Barwick or Barrick?

A nice bit of LH-relevant dialogue from Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, which is every bit as good as jamessal said:

“So where’s your father’s shop, Nick?” said Pete.

“Oh, it’s in Barwick—in Northamptonshire?”

“Don’t they pronounce that Barrick?”

“Only frightfully grand people.”

Pete lit a cigarette, drew on it deeply, and then coughed and looked almost sick. “Ah, that’s better,” he said. “Yes, Bar-wick. I know Barwick. It’s what you’d call a funny old place, isn’t it.”

The class and regional/local implications of the pronunciation of place names is one of the things I find most bewildering about UK language and culture. For what it’s worth, my Daniel Jones Pronouncing Dictionary (13th ed., 1967) gives only the “Barrick” pronunciation. Of course, that presumably refers to one or more of the other Barwicks; Wikipedia recognizes places of that name in Devon, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Somerset, West Yorkshire, and North Yorkshire, but none in Northamptonshire.

Comments

  1. Here in New England, practice is mixed for our versions of tricky English place names. Worcester, Leiceseter and Gloucester are pronounced in the English way, but names like Warwick and Harwich are said as War-wick and Har-wich rather than Worrick and Harrich.

  2. A bunch of Green Witches in the eastern US, vs. Grin-itch Village, NYC, and Gren-itch, England.

  3. Shrews-bury vs. Shrows (as in performances)-bury is another example. Most of the country uses the latter, but most of the inhabitants use the former and consider the latter “frightfully grand”. In general, I think non-inhabitants are drawn to a hyper-correctness, i.e. assume the more obscure pronunciation, knowing the uncertainty in the pronunciations of these names.

  4. Of course a “shrow” isn’t a performance. I meant it to rhyme with “show””…

  5. Y: Though not a native New Yorker, I’ve lived here for 30 years, and I say GREN-itch Village. If people say GRIN-itch, it’s probably because they have a pin-pen merger.

  6. In general, I think non-inhabitants are drawn to a hyper-correctness, i.e. assume the more obscure pronunciation, knowing the uncertainty in the pronunciations of these names.

    That makes sense; it’s certainly what I think is going on with me. Of course, I love unpredictable/irregular pronunciations in general. (Jones says Barugh, surname and place in Yorkshire, is pronounced “barf”!)

    Though not a native New Yorker, I’ve lived here for 30 years, and I say GREN-itch Village.

    Same here (but substitute 23 for 30).

  7. AJP Eggwetter-Gree says:

    I don’t mix up pin with pen, but when I was young I’m pretty sure I said Grinnidge and now I say Grenitch. Because you can’t for instance say “Grinnidge, Connecticut” (although Grinnidge Mean Time still works for me) .

  8. AJP Crowne says:

    It’s a class thing based on the now outdated notion that only the more mobile upper classes would know both that, say, Wemyss in Scotland is pronounced “wimms” and that Frome in Somerset is “Froom”. Now that everybody travels equally, the poor take comfort in knowing these things – as well as that Marbella and “Marbaya” in Spain are one and the same (I only found this out quite recently).

  9. I’m not going to make a post of this smbc cartoon, but it’s pretty funny, so I’ll just stick it here for those who like language-related comics. (Via the Log.)

  10. I’ve told this story before somewhere, but I caught a bit of Prince Edward’s tour of London some years ago and was interested to hear him pronounce “Rotherhithe” as spelled. When Swift made it Gulliver’s hometown, he spelled it (and presumably pronounced it) “Redriff,” which was confusing for an American boy trying to find it on a map.

  11. As someone with non-grand English origins, I would go for “Barrick.” Although when Mitt Romney was in the news, I was surprised how often I pronounced his name “Rumney,” despite trying not to.

    I lived for a while in a little place near Oxford by the name of Charlbury. All the “incomers” — many of them people from London with money to buy a weekend cottage — pronounced it as spelled, but an old gent who lived next door to me, and who had been born in the village, called it “Chorlbury.” My general impression is that older, non-phonetic pronunciations are dwindling as people move around more.

  12. Neither Google maps nor the RAC Road Atlas show a Barwick in Northamptonshire, so its proper pronunciation may be a matter of fiction authorial choice. FWIW, the BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (1971) gives Barwick in Herts, Norfolk, and Somerset as barrick. By definition, this is BBC English, the standard for broadcasting. It often rides rough-shod over preferred local pronunciations.

