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Why is Leicester pronounced Lester?

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Misfit
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Why is Leicester pronounced Lester?

Post by Misfit » Mon December 29th, 2008, 1:30 am

At least according toWik it is.
The title Earl of Leicester (pronounced "Lester")

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diamondlil
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Post by diamondlil » Mon December 29th, 2008, 2:34 am

There are lots of examples like that in the English language - no idea why though. Would be interesting to find out!
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Post by Vanessa » Mon December 29th, 2008, 11:24 am

There are loads of unexplainable pronunciations and spellings in the English language - probably why a lot of non-English speaking people have difficulty learning it sometimes. Worcestershire is pronounced Wustersher. Yorkshire is Yorksher. Etc. Place names will probably date back to the Romans, the Saxons or the Vikings. We have a Roman road near us, probably the straightest road around here!! My husband is always querying why we spell words in certain ways and I always say I haven't a clue, that's just how it is. Lots of different languages mixed in, I would imagine.
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Post by Misfit » Mon December 29th, 2008, 11:28 am

Worcestershire is pronounced Wustersher. Yorkshire is Yorksher
All these books I've read where I've mispronounced the names in my head. :p :)

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Post by Rowan » Mon December 29th, 2008, 2:05 pm

I'll tell you, Misfit, the English also have a thing with surplus letters. :p I visited my friend in January of this year and found that surplus. We were out driving one day and I'd like to think that I have a pretty firm grasp of how peculiar the pronunciations are so when I saw a sign for Kirkby Lonsdale, I figured it would be a straight forward pronounce-it-like-it-looks. WRONG! The second K is silent. Go figure. :p

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Post by Volgadon » Mon December 29th, 2008, 2:22 pm

I've been to the village of Twocester near Milton Keynes. Pronounced like the electrical appliance.

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Kveto from Prague
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a boring theory

Post by Kveto from Prague » Mon December 29th, 2008, 5:22 pm

there are plenty of theories as to these "mispronunciations", i can give you a pretty dry academic general theory if you like.
this is basically liguistic elision, or the ommision of troublesome sounds or syllables. its very common with place names in the UK and to a lesser extent in other english speaking countries. its more common in stress-timed languages like english.

an example of elision might be the word "clothes". say that aloud. you probably pronounce it in a very similar way to the word "close". basically because if you try to pronounce the /th/ in the middle of "clothes" it kind of hurts your tongue. so its omitted for the sake of ease of language.

basically its the speakers making things easier on themselves by omiting inconvinient sounds or syllables. take edinborough as an example. its pronounced /edenbruuuh/ which cuts out a few syllables. basically the people living in a place starts clipping the names of their towns because, well, people are busy and dont have time to say all of those syllables. then if the place becomes better known that pronunciation becomes standard. i mean the people from edinborough must know the correct pronunciation of their own town, right?

this became really common with place english place names in particular. people just made them more convienient to pronouce but of couse retained the original spelling. which makes it difficult to pronouce if you werent "in the know".

an american example might be the city of "new orleans". often residents of said city will roll it together as /nawlens/. two syllables instead of fours because its convienient. in this case that pronunciation does not extend beyond the immediate area. in time it may, who knows.

my own country has an example. there is a town called "ceske budejovice" which is a mouthful. resisdents of this town say "budejice" because they have to say it often. people from prague who have less call to speak about the town use the longer form. so its also an easy way of identifying if a person is from there or not.

so its not really a penchant for extra letters. its a penchant for shortening things from their original pronunciations for conveinience :-)

sorry for the overlong answer. thats a theory anyway :-)
Last edited by Kveto from Prague on Mon December 29th, 2008, 5:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by annis » Mon December 29th, 2008, 6:22 pm

I think you've nailed it, keny.
The English town of Brighton is another one. It started life as Brighthelmstone.
It happens with English surmanes as well- people get caught out with those too.
Here are a few:
Beauchamp is pronounced Beecham
Belvoir is pronounced Beaver
Bohun is pronounced Boon
Cholmondely is pronounced Chumley
Colquhoun is pronounced Cahoon
Featherstonehaugh is pronounced Fanshaw
Marjoribanks is pronounced Marchbanks
St Clair is pronounced Sinclair.

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Post by Eigon » Mon December 29th, 2008, 9:01 pm

The classic example in this area is Leominster - pronounced Lemster, and sometimes spelt Lemster on old signs. Birmingham drifted so far from the spelling that it almost became Brummagen, and is still known colloquially as Brum.
Part of the problem was that people said the names as they sounded, and most of them couldn't read. When literacy became more common, people started pronouncing words more like the spelling - so Birmingham is still Birmingham - but some had slid so far, like Lemster, or Lester/Leicester, that it was never going to go back to the spelt version.
There's a village just outside Hereford called Clayhonger. Incomers say it as it is spelt. The old locals call it Clonger. In this case, I think the incomers are winning.

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Post by Misfit » Mon December 29th, 2008, 10:21 pm

This is fascinating, I had no idea places in the UK were pronounced so differently. Here in Washington, our odd names are mostly from Indian names and very different to pronounce (you can always tell who the tourists are), except for Sequim which is pronounced skwim.

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