Date: Sat, 26 Feb 1994 23:00:20 -0700


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."