Friday 31 August 2012

supercilious in Penge

I have been browsing through the second edition of A Dictionary of London Place-Names by A.D. Mills, newly published in paperback by OUP.

One of the things that Mills points out is that apart from various river names (Lee or Lea, Brent), the only London name of Celtic origin is Penge, the SE20 suburb, which is derived from a Celtic/British/Old Welsh compound corresponding to modern Welsh pen ‘head’ plus coed ‘trees, wood’, exactly as in Pencoed in south Wales, literally ‘Woodhead’.

He comments further

Some make mock of Penge (an unusual name but not a pretentious place) by pronouncing it superciliously to rhyme with ‘blancmange’.

That is, they jocularly call it not pendʒ but pɒndʒ.

I have a friend who lives in Fulham ˈfʊləm. Sometimes in jest he similarly refers to it as flɑːm.

Another whimsical or jocular pronunciation distortion of this type is found in Liverpool, where the name of the district of Blundellsands ˌblʌndl̩ˈsændz (or in the local Scouse accent ˌblʊndl̩ˈsandz) is sometimes converted into the posher-sounding ˌblʌndl̩ˈsɑːndz, as if the final syllable belonged to the BATH lexical set (compare Alexander, commands and Ed’s recent comments about Castleford.)

Mills tell us that the etymology of Fulham is the rather boring ‘river-bend of a man called *Fulla’. In the Domesday Book (1086) it was spelt Fuleham, but in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (c. 900) Fullanhamme, with an OE genitive case ending -n on the personal name.

The street name Piccadilly has, Mills tells us, ‘rather a bizarre’ origin.

It seems that the name first appears as Pickadilly Hall in 1623, otherwise Pickadel Hall in 1636, as a (no doubt humorous) nickname for a house belonging to one Robert Baker, a successful tailor who had made his fortune from the sale of piccadills or pickadillies, a term used for various kinds of collars, highly fashionable at the time, for both men and women.

EFL teachers can use ˌpɪkəˈdɪli as a convenient demonstration of the ‘stress shift’ effect when we come to Piccadilly Circus ˌpɪkədɪli ˈsɜːkəs.


  1. That is, they jocularly call it not pendʒ but pɒndʒ.

    Or even with a nasal?

  2. I took that 'supercilious' description to mean a more French-style pɑ̃ʒ for Penge. I've never heard flɑːm for Fulham, but I think klɑːm for Clapham (normally ˈklæpəm) is quite well-known.

  3. My favourite is sɛ̃ ʁɛtˈfɔʁ for Stretford in South Manchester.

  4. You've mentioned Bessacarr in S.Yorks. on this blog before. I have heard people do a similar thing for this and say /besəkɑː/ in a mocking tone. Bessacarr is an affluent village, and is surrounded by less prosperous places.

    1. At first blush I'd suppose that the origin of 'Bessacarr' involves some earlier form of 'acre'. If this be so, then the (correct) pronunciation /ˈbɛsəkə/ makes sense. Wrong? The forbidding-looking double consonant-letters are somehow reminiscent of the Ormulum.

    2. It is an Old English name meaning 'cultivated plot where bent-grass grows', according to A Dictionary of British Place Names, OE *bēos + æcer.

    3. OE æcer denotes 'the amount of land a yoke of oxen could plough in a day'.

    4. Thank you. So I was right?

      I'd never be tempted (taken to heart the advice given to me by David Crosbie in the previous post) to say /besəkɑː/, so un-English it looks or sounds.

      But, folks, what is the CORRECT pronunciation of 'Penge', given its Celtic origin and all?? Penghee? I'd pronounce it ignorantly as 'penj', but this doesn't square well with 'pen-coed', does it..

    5. ˈsɑːndz and ˈbesəkɑː do sound like something the Duchess of Brighton would say. It is funny how the 'broad a' can at the same time be so posh and so overdone and definitely not posh. Take the pronunciation of latte, which in BrE is ˈlæteɪ and in AmE ˈlɑːt eɪ. ˈlɑːteɪ is overcooked and preposterously awful, whereas ˈlæteɪ, with the æ a bit tenser, sound just as a duchess would pronounce it.

      Different story for the word bath. Or last which when I hear it pronounced by a BBC sports presenter as læʃtʃ in last year makes my head explode.

    6. I'm not sure about that. I live in London and I think ˈlɑːteɪ is very common here.

      To me it sounds wrong because the double T creates a very short a in the original Italian. But I don't have the TRAP-BATH split anyway (I'm not originally from London).

    7. ˈlɑːteɪ is in LPD, p.454. The form ˈlæteɪ is emboldened, but they're both considered RP. The Italian is given as [lat te].

      People often guess with foreign-sounding words or names whether it's a long or a short vowel. I notice that "Chavez" has only the form with /æ/ listed for British English in LPD. I have heard it with /ɑː/ even up here.

