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?


Blogger Helena said...

How about my favourite: the Vale of Belvoir, pronounced "beaver". How could one guess? I also knew someone called Featherstonehaugh who pronounced it as written (but that might have been exhaustion at trying to get it said "properly").

I think you should write a book full of characters with names like this. But never allude to the pronunciation, either in the book or in any promotional material. It could be a secret joke between you, the Word Wenches, and their readers.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I love books with different names (I just read one with Alaric for the hero's name). The first time I watched a Jane Eyre adaptation, however I was surprised to learn St. John was a strange name. It took me a bit to figure out what or who in the world a "SinJin" was.

My very Scottish grandfather, despite living in the US for over seventy years, insists "scone" rhymes with "gone" and not "own."

10:34 AM  

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