Do Not Adjust Your Ears (Or – When The “Correct” Pronunciation Just Doesn’t Match The Word)

This blog post was inspired by me watching cookery clips on YouTube – then it kind of mushroomed (excuse the pun) from there.

I honestly thought a Dutch chef had discovered a new seasoning for use in cookery.  After all, I had never seen this substance he called “Wor-cest-er-shIre saus” before in my life.  Then the camera focused on a bottle of what I know as “Worcester sauce”.

I admit the Dutch have got previous for this! After all, before the discovery of King Richard III in a carpark in the city, and the city’s football team winning the Premier League, the Dutch always pronounced “Leicester” as “Lie-cester”.

Speaking of Leicester (and Leicestershire) there are certain placenames and street names which are pronounced totally differently to the way they are spelled.  My favourite one is “Belvoir” – as in Belvoir Street and the Vale of Belvoir.  It reads like French, doesn’t it???  However, if you want to confuse a resident of Leicester, feel free to ask for directions to “Belvoir” Street – no such street exists in Leicester.  Trust me on that one – your pronunciation will be corrected to “Beaver” Street before you are given directions.

There are lots of placenames in Leicestershire which sound nothing like they are written – I used to work in a place called “Blaby” (Baby – with an “L” between the first two letters), I now live in a district of Leicester called “Aylestone” (Ale-stun).

Of course, there are other places which have names which look nothing like they sound – If you want to annoy a Glaswegian I know try telling him that “Milngavie” is pronounced as it is written (instead of “Mill-guy”).

Sometimes the locals have different names for places – my native King’s Lynn usually gets its name shortened to “Lynn”.  As for the seaside place not a million miles away from there – the locals call “Hunstanton” “Hunt-stun”.

Of course – that is only the places in the UK.  I remember standing in a phone box with my Mum when I was little and wondering why she sounded so pleased with herself for coming up with “E for Edam” as she spelled out surname to someone.  I was later to learn that Dutch people don’t call the place where the cheese comes from “E-dam” – they call it “A-dam” (which has a habit of confusing me as the Dutch sometimes abbreviate Amsterdam to “A’dam” when writing about it).

When people ask me what letter my name ends with they can leave themselves own to confusion as well.  “Has your name got an ‘A’ at the end?” – “Depends which language you are spelling it in!”. Seriously – if my Dad were to speak to you about me my name would sound absolutely nothing like it reads to an English speaker (at least I make it slightly easy by using the English “In” at the beginning) – take the “een” From “Been”, add an “uh”, and finish off with a “k” sound (as in the sound the letter “K” makes – not the letter itself).

It is funny how different things can be pronounced in such a variety of ways.

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