    8. Anglophones (and any-phones) typically don't get the length distinctions of foreign languages right anyway. Consider Nederlandic Dutch for instance: Dutch has a long orthographic a (sometimes 'aa') and sometimes short (pretty clear from spelling though). Now, unlike English, the long vowel is front (actually central) [aː] and the short vowel is back [ɑ]. For most Anglophones, though, a Dutch word or Dutch name may have English TRAP or PALM vowel regardless of the actual quality of the Dutch vowel. Still others keep the length right, but reverse the actual vowels English TRAP for [ɑ] and PALM for [aː].

    9. Why shouldn't a BBC sports presenter (or anyone else) pronounce "last" before a /j/ as [læʃtʃ] (or more likely [laʃtʃ])? Lots of BrE speakers will do that.

      Like others, I think ˈlɑːteɪ is a very common pronunciation in BrE, perhaps even the commonest, I suspect partly because of American influence (which seems more likely in that word than in many loanwords). I use ˈlateɪ myself, though, not that I say the word very often.

    10. No one was saying the pronunciation is uncommon, but, impressionistically, to me, it sounds less 'posh' than ˈlæteɪ (the reverse foes for BrE versus AmE bath). Weirdly, or not, my LPD doesn't add the voicing diacritic to AmE ˈlɑːteɪ.

      As for ˈžlæʃtʃ (ˈžlaʃtʃ), again, it is a matter of preference.

      I was really surprised to hear Stephen Sackur, the Cambridge-educated journalist, today say pæst. I guess he too is 'estuarizing' his pronunciation.

    11. The LPD justified in omitting the voicing diacritic - the use of a plosive [t] in "latte" seems to be near-universal here in the US.

      Also, is [pæst] Estuary? I thought all the major accents in southeastern England were equally likely to have the TRAP-BATH split.

    12. According to Wikipedia, Stephen Sackur was born in Spilsby, Lincolnshire, north of the TRAP-BATH isogloss, and it says nothing about him living anywhere else as a child, so I see nothing to be surprised about. Lots of people educated at Cambridge (including me as it happens) lack the split.

      And Lazar is of course right about Estuary.

    13. Duchesse de Guermantes. I've been wondering for a while. Are you from Britain? I don't think that you've ever stated this.

      I'm not sure if you're aware, but the pronunciation of BATH words has always been a very sharp divide in England, and most people are aware of this. This paper by Gupta states that this is hardly a sociolinguistic variable at all, and that there has been very little change in the isogloss separating the two halves over the last century. He says that there is the odd northerner with the long vowel, but then there are also a few southerners who have the short vowel (pp.24-25). In both cases, they are negligible when compared with the rest of the cohort.

      [a] in BATH is actually the older pronunciation. [ɑː] was an innovation that didn't make much ground north of Cambridge. As the two comments above me say, Estuary English uses [ɑː]. Stephen Sackur’s pronunciation says nothing about his class or his age: just his region of England.

    14. Votre Altesse, we use /ɑ/ for most "foreign a" here in the U.S>: pasta, drama, latte Altesse, Guermantes.

    15. Sure, he is from Lincolnshire, but his accent is not the accent of Lincolnshire. I guess what remains of it are those bread-crumbs like the æ in past. I intentionally used the word estuarization in inverted commas to point out the 'throw it out there', 'makes no sense' nature of it, especially considering the fact that Estuary English is a 'controversial' (there's that word again) term that really doesn't refer to any sort of codified pronunciation, but more likely to a Centaurean mixture of various accents.

      The question remains, though, if all you say is true, and it is, why would we be asking people studying the BrE variety to say pɑːst rather than pæst. If Renée Zellweger were suddenly to be cast as Elizabeth II, Barbara Berkery certainly wouldn't say to her: Oh, it's OK, dear, you can use æ in past, it's all the same.

    16. This whole 'they way people who've attended Cambridge speak' and Stephen Sackur reminds me of an article in The Times which, kind of, basically said Oxford was posher.

      “It is most odd,” said my friend, a Frenchman now living, like most sensible Frenchmen, in London. “Your country has given birth to twins. This Cameron and Clegg, he is the same person, no? They are both, how you say, posh?”

      “Yes,” I explained. “But they are different sorts of posh.”

      He looked confused: “But both went to private school, both are rich, both are sons of financiers. Even the hair is similar.”

      “True,” I conceded. “But they are not the same species of posh. David Cameron is Eton-Oxford-country- clubby-cutglass-shooting party sort of posh, whereas Nick Clegg is Westminster-Cambridge- metropolitan-foreign-glottalstop-trustfund sort of posh. Cameron is upper-upper-middle class with a dash of English gentry, but Clegg is middle-upper-middle class with a hint of European aristocracy. These are quite different things.”

      Skipping some lines...

