Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Well today I had a "special" little experience. One of our technicians comes up to me and asked me, "How the hell do you pronounce this name?" as she's pointing to the surname Duquesne. I whisper to her "DOO KAIN". So she goes out and says, "DOO KAIN - Doo Kain". No answer. So I get up and go round to the other end of the office (it's sort of L shaped) and holler out in a French accent, just in case. "Doo can - Doo can". Then repeat "Doo Kain - Doo Kain". All of a sudden a Puerto Rican lady speaking broken English comes up and says, "I'm Irma DOOK KEZ NEE". I was tongue tied. I said, "You don't pronounce your name Doo Kain?". Her, "No we're Puerto Rican". All righty then! What do you say to that? We really are a strange hemisphere. Only in the "west" do you ill pronounce city names and now obviously last names. Some of my favorites are the way the New Mexicans pronounce Madrid, New Mexico (City between Albuquerque and Santa Fe) they say Mah Drid. Mah being pronounced as the way you say Ma in Mary. Then there's all the French names pronounced all wild western. Eeesh. It's almost creepy. When I went to the U.K. I heard every other town and city and street name pronounced differently from the way we pronounce it here in the states. Like Elgin, or Montrose, or Beauchamps (in England it's pronounced beecham). What's your favorite oddly pronounced name?


Mark Wadsworth said...

Cholmondley = pronounced Chumley.

M- Filer said...

"Houston (how-stun) street" , as in the Manhattan street that borders SOHO. You can always spot a tourist when they pronounce it like the city in Texas.

CatWoman said...

Yeah Mark. About that. I really found that both amusing and amazing. Like the names Dalziel pronounced Dee ell and Featherstone pronounced Fan shaw and then there's Menzies pronounced Ming iss. What's up with that?? Don't get it.
I didn't know about the House ten thing until I was watching t.v. coverage of 911 and they kept saying House ten this and House ten that. It's kinda corney.

Gina said... California we pronounced it Elle-doe-rah-doe

in my current state...they pronounce it Elle-doe-RAY--doe

in Maryland...we lived near Havre du Grace....

which I pronounced the French way....but locals said....Have rah due GrAce.



Avi in AZ said...

As a former New Mexican from Santa Fe, I have to make a correction. I have always heard native New Mexicans pronounce Madrid (in New Mexico) as MAD-rid, with a stress on the first syllable and with MAD being pronounced as it is in Mad-Hatter.

At any rate, Madrid is a great little town to visit. Nestled as it is in the mountains, it is a historic mining town that has turned into an arts town populated by hippie holdouts. Not nearly as big and developed as Santa Fe, or with as many galleries to see, but definitely worth the visit when traveling between Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

Sam said...

Dalziel and Menzies are Scots, and have their roots in Gaelic. When written in English (or Scots), the Gaelic lenited g was written with a yogh. Yogh looks a lot like a lower-case tailed z, so a number of Scots words spelled with a yogh aquired a z, because they looked the same.

So basically, the name has always been pronounced something like "Dee ell", but it's spelled with a z because spelling wasn't terribly well-defined in Middle English.

Names of people and places have tended to keep older spellings while the spelling of the rest of the language has modernized. That's probably not surprising.

Featherstonehaugh comes from Old English, and it seems that the written and verbal forms have diverged somewhat. I can understand (and find it moderately sensible) people called Featherstonehaugh changing the spelling of their name to "Fanshawe". It seems quite bizarre to me that some people called Featherstonehaugh kept the spelling of their name, but changed the pronunciation, but people can call themselves whatever they want.

The unfortunate consequence is that you can meet people called Featherstonehaugh ("Fanshawe") and Featherstonehaugh ("Feather-Stone-Whore")

Falco said...

My two London favourites are:

Mary-Le-Bone pronounced Marr / Li / Bunn


Conduit St pronounced Kun / Dit St