best place name in Illinois has to be Benld, which is pronounced buh-KNELLED.
Reply from K. Allen Griffy (Springfield, IL - U.S.A.)
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Re: odd pronunciations of English names

Post by Nickel21 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:03 pm

This phenomenon must be related to the peculiar process that renders English names so strangely, e.g., Wooster for Worcestershire, etc.
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Re: odd pronunciations of English names

Post by John Barton » Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:18 am

An obvious addition to the place names is Caius College, Cambridge (pron. 'Keyes').
For British surnames, around 800 more peculiarities are given under
http://www.debretts.com/forms-of-addres ... nunciation.
The TV programme "Downton Abbey" surprised me yesterday by mispronouncing "Ayscough" (it should be "Askew").
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Re: odd pronunciations of English names

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:05 pm

I must have missed this thread entirely, otherwise I would have pointed out that Dalziel (Dee-el),and Menzies (Mingis) are not English, they are Scottish and the 'z'' is an approximation of the Ogham equivalent.
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Re: odd pronunciations of English names

Post by John Barton » Thu Jan 23, 2014 12:59 am

Yes, the 'z' or izzard in Dalziel and Menzies is pronounced as 'y' because that is what was intended.
English scribes confused as 'z' the very similar old saxon 'g' or yogh - one of four letters of the English alphabet no longer used. But the OED contains words beginning with them.
The case is similar to the letter thorn (sounded 'th') confused with 'y' in 'the', causing the ridiculous pronunciation of "Ye olde curiositie shoppe" as "The...". Whence, I suppose, 'Ye' for 'thee', and 'you' or dialect 'yow' for 'thou'.
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