Roanoke Times reader burned up by pronunciation of "Cockburn"

Don’t even get me started on Welsh.


During my lifetime, my governments have been blessed with the presence of politicians named both Richard Head and Richard Face.

It makes it too easy for the protestors, really.




You can see why your spelling [eventually] caught on.


I’m surprised that the "Why is “Worcester’ Pronounced ‘Wooster’?” link up top seems to be a little confused.

Ignoring the “-shire” suffix and the R-lessness, Worcester is two syllables: “Worce” and “ster.” There’s no syllable-dropping going on or anything really that strange for English. No one looks at “forcefully” and tries to say “for SEF uh lee.” Unlike Cockburn, Worcester is actually pronounced like it’s spelled. Same with Gloucester and Leicester.

Wish I could find a video link, but there was a great exchange on QI that started with the question, “what’s the most evil village in Britain?”

Rich Hall: “is it ‘Satan-Is-My-Master-on-Tyne’?”

Bill Bailey: huffs and rolls eyes “it’s pronounced ‘Simpster’!



Alfred Hitchcock once threw a party for Deborah Kerr (pronounced Carr) and asked her what she’d like at the party. She asked for an English toastmaster to announce the guests.

Everything was fine until the end when the toastmaster was tasked with calling for the guests’ cars to be brought up as they left. He handled “Miss Kerr’s car” with aplomb, but blotted his copybook somewhat when calling for “Mr Hitchcar’s cock”.


“What did you just call me?”


Not exactly. -cester is Anglo-Saxon for camp or fort, so the first syllable is Wor.


Hallamshire isn’t.

And in some it’s optional or somewhat antiquated: e.g. Devon(shire).

And then there’s County Durham.

Yeah, that was pretty much inevitable.


At least Welsh is spelled more or less phonetically, once you understand the rules.


Swimming… I’m not a native speaker of English, so help me out with the vocabulary here. Swimming - that’s what ghoti do, right?

It’s always interesting to hear about subtle cultural differences between America Country and England Country.
Seriously, though, I guess you’re on to something - American geographical names often get a disambiguating suffix like that, though not always as part of the official name. I’m thinking of New York City, Colorado River and Washington State right now. When the context is clear, that becomes “New York”, “the Colorado” and “Washington”. But I’ve never heard of “England” becoming just “Eng”.

On the whole, I’d say that English orthography is not the worst on the planet. Almost a billion people speak Mandarin as a native language, and that uses a writing system where pronunciation is even harder to guess from the writing than in English. At least slightly.
(Yes, Chinese characters sometimes do contain information about pronunciation)

Cumberland became part of Cumbria, although considering both names come from the same root as Cymru (the Welsh for Wales, more generically it could be interpreted as country or land) you could argue that the -land part was redundant.

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I seem to remember a character in one of Wodehouse’s books named Lord Mapledurham, pronounced “Mum”.

edit: I got it partly wrong. It was Lester Mapledurham (pronounced “Mum”), a well-known big game hunter and explorer in Strychnine in the Soup

As man who generally keeps the fact he was born in Basildon, Essex the shameful secret it ought to be (we’re all friends here, right?) I can personally confirm that Essex certainly does not end in ‘-shire’ but does contain an awful lot of something with a very similar spelling, masquerading as culture.


It’s ours. We had it developed specially for us (by many invaders, among others - and kudos to @the_borderer for that response) and we can mangle it as much as we like.

But the rest of you - who had it gracefully donated as we wandered round the world, and seem to think you can make it your own - had really better stop mocking it or I’m going to get thoroughly tough and make you cough up some dough through hiccoughing until you’ve had enough. Ok?


You should probably seek out and watch Jonathan Meades’ ‘The Joy of Essex’

It’s another of his brilliant hour-long architectural history programmes, set in Essex, but the first 5 minutes will present an interesting pictorial view of the county while contrasting/ridiculing the usual Essex prejudices


The inconsistency of English is its best feature, and not nearly a bug.

Related to this topic, I would like to thank our linguistic antecedents for stuffing all that organized Germanic grammar stuff behind a hedgerow and sneaking off. That was beautifully done.


Exactly. Although some letters have different sounds in Welsh than in English, Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch is pronounced just as it’s spelled.