A great story of dialect pronunciation at Linguism:

My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Winkle. Don’t laugh – this is a relatively common name in the Potteries, and presumably originates in the place name Wincle, which is a village in Cheshire. …

When I started researching this part of my family history, I spent a cold afternoon in a church vestry copying out all the relevant birth marriage and death entries in the Registers, and noted that some of the entries had the spelling “Wintle”. I was interested, but not surprised, because a feature of the Potteries dialect is the merging of the consonant clusters /tl/ and /kl/ as /tl/. (It is common, for instance, to hear people talking about “pittled onions”.) I assumed, therefore, that the vicar, not being a native of the Potteries, was hearing “Wintle” and spelling the name accordingly, despite the regular local spelling being “Winkle”. I continued to collect references to the Winkle families of the district for some years, including all the entries in the censuses from 1841 to 1881. I noticed, however, that ‘my’ family appeared not to be listed before 1881, even though my great grandfather was already 45 at that time. The light began to dawn with the discovery in the 1881 census that my great grandfather was born in the Forest of Dean. Down in Gloucestershire, the name that is common is Wintle, and I now found that he had moved to the Potteries some time after 1851, when he was 15. He married, as Wintle, in 1859. He and his growing family are all listed in the censuses of 1861 and 1871 as Wintle.

My assumption about the dialectal confusion had been correct, but the wrong way round: by the time of my grandmother’s birth in 1877, the registrar had heard my great grandfather say “Wintle”, but had assumed that this was his dialectal way of saying “Winkle”, and registered my grandmother under that spelling. The whole family became “Winkle” by 1881, and when my great grandparents died, within two weeks of each other in 1924 – after 65 years of marriage, made even more remarkable by the fact that my great grandfather had been a coalminer – they were both buried as “Winkle”.

A fascinating discovery, admirably explained.


  1. “Winkel” in Bavarian place names is “corner” used somewhat like the German “Eck”–e.g., “Reit am Winkel” or “Eckstein.”

  2. Chris Brandsma says

    In dutch, a Winkle is a store.

  3. The author may already have unearthed this information, but here it is anyway:
    WINTLE: Found in Gloucester and its neighbourhood and probably possess an ancestor in Christopher Windle who was incumbent of the parish of Side in 1592. The Wintles were influential Gloucester citizens in the 18th century; at the same time there was a family in Long Hope. This surname may hail originally form the north, Windle being the name of a Lancashire town and Windhill of a district in the West Riding.
    And winkel is shop in Afrikaans, too.

  4. Terry Collmann says

    Leslie Dunkling, who writes on names (as readers of this blog will probably already know) discovered while researching his own surname that it had been similarly “hypercorrected” by a 19th century cleric from Dunklin.

  5. And what relation is Rip Van?

Speak Your Mind