  13. The cartoonishly British-sounding Berwick-upon-Tweed is “Berrick”, too.

  14. As is North Berwick.
    (There is a Redriff Primary School in Rotherhithe, by the way, but I’ve never heard anyone pronounce the area “Redriff”.
    What’s interesting is seeing that there are disagreements even among natives. Holborn, in central London, is pronounced “Hoe-burn” – or at least so most Londoners think. But some Londoners – native born, by their accents – pronounce it Hole-born. Especially Tube announcers. (Maybe this is deliberate Tube policy to avoid confusing tourists?)

  15. To my immigrant ears, /ˈhoʊ.bən/ (like /ˈmæ.ɹɪ.bən/) sounds distinctly grand.

    I assume these older pronunciations still serve as a shibbolet to distinguish established London families from us, the riff-raff behind Multicultural London English, but I doubt they’ll last another generation

  16. Ginger Yellow says:

    See also Marylebone

  17. If Berwick-upon-Tweed is “cartoonishly British”, what is Hastings-on-Hudson, pray tell?

  18. Suburban.

  19. In the US it’s not just just-based toponyms that are landmines.

    Vallejo, CA – NOT! /vaʎexo/
    San Jose, CA – NOT! /san xose/

    Cairo, IL; New Madrid, MO, etc.

  20. JC — Hastings-on-Hudson lacks tweed.

  21. I note that the village was formerly Hastings-upon-Hudson, but its name was modernized in 1879.

  22. That’s the trouble with America — always this headlong rush to modernize, discarding perfectly good prepositions just to save a couple of letters and a fraction of a second in speaking.

        Disgusted in Yonkers

  23. What are yonkers?

  24. J. W. Brewer says:

    Although note that although rivers are typically arthrous in English (we say “the Tweed” and “the Hudson”) the article goes missing in these compounds, unlike in German which has e.g. Frankfurt an der Oder. (The “am” in “Frankfurt am Main” is elided from “an dem,” so the article’s still squished in there).

  25. “What are yonkers?”

    A very, very long time, longer than donks.

  26. There’s a river difference within English too: it’s usually “X River” for Americans, but “River X” for the British.

  27. Eli Nelson says:

    @ Jim:
    Vallejo, CA – NOT! /vaʎexo/
    San Jose, CA – NOT! /san xose/

    I’m from near Vallejo and San Jose, and I only just realized when you wrote it that the pronunciation of the ll “Vallejo” is indeed anomalous for anglicized Spanish. But for the rest, I’m not sure what you would expect to be different: /vaʎexo/ looks like a diaphonemic representation of the word, but in California we’re dealing specifically with Mexican Spanish, so the actual pronunciation would be more like [baˈjeho]. And San Jose would be something like /san hoˈse/ or /saŋ hoˈse/ (I’m not totally sure on how the nasal works). So that just has the ordinary angelicization, and then h-dropping…

  28. Just to spell it out for those who don’t know: Vallejo is /vəˈleɪhoʊ/, which as Eli says is indeed anomalous for anglicized Spanish (at least in California). I wonder how that came about?

  29. /vəˈjeɪhoʊ/ seems a bit hard to say, I’m not sure just why. It’d tend to turn into /viˈjeɪhoʊ/, which sounds like an Anglicization of “Viejo.”

  30. Ralph Featherstonehaugh says:

    Don’t talk to me about pronouncing place names…

  31. I know that one, it’s “Beecham”!

  32. “I’m from near Vallejo and San Jose, and I only just realized when you wrote it that the pronunciation of the ll “Vallejo” is indeed anomalous for anglicized Spanish. But for the rest, I’m not sure what you would expect to be different: /vaʎexo/ looks like a diaphonemic representation of the word, but in California we’re dealing specifically with Mexican Spanish, so the actual pronunciation would be more like [baˈjeho]. ”

    Hi, Eli! Concord here.

    Well that’s the problem, isn’t it – which Spanish do we Anglicize from in the first place. Those names were given by people – the Martinezes, the Peraltas, the Pachecos, the Moragas -who generally came almost directly from Spain. they sent back to Spain for wives. They never married Mexicans or local indigenous people, as far as I know. But that’s not guarantee even they would have had one standard of pronunciation. As for Mexican Spanish, the Mexican presence in California as opposed to the Spanish, is pretty recent, basically only after WWII. So that pronunciation is a recent overlay. The incoming Yankees probably heard some amalgam of Iberian varieties of Spanish and went from there.

    Something that complicates matters is that the pronunciations can shift. This is happening with “Camarillo” which I suppose is becoming a shibboleth down there.

