Puzzling Placenames Can Lead To Marvelous Misdirection

Have you ever wondered who came up with some of the weird and wonderful placenames and street names in the UK???  Have you also wondered who came up with some of the strange pronunciations (as well as abbreviations) for them???

For example – if you are in Leicester and you want to get to “Belvoir Street” those of us who have spent any length of time in Leicestershire will inform you that you are looking for “Beaver Street” – same pronunciation applies to the Vale of Belvoir.

If you hear my Dad and I discussing the area of Norfolk I originate from you will probably hear four placenames which do not appear on any map.  At least not in the format we use.

I was born in Lynn (known to outsiders as Kings Lynn), the place I first lived in was Runcton (Runcton Holme), the next town heading away from King’s Lynn is Downham (Downham Market).  Oh – and the nearest beach is at Hunston (more commonly known as Hunstanton).

There are other places which have names that – when pronounced so that a local inhabitant can understand them – sound nothing like they are written.  My favourite placename in that category is a small village near where my Dad now lives.

Let’s just say that I had to both retune my ears and read the peice of paper the placename was written on when a driver stopped and asked for directions to a place they called “Fro-les-worth”.  This place definitely didn’t appear on my mental map of the area (and at that point I had spent 30 odd years living in the area).  When I realised where they wanted to get to I quite happily directed them to “Frolesworth” (all one word).

It gets  even more complicated when you are used to different combinations of letters having different pronunciations.  There are two placenames which are perfect examples of this.

The first one is Leicester.  Before King Richard III was discovered (and Leicester City FC won the Premier League) my Dutch relatives were convinced the place was actually called “Lie-cester”.

The second one is a place in the Irish Republic that my Mum was trying to find her way back to (she did have an excuse for her pronunciation of it – the Dutch placenames are all pretty much pronounced as they are written).  She asked for directions to a place called “Dun Loch-air” – known to most humans who can either speak Irish or who have heard the correct pronunciation as Dun Laoghaire (or Dun Leary).

There are other placenames which sound totally different to how they are written.

Sometimes I just think it would be a lot easier if placenames were written exactly as they are pronounced (with no abbreviations allowed). Then the confusion would stop.

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