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  • Steve Matthews

Name Theory

English as a language is a pretty difficult one to master, even if you were born in the UK! There is always something that’ll try and trip you up, some words sound the same but are spelt differently like, awe, oar, or, ore. Ok, with a bit of thought you can probably deduce which one to use, but if UK English is not your first language these can be tricky.

Similarly, there are words that even if you know the context can be difficult. One example is the name Berwick. On first glance and with a basic understanding of English most people would probably go for the pronunciation Berr-wick, when in fact in most instances UK residence would pronounce it as Bear-ick with the W mysteriously disappearing.

So where is this leading considering that this is a blog about London? Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve used it in conjunction with the many mispronounced names that are commonly heard from visitors to London. A lot of the names will be familiar to visitors, but actually getting the pronunciation right can be difficult. I do find that some people on A London Miscellany Tour will look at me incredulously as they marry up my pronunciation of a name against what they are seeing or think the correct pronunciation is

So below is a list of the most common in central London, I’ve started with places that are on the underground system.

BOROUGH: The O is not pronounced as in BOrrow, but as in BUtter and the ending is not like in plOUGH or cOUGH, it’s an ER sound as in summER

BOW (Bow Road, Bow Street, St Mary-le-Bow Church, Bow): Rhymes with GO. Not as in the bow of a tree.

CHISWICK: Rhymes with Physic, the W is silent.

EUSTON: The EU is pronounced as in You.

GLOUCESTER ROAD: The U in the OU disappears to give a rounded O sound as in Gloss. The CESTER bit usually catches the unwary. The CE disappears and the remainder is pronounced STA.

GOODGE STREET: Goodge ryhmes with Scrooge

HOLBORN: Forget the L, I find it’s use affectatious by people who should know better.

LEICESTER SQUARE: Probably the most miss pronounced name ever! The LEICE part is pronounced Less.

MAIDA VALE: Maida is in Italy, but there’s no Mediterranean pronunciation here. Just loose the I inflexion and pronounce as in Milkmaid.

MARYLEBONE: I found this a difficult one to break down. The general mistake is to emphasise the LE, so you end up with Mary-Le-bone, which is incorrect. The easiest way I can describe it is to pronounce MARY as Marry and the LEBONE as in Lisbon but without the S.

PLAISTOW: The PLAI is as in Plar (rhymes with car). It is never pronounced as PLAY.

SOUTHWARK: The SOUTH part is pronounced as in Southern, the W is silent and the ARK can be pronounced as in Raiders of the lost Ark, but most locals would use an UCK sound as rhymes with Tuck.

TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD: The TOTT is pronounced as in a small child, the EN sound is not used. TOTTEN is never pronounced as in the way that Totem Pole is. The HAM sound is very rarely heard unless you’re in Kensington or Chelsea. Most people would finish the word as in Numb.

VAUXHALL: The VAU is never pronounced as in Vault, it is spoken exactly the same way as in Vox Pops. Dependent on how you were brought up the H can be included, but you will mostly hear it dropped and just the ALL used.

I’ll take a look at some street and place names in another post.

#London #spelling #Transport #Underground

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