Friday, March 5, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
Since Susan and I write books dealing with England and the English, we’re constantly reminded that English is a foreign language. And a minefield. Among other things, there’s pronunciation. Now I grew up knowing something about tricky words because I was born in Worcester, which most people pronounce incorrectly—including, I was stunned to discover, one actual English person actually speaking on the phone to me from England. It’s pronounced Wooh (like the sound in wool or full)-ster—except by a large segment of its populace, who pronounce it Wis-tah. You can hear it with an English accent here.
A marquis in England, one soon learns, is a mar-kwiss or a mar-kwess but not a mar-kee.
Belvoir Castle is Bee-ver Castle, and here it is in British English.
[Illustration: Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, England from Morris's Country Seats (1880)]
In researching my latest book, Last Night’s Scandal, I learned that Alnwick, Northumberland, loses a few consonants in pronunciation. It’s An-ik.
Lady Cowper, one of Almack’s patronesses was Lady Couper according to Manners and Rules of Good Society. But Black’s Titles and Forms of Address offers both Koo-per and Kow-per.
Another name familiar to Regency aficionados is King George IV’s mistress Lady Conyngham. She was Lady Kun-ingam.
Meanwhile, Cholmondeley shrinks down to Chum-li (Click on the symbol to hear it here.) Cockburn is Co-burn, and Colquhoun is Ko-hoon.
Lord Elgin—of the famous Marbles—is said with a hard “g.”
Knollys is Knoles.
Mainwaring is Man-nering.
Marjoribanks is March-banks.
Ponsonby is Pun-sunbi.
Pontefract is usually Pum-fret but sometimes said as spelled.
Ruthven is Riv-ven or Ri-then.
Slaithwaite is Slo-it, except when it’s said as spelled.
Urquhart is Erk-ert.
Villiers is Vil-lers.
Waldegrave is Wawl-grave.
This is definitely audience participation, so feel free to add your favorite doesn't-sound-like-what-it-looks-like names.
Top left is a detail of a full-length portrait of Granville-Leveson Gower by Sir Thomas Lawrence. It hangs in the Yale Center for British Art, along with an astounding collection of other beautiful paintings.
Sir Thomas Lawrence's portrait--at bottom right--of Lady Conyngham is dated 1821-24, when she was the Marchioness Conyngham.