      Cameron’s manners are exquisitely upper-class. Unlike Clegg, who did not hesitate to barge in during the televised debates, Cameron fell silent when interrupted, and when asked to be quiet, he was. This may explain why he didn’t triumph in the debates.

      Cameron is said to enjoy shooting pheasants, whereas the closest Clegg has come to blood sports is at the Liberal Democrat annual conference. “Eton and Oxford” still sounds immeasurably grander than “Westminster and Cambridge”, which sounds merely clever. Cameron is clubbable (Whites, the Bullingdon) in a way that Clegg is not.

    17. The question remains, though, if all you say is true, and it is, why would we be asking people studying the BrE variety to say pɑːst rather than pæst.

      In my view there is no good reason for this.

      If Renée Zellweger were suddenly to be cast as Elizabeth II, Barbara Berkery certainly wouldn't say to her: Oh, it's OK, dear, you can use æ in past, it's all the same.

      Well no, but there is no particular reason why foreign learners should aim to sound like the Queen.

      In my opinion, any accurate description of current mainstream British English ("RP" might still be a different matter) has to allow for both [a] and [ɑː] pronunciations of these words.

    18. 'Well no, but there is no particular reason why foreign learners should aim to sound like the Queen.'

      but not without reason is the 'best' English of the cis-Atlantic variety called 'Queen's English', or more generally 'Whatever-the-sex-of-the-currently-ruling-British-monarch's English'. Cf. the as entertaining as it is informative book 'The King's English' by the formidable Fowler Bros. The foreign learner needs clear and distinct guidelines and those 'monarchic' on this side of the Atlantic or perhaps those 'presidential' or whatever (CNN's?) on that side are not, after all, such a bad choice. You guys born into English can be proud of your hamlet's in Che- or Shropshire's accent, or your class's, or something like that, but as little as _contemplating_ such choices on our (foreign learners') part would be ludicrous. Therefore: Vive le Roi/la Reine...

    19. The particular reason is probably that it is the most widely understood form of spoken English. It has very clearly defined vowels and a certain muscularity of consonants.

      Wojciech, depends which CNN. On CNN International you can hear Bulgarian English, among other varieties.

      I keep re-reading those two post that were written some while ago when I asked why (older, conservative) RP died and to this day, I am not sure I understand why did it become such an object of mockery.

    20. @ Duchesse de Guermantes: Of course, someone who plays Elizabeth II would be expected to use [ɑː] in BATH because the world knows that is what she says. That's like saying that an actor playing William Wilberforce should use [a] in BATH. Any film set before the 19th century should use [a] in BATH categorically.

      As for EFL, I don't think that it would be a big problem if people learnt [a] in BATH. Most of the immigrants who come to the northern half of England use [a] in BATH. The reason why [ɑː] has been taught historically is simple: political and economic power have been concentrated in the south-east of England for centuries.

    21. Duchesse de Guermantes: you didn't answer my question about whether you're from Britain. I'm intrigued to know the answer.

      I'm not sure if you're aware, but the correlation between class and accent in Britain means that accent can be almost political at times. Sometimes, you have to tread carefully with comments about English accents so that you don't sound like a class warrior.

    22. No, æ cannot be accepted as RP, and thus a model to be immitated, since even Prof. Wells puts a § before pæst. Same goes for a.

      Oh, no, I'm not a "class warrior". But since everyone is talking and sometimes blabbering about their own accent, often completely disregarding the intricacies of RP, I decided to ramble, babble and waffle about RP.

    23. Duchesse, you come across as quite rude sometimes. Up this thread a bit, you said that ˈlɑːteɪ is overcooked and preposterously awful. Even though I don't say that myself, I felt that comment was inappropriate. In the discussion about BATH, you don't seem to be engaging with any of the points made. There is little point having a discussion if you're not going to listen to what we say about the history of the vowel.

      By the way, the entry in LPD is /pæst/ which equals [past] in the northern half of England. I doubt that any English people say [pæst], although many Irish and North American people do.

    24. Wojciech: With the exception of Ronald Reagan, who was after all an actor, all recent Presidents have had decidedly regional accents, Obama perhaps the least. To begin with, there is no truly non-regional accent comparable to RP in American English (so-called "General American" is a purely notional accent today), and if we look at the accents of broadcasters, we don't find presidents talking like them at all.

    25. How would you describe George H.W. Bush's accent?

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    1. ' 'the advice given to me by David Crosbie in the previous post'. When was 'previous'? And what was the 'advice'?'

      sorry I meant the thread last-but-one, I get this internet terminology wrong sometimes. I meant the advice by D. Crystal to see through and untangle the various conflicting principles that used to shape English spelling and pronunciation...

      'Etymology is basically irrelevant, though I can see how it might influence the third criterion.'