    “Just to spell it out for those who don’t know: Vallejo is /vəˈleɪhoʊ/, ”

    Actually, Hat, we leave the /h/ out completely.

    Roger,
    “It’d tend to turn into /viˈjeɪhoʊ/, which sounds like an Anglicization of “Viejo.”

    Exactly. That is the pronunciation for instance in “Mission Viejo.”

  33. Actually, Hat, we leave the /h/ out completely.

    Good to know. I’ll try to retrain myself.

  34. Mumpsimus for Apuleius, sumpsimus for Vallejo, then? Granted, Apuleius will not complain, any more than Meleager the immor(t)al poet will.

  35. Well, part of me is still Californian, so I feel more invested in the correct local pronunciations. Also, the presence or absence of the /h/ is next to imperceptible, whereas the totally different vowel in Apuleius would not only be harder to learn but sounds terrible to me.

  36. Vallejo is unusual because the j is Spanish (sort of) but the ll is English. Whereas La Jolla is pronounced La Hoya.

    Mission Viejo is another mixed one because Mission is pronounced as in English, not like Spanish misión. But that has been the case since the original ranch was founded in 1845.

    It’s said that old-time residents of Los Angeles (up to the 1920s) used to pronounce it with a hard G, but an influx of newcomers has changed the standard to a soft G. G seems to be an exception to the general “pronounce it kind of like Spanish” rule. Los Robles is another place where old inhabitants call it Los ROE-blz, but wine-tasting tourists go with Roe-blays.

    There are some Spanish placenames in California that go back to errors by the original namers. For example, San Tomas Aquino Creek. In Spanish saint’s names starting with To- and Do- should be preceded by Santo (like Santo Domingo). A lot of the priests in the mission days were actually Italians (thanks for the fennel). They may not have been up on Spanish grammar.

    Interesting that the BBC takes such pains with British placenames, but they make no effort at all with names like Nicaragua, whereas American newscasters at least try for the Spanish pronunciation.

  37. I first heard “Los Angeles” pronounced with a hard (plosive) g by LA native Anjelica Huston, in The Grifters. I don’t know where she got it from, but the pronunciation has been contentious for a long time.
    I’ve heard “San Jose” pronounced as San Josie, jocularly, but I couldn’t say if it was ever normal.

  38. I think the Coen brothers are fans of the hard-g Los Angeles – it pops up in Barton Fink (from Tony Shalhoub’s character, I believe) and in The Big Lebowski (from Sam Elliott’s character). I honestly can’t recall hearing it anywhere else.

  39. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    For what it’s worth my first wife was born (72 years ago) in Vallejo, or more exactly on the Mare Island Naval Base, and she pronounced the j like a y (and the ll like an l). She had had Spanish at school and presumably could have pronounced in a more Spanish way.

  40. Well, she’s deleting the /h/ in a place where it violates normal English phonetics, which is presumably also the reason no one pronounces an /h/ in “Los Angeles.”

    And I suspect British and American news announcers are both modeling their pronunciation of “Nicaragua” on their pronunciation of “iguana.”

  41. AJP 'Riff' Raff says:

    To my immigrant ears, /ˈhoʊ.bən/ (like /ˈmæ.ɹɪ.bən/) sounds distinctly grand. I assume these older pronunciations still serve as a shibbolet to distinguish established London families from us, the riff-raff behind Multicultural London English, but I doubt they’ll last another generation

    Both Hoe-bən & Hol-bən and Mary-lebən, Mar-lebən, Marly-bən have been common for my whole life (61.6 years and I’m pretty sure for a good deal longer). Though I only ever say Mary-lebən I use either Holborn pronunciation, depending on the weather. Needless to say, probably, my family has been established in London since the 16C, waiting for a number 52 bus that goes as far as Teddington (pronounced “Tin-Tin”).

  42. AJP Riff, RAF (Ret'd) says:

    modeling their pronunciation of “Nicaragua” on their pronunciation of “iguana.”

    Good point, but my guess is it’s from the Coventry pronunciation of “Jaguar”.

  43. I’m sorry, somebody should have told your family generations ago, but that bus has been rerouted — you’ll have to go to Mornington Crescent to get it.

  44. Or as NPR announcers say in Kentucky, “Jagwire.”

  45. bus that goes as far as Teddington

    If you ever get there, give my regards to the Abbot (or, in these degenerate days, the Dean).

  46. Maidgc,
    ” A lot of the priests in the mission days were actually Italians (thanks for the fennel). They may not have been up on Spanish grammar.”

