English Place Names

Anglophenia is a funny series of YouTube shorts for Americans who visit England.
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce complete with the Royal Seal of Approval.

One of the ways we can tell if someone was brought up in a local area of England is the way that they pronounce place names. They often sound nothing like they are spelled. I follow a blog called Travel Much by Olive Ole who often gives some wonderful recipes from Norway. The latest being her home-made burgers (to die for) using Worcestershire Sauce (click HERE for Wiki origins). I have always been led to believe that Worcestershire Sauce originated in Bengal, India and it was brought back to Worcestershire in England and enhanced by two chemists Lea & Perrins. I make my own version and call mine Elephant Sauce (a family joke).

After informing Olive Ole of how impressed I was after making her recipe, this funny conversation took place:

Olive Ole: Oh maybe you can help resolve the argument I have with Sir Nerdalot at the moment. He claims that Worchestershire sauce is pronounced Woster sauce! How dum is that! If they want it pronounced as Woster, then they should spell it that way! I say it like Wor-Chester-Shire-Sauce, and the Nerd giggles!

My own version Elephant Sauce

SOL: He is right I am afraid. UK English has a number of names like that. Magdalene College in Oxford is pronounced «Maudlin College» It was a popular way to catch out spies during WW2.

Olive Ole: Noooooooooo! Ah! The teasing will be endless! Or I could just not admit to him that he was right! Yup, that is my best option!

(after this I accidentally posted this reply to Poet Rummager – another interesting blogger I follow, instead of to Olive Ole)

SOL: Further to the Woster confusion – this you tube lesson may be of interest: https://youtu.be/9q7VjLVU8Ec (this is a hilarious YouTube post about pronouncing British Place names by Anglophenia – if you click this it will help understand how different place names can sound from how they are spelled)

Poet Rummager: That was hilarious! I got, maybe, 2 right!! Wow, go me. Thanks for the link — I feel so stupid now. Haha! How do you pronounce Southampton? I bet I’ve been saying it wrong all this time. Wanna bet??

SOL: I am going to have to do a blog about this – it has made me laugh so much. Southampton is as it looks. For nearly every town or village older than 1776 in England, there is a town or village of that name (some with the additional New in front) in North America and many of those names also in Australia, as it referred to where those people (colonists) settled from. Many WordPress visitors first think I am from Southampton, Suffolk County, New York. (There’s 3 places from England) There are also Southamptons or South Hamptons in Pennsylvania, California and Ontario. They all sound the same with a soft ‘p’.

Olive Ole replied to your comment  ‘I am going to have to do a post about this – it’s so funny’. Haha! Looking forward to read it (but wont show it to hubby)

(Then after I sent the original reply to Olive Ole):

Olive Ole: hahahaha love the link! And although I am not American, I would say most of those names fairly similar to the american…


Let us not even begin to get into long Welsh names or those from the rest of the UK.

But my question today is: Are there any English place names that you discovered you have been pronouncing differently?

35 thoughts on “English Place Names

    • Ah! There’s a challenge. I would first assume to say it in s Spanish way, but there is nothing Spanish about Gough. It might derive then from someone’s name. In English we would pronounce it as goff to rhyme with cough. It might be a tricky one though like pronouncing it like gowf or gow. We also have the word borough at the end of many of our place names which we pronounce burrurh and many Americans pronounce borrow. So do American’s pronounce it as Go?


  1. The video was fun! I didn’t do too badly, but stumbled over a few. There’s a Majoribanks Street near me. (The first ‘r’ in the name is missing.) Older residents refer to it as Marchbanks or Marshbanks, but I’ve heard Marjorie-banks quite often, too.
    Of course here in NZ we have many Maori place names. Their pronunciation used to be absolutely massacred by English speakers, but nowadays there’s much more effort to pronounce them correctly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I once worked on the telephone exchange for the GPO and there were strict rules to pronounce place names more like they looked. We had to say names like ‘Greenock’ just like it appeared even though we knew we would be offending the Scots who pronounced it as gren-uck. There is a move now to at least pronounce city names more like the locals. Here is one for Jackie – when I moved to Poulner near Ringwood, I pronounced the first sylable like that in poultry – I was quickly informed that it was pronounced ‘pow (as in power)-ner.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah, english placenames, i love their quirkiness and their downright illogicalness.
    i overheard someone talking about “Bevwah” Valley in Southampton once which sounds right to the outsider given the spelling, but then Beaulieu wouldnt be pronounced that way if we were taking the french literally.
    Even “Southampton” isnt that simple. There’s only one H so you can tell someone isnt from here when they pronounce it “South Hampton”. It should, of course, be “Sathamton” or even “Saffamton” or more as many, me included, say it “s’dAMtn”

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are right. Even those who work at Southampton City Council say it like Bevwah instead of Bevis. You would think they would have known about Sr Bevois, the s0-called founder of Southampt0n, if they worked for the city council wouldn’t you? My cousin who lives your side of the river pronounces th in Southampton like in the word ‘the’ with a heavy stress on ‘amp’ and a short t’n. I remember an Australian asking me once if ‘Soton’ was near ‘Totton’ as this what the road markings suggested.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thats surprising that so many people say bevwah, ive only ever heard it that once.
        Ah, there are as many variations of pronunciation as there are residents. But the one thiing we have in common is saying it as one word not two.
        Haha, soton could confuse an outsider. one of my email addresses contains soton and writing it is fine, but trying to spell/explain it to peopel is more trouble than i realised it would be!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. My dad comes from Totton, but, having lived in Southampton for more than 50 years, even he doesn’t give it the extra ‘h’.

    Place names are weird. I didn’t realise this until I was in my late teens and I was plotting a route to the north via Towcester. I hadn’t realised that local names like Beaulieu, Bevois, Dibden Purieu etc. were not pronounced as written. Mainly because I didn’t see them written until I started driving and reading maps.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hehe, I am glad to have inspired such a funny post! Not so funny for Sir Nerdalot (hubby) though, as I have completely ignored him for two day. Every time he has approached me and tried to make contact all I have said to him is “Woster! Pffffth!” – followed by me rolling my eyes and ignoring him.

    Just to give you a glimpse into his Nerdness’ stupidity, he told me that he had arranged a meeting today. On a Saturday. Of the last weekend of our holiday. Because I’m not talking to him – so he figured he might as well. And that is when he made the stupidest mistake ever – he invited me to tag along, and he’d drop me off at the mall by his office. Of course I did not respond verbally, just nodded my head and held out my hand. He was smart enough to catch on real quick and handed over his credit card.

    Long story short – got a whole lotta shopping done today! And to top it all off I even did some online shopping earlier this evening and charged it all on his card 😀

    I can’t keep up ignoring him forever, but I do believe I have struck gold here. I am currently on the lookout for other words and place names to mispronounce, so I can start another fight, ignore him, and go on a shopping spree on his card. I think I will start a list, so I can be prepared for the next time I feel like shopping.

    What do you mean I’m evil? Woster! Pfftthh!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was brought up relatively near to Mousehole in Cornwall (Mowzel), but now live relatively near to Mousehole Lane in Southampton… which I have been told is not pronounced the Cornish way 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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