      I, by contrast, see how it might have, and in most cases has, influence(d) (most decisively) the first criterion. People pass the word-of-mouth, that is, the name of the place they live in, from one generation to another,--- unless they are expelled or killed by a wave of immigrants, conquerors etc. --- and so, after centuries where there was Cantwarabricg there is Cambridge (or Oxenaford --- Oxford, and so on).

      So it's 'ponj' after all? Hm, then it must have gone from pencoed to WRITTEN 'penged' or some such and then pronounced the French way by some Anglo-Normans unfamiliar with the original Celtic phonetics of this word...

    2. Wojciech

      So it's 'ponj' after all? Hm, then it must have gone from pencoed to WRITTEN 'penged' or some such and then pronounced the French way by some Anglo-Normans unfamiliar with the original Celtic phonetics of this word...

      It's 'penj', but I presume 'ponj' was a typo.

      No I can't see how the written forms could have any influence whatsoever on how the locals pronounce the name. Well, I suppose that sort of thing can happen when a place is deserted and then a new community is formed at the location. I very much doubt that Penge suffered this fate.

      For a while, the French were in the majority of influential scribes. They were never in the majority speaker talking of their home town or village. They may well have had French names for places based on spelling pronunciations — just like colonial powers in modern times. But England was never a colony of a political entity called 'France'. It was ruled by a French-speaking elite for a while, but that elite relatively soon became English-speaking.

    3. Yes, 'penj'.

      I know all of the above. Yet, maybe Penge was deserted to some extent at some moment in the past, and then repopulated by people who didn't know the original pronunciation, but read 'Penge' as it 'should be' pronounced?

      Also, there is the phenomenon of locals' imitating what they think is a 'better' pronunciation of an e'lite. You don't really know it? In this way, they can start mispronouncing the name of their own locality.

      I am writing all this because I do not in the least understand whence the soft 'j' in 'penj' cometh --- if the name, as John said above, is derived from Pengoed, or Woodhead (Head-(of-the-)Wood?)

    4. Wojciech

      With manageably few exceptions:

      • morpheme-final corresponds to spelling DGE (losing the E with suffix ING)

      • the possible vowel/diphthong sounds before morheme-final are restricted to the 'long/short' pairs FACE/TRAP, FLEECE/DRESS, PRICE/KIT, GOAT/LOT, GOOSE/STRUT corresponding to spellings with single vowel letters A, E, I, O, U respectively — with 'short' vowels signalled by the quasi-double letter -DGE

      • the possible vowel/diphthong sounds before morheme-final ndʒ are restricted to HATE, DRESS, KIT, STRUT corresponding to spellings with single vowel letters A, E, I, U. There are the notable exceptions of sponge and orange — but that's not a huge learning laod.

      Short of an extraordinarily perverse spelling, Penge can only be pɛndʒ. Yes such perverse spellings do exist, but they are characterised by an excess of consonant letters as in Happisborough or Featherstonehaugh.

      If there ever was a spelling which reflected an intermediary pronunciation between a putative Celtic original and Penge, what would that tell us that's worth knowing? We wouldn't know exactly what the spelling represented. More to the point, we wouldn't know when it represented that pronunciation. If, as seems very likely, the phonological history is pure deduction, we need no intermediary spelling to confirm the logic.

    5. what would that tell us that's worth knowing?

      OK, having read Steve Doerr's post I must eat my words to some extent.

      The date 1067 comes at the end of a period of unusually (for English) transparent spelling. People must have been saying something like pɛntʃɛ:t or pɛndʒɛ:t within recent memory, if not at the time of writing.

      So the spelling does give some help in dating. It would seem that the changes of the initial consonant of the 'head' part, and those of the vowel and final consonant of the 'wood' part, took place in pre-Conquest times. However, the conservative nature of the spelling of place names doesn't allow us to date the voicing of the initial consonant of the 'head' part or the loss of the final consonant.

    6. David

      re your 'few exceptions'.

      I agree with you and most of the rules you list are, or have been since time immemorial, known to me. Most. You are right in the sense that English spelling is only _manageably_ difficult. Yet it is also true that you need years to get your mind around all these rules in exceptions.

      Let's put it this way. In Finnish, you need perhaps 15 minutes to learn the spelling-pronunciation relations (and to be able to read aloud an unknown word correctly, leaving the matters of phonetics aside). In Dutch, it's maybe half an hour, in Czech, it's perhaps an hour, in German two hours, in French let's say 5 hours. And in English?

    7. Wojciech

      There's no way we could re-run the history of English so as to resemble that of Finnish, Dutch, German or French. Radical spelling reform has never resolved the problems. Mild reform achieved little, more sweeping reform created new problems, and no-hold-barred reform would never win acceptance.

      Two things that can be changed for the better are the teaching of spelling and the presentation.

      • It can be great fun to represent English spelling as a mass of contradictions, but this is usually misleading and often downright dishonest, The famous example of fish spelled GHOTI is amusing but mendacious.