    Serra and crew were Catalan, from Mallorca and thereabouts. So their Spanish would have been a little shaky. The legend is that Fr. Serra scattered mustard seed going form one mission to the next, and that’s how it naturalized in the coastal valleys. When I was little it grew in the almond orchards and bloomed while the trees with their black bark were still bare.

    As for fennel, there were enough Genoese and Sicilian fishermen to account for it getting loose from vegetable gardens. Earlier than there was a big flow out of the Piedmont around Turin to work the gold mines, out I don’t know how much they had to do with fennel. My great-grandparents’ neighbor lady was from some village up behind Turin and she cooked only with butter. She said only the king could afford olive oil when she was little. I’m not sure fennel even grows well there.

    You make a lot of good points about the randomness of the anglicizations of Spanish names. I shudder to think what manglement the hispanization of Salinan and Chumash toponyms inflicted on them.

  47. J. W. Brewer says:

    Maybe it’s not as posh as picking it up from Anjelica Huston or the Coen Bros., but I’m pretty certain I first heard the hard-g variant of Los Angeles as pronounced by Bugs Bunny (who is mentioned in the article Y linked to). Bugs occasionally mentions other SoCal place names, especially Cucamonga. I’m not sure whether as a lad I knew that was a real place or thought it was a fictional place with an intentionally comic name (although I knew from early on that Albuquerque was a real place with a name that could be made to sound comical) . . .

    My understanding is that Goleta (a suburb of Santa Barbara) is standardly pronounced in English to rhyme with “Lolita,” which does not reflect the Spanish pronunciation. Not sure if there are enough English lexical items ending -eta to have supported an alternative “spelling pronunciation.” Are there other California toponyms ending with that spelling? Rhyming with “meta” wouldn’t quite be Spanish but would be closer? Or with (AmEng) “beta”?

  48. My understanding is that Goleta (a suburb of Santa Barbara) is standardly pronounced in English to rhyme with “Lolita,”

    Yup, my brother lives there and I can confirm this.

  49. There’s Loleta, in Humboldt county, pr. Lolita. It is not Spanish. In 1893 the name was accepted after the suggestion of one Mrs. Rufus F. Herrick, who’d learned it as a traditional name, from a local Indian. According to one early source, the name means “pleasant place” or some such. More recent scholarship suggests it’s a mangling of the Wiyot hó wiwɪtak ‘let’s have sex’. I’m imagining the scene enacted by Margaret Dumont and Chico Marx.

  50. AJP Crown says:

    I’m imagining the scene enacted by Margaret Dumont and Chico Marx./i>

    That’s the one with Rufus T. Firefly. Mrs Herrick could have been played by Margaret Dumont. She was descended from a family of great antiquity and honorable distinction.

    it’s a mangling of the Wiyot hó wiwɪtak ‘let’s have sex’

    Guess what. Now you can find a woman who’ll say this with a Hungarian accent.

  51. AJP Crown says:

    (You have to click the “Listen” button.)

  52. There is or used to be an LA radio station whose announcers made a point of pronouncing it [loʊz æŋgəliːz]. I thought this was really cool for a few months in fifth grade so it’s stuck in my mind (can’t remember what the station was, but I doubt they were particularly old-timey).

  53. As the well-known journalist Iñaki Gabilondo once said (I think), Spain is a country that has changed so much in the last 40 years that the son of “Keerk Dooglas” is known as “Michael Daglass”.

  54. So how long will it take for Essteven Esspielberg to lose his prothetics?

  55. Stefan Holm says:

    Well, in España I’m still Esteban and my capital is Estocolmo.

  56. Jim wrote:

    As for fennel, there were enough Genoese and Sicilian fishermen to account for it getting loose from vegetable gardens….

    It still could’ve been brought by the Spanish missionaries, though. My mother is from another place in the former New Spain but she could recognize and name the hinojo growing in front of our house.

  57. David Marjanović says:

    More recent scholarship suggests it’s a mangling of the Wiyot hó wiwɪtak ‘let’s have sex’.

    More recent scholarship FTW.

  58. Pancho, fennel certainly does grow in Spain, and there are people surnamed after it, probably because they collected and sold some part of it. I was just going off the prominence of fennel in Sicilian cooking. I’m not aware that it plays that big a role in any Spanish cuisine, but I know nearly nothing about Spanish cooking anyway.

    Apparently the Wiyot are forgotten but not entirely gone.

  59. Actually, Hat, we leave the /h/ out completely.

    Good to know. I’ll try to retrain myself.

    Don’t you mean restrain?

  60. No, he means retrain, as in ‘train himself to do differently’.

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