History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

26 January 2016

Fun with Pronunciation

I know that even with familiar names, people often get wildly bizarre pronunciations and spellings (sparked by a twitter conversation I saw this morning that included even "Liz" somehow being misspelled). Without daring to broach the wilds of Welsh or Gaelic (my poor sister having explained till she’s blue in the face that “bh” is a “v” sound in Gaelic), I thought I’d spend a little time talking about some of the oddities the English have come up. Clearly it’s hard to argue that someone doesn’t know how to pronounce their own name . . . but sometimes it’s very hard not to do so (we are talking about a country where “breeches” is pronounced “britches” and “waistcoat” is “weskit”).

And of course I’m always drawn to these names for characters, simply because they’re so outrageous. LOL! To date, I’ve managed to restrain myself, but one of these days I’m going to break down and begin peopling my world with characters whose names can only be pronounced correctly with the aid of a diagram!

These are some of my favorite pronunciation aberrations (all double checked in the BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names) :

Cholmondeley = chum-li
Featherstonehaugh = fan-shaw
Foulkes = fauks
St Clare = sin-klair
St John = sin-jin
St Leger = sellin-jer (though not all the time)
St Maur = see-mor
Beauchamp = beech-am
Beauclerk = bo-klair
Berkeley/Berkely= bar-klee
Brough = bruff

Do you have any favorites to add? Do you like when books have strange names or does it make you long for a simple Richard Smith?

11 January 2016

Stepping into History at Rules Restaurant

Dinner at Rules after the opera at Covent Garden

Thanksgiving weekend, a friend watched my daughter while I went to the movies. This is rare for me these days - I love movies, but since my daughter was born I usually reserve nonwork babysitting for live performances. In fact the two movies I've seen without her have been the two most recent James Bond movies, Skyfall and, this November, Spectre.

I love spy stories of all types. I particularly love how the recent James Bond movies with Daniel Craig combine adventure with a quite nuanced look at the moral ambiguities of the spy game. As I sat happily engrossed in the movie, I was mentally finding parallels between James Bond's spy game and that played by my Regency-era protagonists Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch. And then the two worlds collided when Q and Moneypenny went to see M dining at Rules Restaurant.

Dinner after Spectre at the very California Farm Shop
I instantly recognized Rules from that opening shot, well before they left and camera caught the name on the door. On a trip to London I dined at Rules after a wonderful La Cenerentola at Covent Garden. It's not often a writer whose novels are set two hundred years ago dines at a restaurant where she can also set a scene in her books. Rules is the oldest restaurant in London. The restaurant, located in Maiden Lane in Covent Garden, appears to go back to Thomas Rule establishing an oyster house in 1798. You can read more of the history on the restaurant's website here.  Through it's two hundred year history, it has only been owned by three families. Just before World War I, Charles Rule, a descendant of Thomas, swapped businesses with Tom Bell, an Englishman who owned a Paris restaurant called the Alhambra. During World War II, Rules was reinforced with thick wood and only open from 1:00 - 3:00 pm. They could only offer rationed meals at 3 shillings but could offer profuse servings of rabbit, grouse, and pheasant, which were not rationed. In an era when many women stepped into what had been traditionally male jobs, they had a female head waiter. In 1984, Tom Bell's daughter sold the restaurant to John Mayhew, the present owner.

I recently rewatched season 5 of Downton Abbey to get ready for season 6 and noticed that Mary, Edith, Tom, and Rose have lunch at Rules just before Rose's wedding (it is there that Rose gets the set up pictures of her fiancé at his stag party). In my WIP, London Gambit (which just went off to the copy editor) one of the characters gives a supper party at Rules after his actress wife opens in a new production of Measure for Measure.

I highly recommend Rules if you're in London. I had a lovely meal there and the priceless experience of stepping into history - not to mention into one of my novels.

Have you eaten at Rules? Or other restaurants that figure in your favorite books?

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