      • Complex information is best taught gradually — and, indeed, learned gradually. If your estimate of 5 hours to learn French spelling-pronunciation is true, it should be disregarded. In that five hours a learner could be absorbing information that is much more important, and of immediately practical use.

      The days of learning a language without a teacher from printed texts in standard orthography are long, long gone. Even before the spread of sound-recordings, self-study books (and phrase books) presented 'imitated pronunciation' texts or even IPA transcription texts.

      The established mode of learning a language is from texts spoken by a teacher or on recordings. At first, the written text is a secondary adjunct. Learners literate in their own language are presented with spelling-pronunciation problems in much the same way as native speakers; they know the pronunciation and the spelling is something to be
      1) immediately noted
      2) subsequently recognised
      3) eventually learned
      In a well designed course, learners are frequently exposed to the same problems, and allowed to resolve them at their own pace.

      Since the time that I started teaching, the 'four skills' have been separated out. Nowadays learners are presented with realistic (or quasi-realistic) reading tasks such as based on texts that are beyond their productive skills. Even if the information to be searched for is a word that the student can't pronounce, the exercise may still be realistic and valuable. The teacher (or teach-yourself book) can supply the pronunciation if desired.

      Writing is, of course, the skill that does demand knowledge of sound-spelling rules. Well, it does now — in the distant past learners might learn spellings without knowing pronunciations. Today, we teach learners to use vocabulary that they know, which means they know the pronunciation and can at least recognise the spelling. Wrong spellings are for us teachers to correct. If students can express an idea for which they don't know the word, we wouldn't dream of supplying the written form without saying it aloud.

    8. all right---all of that amounts to this: hire a life-long teacher. Does it not?

      ... which would be rather cumbersome, and not just for financial reasons.

      If you do not learn a language just for learning it (there are hobbyists like that) but (as is the case with me and English) for the sake of being able to use it in serious (professional and other) context, chances are that sooner or later you come a cross an item (be it grammar or phonetics or what not) that no pre-fabricated book ('English for very advanced learners' 4th enlarged and improved edition') still less various didactic recordings, addressed to a with your leave 'hoi polloi' will be able to cover. Such as Leiston, Suffolk, or Euthydemos, or constructions like 'there were few but wept'. What do you do then? Consult John's D-ry, or Svartvik and Co.'s 'Comprehensive Grammar...' or some such, or write letters to your English Dr. Phil. Oxon. friends. Wherefrom you only get a resigned 'we do not know'. Then --- well, then you must hire a teacher... yes... . But you were talking a bit 'pro domo sua', were you not? Well, that's all right.

      I agree with what you say about Finnish, ghoti, and stuff, as indeed with what you say in general. I do not either postulate a reform of English spelling (Diringer: reform it and you'll offend England's history). I only urge this point: English is d* difficult. More difficult than French, German or even Finnish with its 15 cases.

      As Frederick Bodmer once wrote about Russian: it's so difficult that the only way to learn it well is to be born and grow up in Russia. The same is true of English, _mutatis mutandis_ of course.

    9. Wojciech

      No, you don't need to hire a lifelong teacher. You've already absorbed what teachers set out to teach. That's why your problems are so recondite — Leiston, Euthydemus, there were few but wept. These are what used to be called exceptions that prove the rule

      Yes you do consult dictionaries and grammars if the question is important enough to you. You also elicit information from native speakers, who don't need to be teachers because you've acquired the necessary expertise to frame the right question.

      If your friends don't know the answer, then it's really difficult. Your ambition is to know more than some native speakers in some little particular. Many would conclude that the extra knowledge was not worth the considerable effort needed to acquire it. You have chosen to learn difficult things because you've chosen to value that knowledge. It follows that you must accept the difficulties of learning them.

      Bodmer was wrong about Russian. Some of my wi'e's former colleagues have really learnt the language. For the last forty years and more, I've been trying to do so by various means, and I've made progress. I'm way behind you in your pursuit of English but I have an intellectual grasp of the big Russian grammatical issues, and some of my instincts prove right. As yet, I seldom need to say words I've only seen in writing. But if it happens I ask my Russian interlocutor.

      Well, there have been times that I've started with text and ended with speaking in a public space; I've acted in a few Russian plays. Even this is relatively easy with the recordings of the text by Russian native speakers and explanations of what the words mean.

    10. I am an 'audial' type and I 'hear' the words I read, when I stumble upon one I don't now how to 'hear' I am put off and flummoxed. I can't, in my mind's ears, say 'ee-yu-tee-aitch-wy-dee-ee-emm-oh-ess'. Besides, I can't help feeling that a person who cannot pronounce words which she himself uses or tries to use properly sounds ridiculous. Like a nouveau-riche flaunting his jewels but not knowing what exactly they are called nor their true value. Of course if you are a really _riche_ or a NS Dr. Phil. Oxon. then it's fine, for, as Tevje the Milkman has once observed, 'if you're really rich they think you know'. But I am neither.

