WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Break-Teeth Words

Have you ever read a word for years, pronouncing it in your head a certain way, only to have someone finally say it aloud and it not sound the way you’ve always thought it did? My word was vehemently. I always read it vuh-hee-uh-ment-lee.

Don’t ask me where that uh in the middle came from. Southern roots or lazy reading, most likely.

Enter my decision to write historical romance. Not only are there anachronistic details to avoid; there are myriad words that look like they should sound one way but in reality are pronounced another. On the surface this doesn’t seem to be such a big deal in the grand scheme of things: readers are reading my books, after all. It could get a little complicated, however, should I decide to invent a nursery rhyme including one of these tricky words, or have one of my characters develop a shortened version of a name that would make absolutely no sense to a native English reader.

Just one more reason why I find language utterly fascinating.

Acting Magistrates commiting themselves being their first appearance as performed at the National Theatre Covent Garden, by James Gillray, 1809, private collection.

Break-Teeth Words

Hard words, difficult to pronounce.

Althorp (house) ~ Orltrop
Althorp (village) ~ Olthorpe

Bamburgh (Northumberland) ~ Bambruff or Bambro
Beauchamp ~ Beecham
Beauclerk ~ Boclair
Belvoir Castle ~ Beaver
Berkeley/Berkely ~ Barkley
Bicester (Oxfordshire) ~ Bister
Blackguard ~ Blaggerd
Breeches ~ Britches
Brough ~ Bruff

Caius College (Oxford) ~ Keys
Cholmondeley ~ Chumley
Cholmondeston (Cheshire) ~ Chumston
Clapboard ~ Clabberd
Cowper ~ Cooper
Cupboard ~ Cubberd

Edinburgh ~ Edinboro or Edinburah
Etchilhampton (near Devizes Wilts) ~ Eyeshalton

Featherstonehaugh ~ Fanshaw
Foulkes ~ Fauks

Glasgow ~ Glazga
Gloucester ~ Gloster

Happisburgh (Norfolk) ~ Haysbruh
Holborn (Central London) ~ Hoe-burn

Leicester ~ Lester

Magdalen College (Oxford/Cambridge) ~ Maudlin
Marylebone ~ Marleebone

Primer ~ Primmer

Southwell (Nottinghamshire) ~ Suthull
St. Clare ~ Sinclair
St. John ~ Sinjin (remember Jane Eyre?)
St. Leger ~ Sellinjer (sometimes)
St. Maur ~ Seymour

Victuals ~ Vituls
Viscount ~ Vikownt

Waistcoat ~ Weskit
Worcester ~ Wooster

Despair, by James Gillray, Published by Hannah Humphrey in 1802, Courtesy of the Warden and Scholars of New College, Oxford.

 

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