Everyone knows about Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII’s unfortunate wives, and the more persnickety among us know that her surname is properly pronounced Bullen, but I did not know until today that it is from the name of the French city Boulogne. As the Surname Database puts it:
Boulogne has long been a major trading port between England and France, and has supplied many of its citizens to Britain, although in so doing the name spelling has received some considerable transposition in most cases. … There are estimated to be literally hundreds of ‘English’ spellings of this famous name and these include Bullen, Bulleyn, Bullion, Bullon, Bullin, Boleyn, Bollen, Boullin, Boullen, Bullan, Bullant, Bullene and Bullent. Early examples of recordings include the marriage of Thomas Bullen and Hanna Prince on February 2nd 1626, at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, and that of John Boleyn who appears in the Hearth Tax rolls of Suffolk in 1524. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Helias de Bolonia, which was dated 1121 – 1148, in “Feudal Documents from the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds”, Suffolk.
I like the traditional English pronunciations of foreign places, LYE-unz for Lyon and MYE-lun for Milan and Callus for Calais, but nowadays they survive only in the names of backwater American towns; I suppose one day people will feel obliged to say pah-REE for Paris, and I will grumble and shake my cane. (Via aldiboronti at Wordorigins.org.)