      Yes I am aware of 'having to accept the difficulties'. England expects every man to do his duty ... and suffer for her sake.... I accept them, but for a' that they don't stop presenting themselves to me as difficulties.

      Russian has far less words you could not read aloud properly on seeing them, aside from the issue of word-stress. Prazdnik, pozhalujsta, ... what else? There is 'akanje', '-avo' instead of '-ogo' in an ending, but that's about it.

      The former (word-stress) is a big problem to me. Fortunately, there is a Danish software 'Grammatica' to solve this.

    11. Wojciech

      Russian has far less words you could not read aloud properly on seeing them, aside from the issue of word-stress.

      The sun is a very cold place, aside from the issue of heat.

      Russian is infinitely more difficult to read aloud than any language I know. Yes, most of the difficulty evaporates when texts are marked for stress. But that only happens in books for foreigners.

      I can't, in my mind's ears, say 'ee-yu-tee-aitch-wy-dee-ee-emm-oh-ess'.

      No but you can 'aud' an arbitrarily chosen spelling pronunciation, with a mental note to look out for a more authentic form.

      The difficulty you describe is felt by all native speakers when they encounter new words in writing. The words you complain of indicate that you are not far behind the average well-educated native speaker. Indeed, you've probably learned more difficult sound-spelling correspondences than a great many native speakers.

    12. ' Indeed, you've probably learned more difficult sound-spelling correspondences than a great many native speakers.'

      this makes me feel 'y-flattered and y-plesed', to speak with Chaucer, yet at the same time ... this makes me pity those 'well-educated native speakers'...

      'No but you can 'aud' an arbitrarily chosen spelling pronunciation, with a mental note to look out for a more authentic form. '

      the difficult part is the looking out for the proper form...

      Re Russian stress, have a look at this:

      As you probably know, stress in Russian is a legacy of the Balto-Slavic stress-intonation patterns (Slovene, Serbo-Croatian and Lithuanian still have the intonation part of it), so in part regular, except that the rules are very complex, far more complex than those of ancient Greek.

    13. Wojciech

      yet at the same time ... this makes me pity those 'well-educated native speakers'...

      They wouldn't want your pity. Native speakers have a major advantage that they can spot really unusual exceptions. There's no shame in ignorance of what most others don't know either.

      the difficult part is the looking out for the proper form...

      Difficult to do instantly, yes. But after the initial encounter you probably won't read the word again for quite a long time. In the interval:
      1. The problem isn't pressing.
      2. You may get access to a suitable source of information.
      3. You may meet a native speaker who understands the question and knows the answer.

      Language learning, like many endeavours, is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

    14. As you probably know, stress in Russian is a legacy of the Balto-Slavic stress-intonation patterns (Slovene, Serbo-Croatian and Lithuanian still have the intonation part of it), so in part regular, except that the rules are very complex, far more complex than those of ancient Greek.

      What are those patterns and which part of them did Russian keep?

      Language learning, like many endeavours, is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

      What does that mean? After I've reached a certain stage of proficiency, I can only deteriorate, even if the stage isn't the highest one?

    15. Atmospheres

      What does that mean? After I've reached a certain stage of proficiency, I can only deteriorate, even if the stage isn't the highest one?

      Not at at all. It means that each new improvement requires more effort. You get a smaller return than you did before. It's a metaphor from finance.

      Of course, it's possible to deteriorate, but my no means inevitable.

      And the law of diminishing returns wouldn't operate if, for example, Wojciech moved to a (semi-)permanent residence in an English-speaking country.

    16. Wojciech

      Re Russian stress, have a look at this:

      I had a look. It's just a more sophisticated variation of the Russian language teaching materials that I'm familiar with.

      Actually, I'm in a very fortunate position. I just ask the wife. In the very unlikely event that I'd want to know a stress and couldn't ask her, I'd ask any native speaker to hand. Failing that I can face ignorance with an equanimity that you say you can't share.

  6. Wojciech

    In the popular TV series Rumpole of the Bailey, the barrister hero reminisces from time to time of his early triumph in the Penge bungalow murder case. The actor Leo Mckern always pronounced it pɛndʒ and nobody is know to have complained to the BBC.

    According to a dictionary based on BBC Pronunciation Unit practice, there are three criteria for the CORRECT pronunciation of a place — usually identical but potentially conflicting:

    1. what the people who live there say
    2. what people in the surrounding region — in Britain typically a county — say
    3. what people in the country as a whole say

    Etymology is basically irrelevant, though I can see how it might influence the third criterion.

    I never posted before on this thread, so I wonder about 'the advice given to me by David Crosbie in the previous post'. When was 'previous'? And what was the 'advice'?

