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The Vagaries Of Pronunciations

Hygge , Feng Shui, Leicester , Worcester, Waldegrave,Cholmondley and More

By Mike Singleton - MikeydredPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
How To Say It

This poem read by JimmyJams on "The Chaos Of English Pronunciation" by Gerard Nolst Trenité more than covers what I have written.

How To Say Hygge

Recently I have been working on a Facebook Page “Alle Tings Hygge” and I have been pronouncing Hygge as Higgy. I understand Higgy or Higgah from the English spelling of the word , but the actual pronunciation of the word is Hoogah (see here). I am assuming this is the Danish pronunciation of this collection of letters but it doesn’t make sense to my English brain. How does “y” sound like “oo”? I don’t know but the English Language provides many examples where the actual letter combinations either sound wrong or just different.

So we will sink into the depths of English Language Pronunciation and see if you agree or disagree with what I see as sounds that don’t make sense.

How To Say Feng Shui

This is something that I find completely illogical. Feng Shui is an English representation of the name of the Chinese philosophy that is a practice of arranging the pieces in living spaces in order to create balance with the natural world. The pronunciation is apparently Fung Shway so why the hell is it spelt Feng Shui which bears virtually no resemblance to the pronunciation.

How To Say Leicester, Worcester and other English (and World) Place Names

Hundreds of places in England and the United Kingdom are not pronounced as they are spelt . This is probably true the world over but I was running a quiz recently and was going to use Ulan Bator as an answer but then found out this was an anglicised version of the real Mongolian name of Ulaanbaatar and it has many variations such as:: Da Khure, Niislel Khureheh, Urga and was formerly Urga or Niislel Khureheh. I know this is sort of off track but shows how names and actual pronunciations may diverge..

Leicester is pronounced Lester , Worcester is pronounced Wuster , Darwen is pronounced Darren (though I pronounce it Darwen). I am just wondering if this is inherent laziness, or the ability to try and be more efficient or laconic, but the words for Leicester and Worcester look far more impressive than their actual pronunciation.

English Name Pronunciations

There was an Tory MP whose name is William Waldegrave but his name is pronounced Walgrave. Now if you just heard his name, hadn't seen the spelling and were to write it down , you would spell in Walgrave. I found this on the phonetic spellings of the name. This makes it even worse because there are multiple options for pronunciation.

Phonetic spelling of Waldegrave




Then there is Cholmondley, a surname and a place name. Cheshire natives know the village near Malpas and home to the stunning Cholmondeley Castle is pronounced 'Chumley' rather than 'Chol-mond-eley'. Its name means 'clearing of Ceolmund', an Old English forename made up of the elements ceol, "ship", and mund, "protection" Cholmondeston.

If you saw it written down you wouldn’t pronounce it Chumley

Words That Are Spelt The Same But Pronounced Differently

Some that come to mind Are Wind, Read and Lead , examples are:

  • “The Wind Blew”
  • “To Wind Up The Clock”
  • “He Read A Book”
  • “I want to Read”
  • “Lead Pipes”
  • "He was born to Lead”

Yes it’s all about context but it must be confusing for non English speakers

Words That Are Spelt Differently But Pronounced The Same

Wined , Wind and Whined

Read and Reed

Read and Red

Lead and Led

That almost reads like a poem but the words on each line are pronounced the same.

Pronouncing A Conclusion

These are some examples of confusing pronunciations, and I am sure you will have lots more to add to this, but I hope you have found this informative.

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