Date: Sat, 26 Feb 1994 23:00:20 -0700
From: Rudy Troike RTROIKE[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ARIZVMS.BITNET
Subject: Unpredictable British local pronunciations
The following e-note was sent to me by my Middle English colleague Roger
Dahood after I shared with him some of the ADS-L postings. Maybe Peter
"Chunnel" Trudgill will have some comment on its validity.
I long ago gave up on trying to guess how the British pronounce proper
names. The more time I spend in England and Scotland, the more I become
aware that much of the time the natives themselves haven't a clue. I
suspect that apart from a few examples widely known among the British as
especially amusing (such as those P.T.'s latest supplies), most of his
countrymen guess when they stray far from home. My London friends are often
surprisingly candid about their ignorance of local pronuncciations. And I
am told, incoming undergraduates at Oxford often need instruction about the
pronuciation of the river name Cherwell, where the _er_ = /ar/.
Now when anyone tells me that the English pronounce a name such and so, I
find myself replying, "Which Englishmen?" P. G. Wodehouse (and how do you
pronounce that?) spoofed the whole business in one of his stories. A host
greets a party guest and then says, "Have you met Mum?" The guest looks
around for an LOL in puzzlement and embarrassed confusion, when the host
points to tall, good-looking young man. "That's Mum over there. He spells
it Mapledurham but pronounces it Mum."