    If it's a reference to Garforth, Castleforth, Featherstonehaugh, Worcester, and so on in the The poet and the phonetician thread, my advice would be 'Don't worry'. The pronunciation of Penge doesn't matter until you get to visit SE20 — or act in an amateur production of Rumpole. Until then, you're free to think of it as Penghee, as to use any pronunciation you like with fellow non-native speakers.

    1. C'mon David, you must be joking and having good time at my expense.

      We 'fellow non-native speakers' (a limbo to which I now feel sent) are not all that, well, local. Last year I sort of had to tell my students about Neill's Summerhill School, where 'kids do what they want' and for this reason I had to mention Leiston, Suffolk. While I know how to pronounce Suffolk (not just from John's dictionary) I did not know how to do 'Leiston'. That was not at all easy to find. Just spelling-pronunciation? Or maybe Leessn, or L-eye-sten, or Lessn, or perhaps Loostawn, or what not? My teacher-deontology keeps me from carelessly mispronouncing words or creating the impression that it all don't madder.

      This is what I meant by 'descriptive sociology'. In some walks of life you are obliged to do certain things right no matter what your geographical coordinates are at the mo'.

    2. Wojciech

      for this reason I had to mention Leiston, Suffolk

      Well, you could have just said 'Suffolk'. But for the fact that the hearers were your own students of English, you could have used any old pronunciation of Leiston that seemed plausible. In the very unusual position you found yourself in what would be wrong with honesty?

      ... a place in Suffolk. I think it's pronounced leɪstən but it could be laɪsten.

      If you're really bothered by these things, there's a dedicated dictionary Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation.

    3. PS It's ˈleistən.

      I would normally make a guess with the caveat that I could be wrong. But for you, Wojciech, I looked it up in the predecessor to the dictionary I told you of.

    4. I looked it up in the predecessor to the dictionary I told you of

      Actually, this might be more suited to your needs. Because of its narrow focus, it has room for Leiston. There are currently some affordable secondhand hardbacks on offer "here.

    5. Thank you. I knew this already, after some time spent in the WWW I found out. But the problem is, sometimes you need this type of information very quickly. And books are expensive and occupy space in my small flat.

      No, this type of situation is not that unusual with me. Of course, when after hours of research I find nothing I just tell them I don't know. But it quite often costs me hours. Also, the various Old Greeks in Platonic dialogues. Now I know the rule: Latin stress patterns on Greek words, then Great Vowel Shift on it, and here you are. Very simple---and self-evident, if you think of it... But I know this from this blog only. Formerly I wrote to English friends, Dr. Phil. Oxon. and what not, e.g. re Euthydemos, and they wrote back frankly and succinctly "we don't know", probably not after hours of research.

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    7. What did you presume the pronunciation was? ˌjuːθiˈdiːmɒs?

      I guess that the English names are well-covered, but what does one do with, say, Louisiana words like Plaquemines or Pontchatrain?

    8. ˌjuːθiˈdiːmɒs?

      this seems to result from the rule defined above, given that it was Εὐθύδημος in Greek. I am not sure if the last vowel should not be a schwa.

      Re French names: There used to be an American anthropologist, Cora Dubois, of francophone-Swiss extraction, important to me. I usually pronounce her "'dju:bojs" or "'du:bojs", after all she was American, but not "dy'bwa". Is that wrong? Pontchatrain I would say 'parntchatrin' with stress on the first.

    9. Now that you mention it, it's not that I can't see a possible juˈθiːdɪmɒs.

      In any case, yes, both of those Louisiana words have a pronunciation on Wikipedia – ˈpɒntʃətreɪn and ˈplɑːkɪmɪnz – but I bet one can more often then not encounter a word without it.

    10. Apparently WE Dubois was du:bɔɪz The fact that his pronunciation is noted and Cora's is not suggests to me that du:bwæ would be acceptable.

      The usual criterion for pronouncing a surname is the choice of the individual concerned. However some individuals such as Martina Navratilova have been known to accept a foreign approximation.

      I wonder whether this is the case with Roman Abromovich, who is the the news today. BBC correspondent Bridget Kendall spent many years in Russia, and must know full well that the antepenultimate version normally used æbˈræməvɪtʃ is appropriate only for the patronymic — not for the surname (which rhymes with Rostropovich). It's not impossible that she knows that Roman is prepared to accept this stress pattern when he's outside Russia.

    11. Du Buisson is, for example, ˈdjuːbɪsən.

      Where do these French surnames come from? That is, those people are descendants from the Frenchmen who came to the UK when?

    12. France, roughly between 1066 and 2012, with some regallicisations since the 19th century, I'd say.

    13. LOL.

      I have always found that awfully weird, French people relocating to the UK. But did not (find it weird) that the English people moved a bit to the east.

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    15. In my part of Massachusetts, there are many people of French Canadian descent who tend to use anglicized surname pronunciations - the most common one is likely [bǝˈnɔɪt] "Benoit", but I've even heard [dɛsˈdʒɑɹdnz] "Desjardins" and [ˌdɛstʰɹɔɪzˈmeɪznz] "Destroismaisons".

    16. In fact during Edward the Confessor's time that is before 1066 many French-speaking Normans came to England.

      Those who came rather closer to 1066 than to 2012 are mostly not called Du Buisson. See the case of Tess Durbeyfield.

    17. Some Normans came, but probably not many. (Anyway, I said "roughly".

      Also, while Du Buisson might be a Huguenot name, there are enough Norman names left that have a detached "de" even today, and even some that have the second part start with a vowel, so, for example, you find not only Darby but d'Arby/D'Arby, too.

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    19. Lipman

      while Du Buisson might be a Huguenot name, there are enough Norman names left

      Significant, I think, that so many of the French surnames can be dated to these two clusters of immigrants.

      The Huguenot effect is even more striking in South Africa. Most of the ancestors of most of today's Afrikaners were Dutch, but French surnames are disproportionately represented, fore example De Villiers, Du Plessis, De Clerc, Le Roux, Terreblanche etc etc

      Until very recently, surnames survived when individual men:

      • were prosperous enough to marry and sire legitimate children

      • were succeeded by a long line of male heirs

      The latter was partly down to chance but not entirely since wealthy fathers could afford to keep trying for a male heir.

      The Norman Conquest established a small number of French-speaking men who seized their positions of wealth. An element in the Huguenot diaspora consisted of hard-working entrepreneurs who worked for their position of relative wealth.

      PS I did say 'legitimate heirs', but I suppose wealthier married men also sired more bastards than less wealthy married men. Many of those bastards will have taken their father's name. (This may be all more true of the Normans than the Huguenots.)

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  8. In EM Forster's (posthumously published) novel Maurice, the character of Clive Durham lives on an estate called Penge. There's something a bit harsh and unseemly about the sound of the name; when Kit Hesketh-Harvey adapted the story for the 1987 Merchant-Ivory film, he changed it to the much grander-sounding Pendersleigh.

  9. Oh dear, I didn't have time to delete the previous version before Wojciech read it and replied. To save space, I'll dleted it anyway. Please not that Wojciech's 11.55 post is a rely to all but the final paragraph of my 11.58 post.

  10. Oaky - without looking it up - post your guesses on the pronunciation of the village of Acrefair in north-east Wales.


    1. Which would result in what in English? ˌækrəˈveə or something?

    2. I guess [ɛɪkəfɛɪə] to make it a rhyme.

      I don't have a clue really. I find that people from that part of Wales have quite undistinctive accents - similar to adjacent Cheshire. I presume that this place-name is an unusual case though, or else you wouldn't be asking.

    3. Indeed, it's [akre'vair].
      It's not from English acre +fair, but from Welsh. The meaning is 'St. Mary's acres', from 'acre' plural of 'acr' ('acrau' in current official orthography but the final diphthong - the plural ending in this instance - is usually pronounced as a monophthong), plus the mutated form of Mair (= Mary).

    4. It was not difficult to guess, with your hint as to location in "Cymru". However, the etymology I did not know it. Is 'acr' an Anglicism (the voiceless [k]) or a truly Celtic word, akin to both 'acre' and Latin 'ager'.

      I sort of suspected that the real trickiness of your question might consist therein, that the pronunciation be a sort of compromise between standard Welsh and some local patterns of pronunciation---I was not that wrong, seen Tudor Hughes' post below.

  11. Earliest reliable spelling of Penge is Penceat (1067), containing the Celtic elements pen and cēt (= Welsh coed, Breton koad, Cornish cos/cuit/kûz). Gover, Mawer, & Stenton in Place-names of Surrey (Penge was originally a detached part of Battersea, formerly in Surrey) say the expected modern form would be Penchet, but like some Norman diminutives in -et the final syllable was dropped. Voicing of ʧ to ʤ is attested in other place-names as well.

    1. Ad Steve & David

      OK, so maybe the early Saxons, in the train of their frequent affricatisations, (kyrka->church) made a 'ch' (later a 'j') out of the original Celtic /k/ and hence it is not *penk, or *peng, still less *penghee, anymore?

      That's the only solution that I can think of.

      Of course, the -et was MISinterpreted as a Norman-French diminutive.

  12. The pronunciation [akre'vair] is certainly "correct" but my father, a Welsh speaker from less than 10 miles away, reduced the second syllable to a schwa, and with no [r]. Another tricky one, just a couple of miles away, is Ruabon.

    Tudor Hughes

  13. Is it beyond all possible doubt of Celtic origin? (OK, I see it's in Wikipedia's list, and there are more there than I expected).

    It's just that "penge" is also a Danish word for "money". I realise that most Scandinavian place names are in the north, but the Danes did get about, and I think they did take London briefly at one point.

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