I was reading about the Hoxne Hoard and of course I wondered how “Hoxne” was pronounced, so I looked it up in my trusty BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names and found it was pronounced as if written “Hoxen.” This surprised but did not shock me, and it’s understandable when you learn that the oldest form of the name is Hoxana (from 1086), though why that perverse -ne spelling (which is very old) was chosen is beyond me.
But while I was looking it up my eye fell on another entry: “Hogsflesh, f.n. [‘hoʊ fleɪ] (hōflay); [‘hɒgzfleʃ] (hogzflesh).” I guess if my family name were Hogsflesh, I’d insist on its being pronounced Hoflay. (See this 2008 thread for people named Death, pronounced De-ATH.)


  1. rootlesscosmo says

    There’s a Charles Lamb story about a mysterious Mr. H who arrives on the London social scene and makes a great impression, in part because of the curiosity about his name; he turns out to be Mr. Hogsflesh but (as I recall) gets himself created Lord Bacon. (Why was a writer named Lamb well-known for writing about pork products?)

  2. I was never a regular watcher, but the British series Keeping Up Appearances featured a character named Hyacinth Bucket who insists that her surname is pronounced Boo-kay (i.e. bouquet). I think she does that mostly to distinguish herself from her lower class relatives.
    The Hogsflesh family seems to have adopted an e more extreme pseudo-Gallic pronunciation.

  3. The intriguing question, LH, is why you were reading about the Hoxne Hoard…

  4. Many people named Death do pronounce it “de Ath”, but Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey called it “Deeth”, and that’s a precedent not to be taken lightly.
    People called Gotobed do, in my experience, pronounce it as though it were an instruction to repair to their sleeping quarters.

  5. Sidebottom, at least in the current English cricketer, seems to be pronounced as it appears. But there used to be stories that some people said Sidi-bot-ame.

  6. The funny thing is that Hyacinth’s husband Richard, whose name it originally is, actually pronounces it “bucket” in plain fashion. (I have no citation for this, but I heard him do it myself.)
    The OED reports that the name Hoggesfles/Hoggesflech/Hoggesflessh/Hoggisflesh is centuries older than any known use of the phrase hog’s flesh (which first appears in 1616) and may in fact mean ‘pork butcher’.
    Again with the theory that Death = Deeth in the Wimsey series! Where does this keep coming from? I repeat with minor corrections my definitive remark from 2008 here:
    Peter Death Bredon Wimsey, going under the non-alias Death Bredon, says this in Chapter 14 of Murder Must Advertise: “It’s spelt Death. Pronounce it any way you like. Most of the people who are plagued with it make it rhyme with teeth, but personally I think it sounds more picturesque when rhymed with breath.”
    So there.

  7. Well, if “little” and “acre” write their terminal syllabic consonants as <Ce>, then why not “Hoxne”? I’ve half a mind to start writing “bittne” and “goldne” now. 🙂

  8. The intriguing question, LH, is why you were reading about the Hoxne Hoard…
    I was reading this review by Jonathan D. Spence of Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, which includes the Hoard.

  9. When I write a ‘tec novel, the rozzer will be called Maria Delgovicia Wetwang. People will say “How do you pronounce that?” and she will answer mar-ee-a.

  10. there used to be stories that some people said Sidi-bot-ame.
    Yes, I’d forgotten that. Whatever happened, did they give up? It’s like some mythical punishment to have to spend such a large proportion of your time defending the ‘correct’ pronunciation of your name.
    I’ve always assumed the name Hat is pronounced “Haht”, like in the name Tugendhat, but I’ve nothing to back that up – for all I know it’s like the thing on your head.

  11. “The funny thing is that Hyacinth’s husband Richard, whose name it originally is, actually pronounces it “bucket” in plain fashion. (I have no citation for this, but I heard him do it myself.)”
    Indeed, he does. And he’s always so deliciously (for us, the viewers) weary of Hyacinth’s endless pretence at being a class or five above their actual station in life.

  12. Though of course it’s the snobbery, the old-fashioned idea that it might be possible or interesting that someone could be “a class or five above their actual station in life”, and that anyone even has a station in life, that the writers are laughing at. Hyacinth’s pretensions are just a means to that end. I find the humour in this programme very feeble; that’s no doubt partly because I’ve seen these old-farty types in action and I find it pathetic, sad rather than amusing.

  13. another confusing example, supporting AJP Crown (pronounced kroon), which I support, is Douglas-Home pronounced dug-ləss-hyoom.
    And there is a Hyacinth Bucket who insists on being called ‘bouquet’.

  14. In the quoted passage there is another semi-opaque pun:
    хер Тихомиров – Herr Tikhomirov. Kher is spelt in a non-standard way, it is usually spelt герр (gherr). But the word ‘kher’ is the old alphabetical name of the letter Х (modern kha), which also means ‘prick’ and is a more or less acceptable euphemism for the (used to be) unprintable ‘cock’ – “хуй”. (Editor of the influential magazine Kommersant-Vlast was sacked the other day for publishing a facsimile of an electoral bulletin over which a rude demand that Putin should resign was scribbled – containing that word.)
    The use of kher instead of gherr, I suspect, is used to emphasize that Perdít intrigán v rot is just the thinly veiled paraphrase of another well-known unprintable invective roughly meaning ‘forced fellatio’.
    How to capture that implied meaning, I am at a complete loss.

  15. oops, that was meant to be on Okh Amerika, sorry.
    – grr, also missed the bucket reference above, double sorry.

  16. And there is a Hyacinth Bucket who insists on being called ‘bouquet’.
    The other side of this is that normally in England Fouquet is pronounced ‘Fuckit’.

  17. rootlesscosmo says

    John Lennon quoted that hapless Tory PM, whom he called “Sir Alice Doubtless-Whom,” as saying he was “bitherly dithapointed” at the General Election results.

  18. My Victorian grandmother used to put down uppitiness too. She would say that Americans don’t know their place.
    And she was quite disappointed that I couldn’t pronounce the vowel in her name Maude, since my ear hadn’t been trained phonetically yet.

  19. “bitherly dithapointed”: but Alec didn’t lithp.

  20. rootlesscosmo says

    I believe you, dearieme, but John Lennon theemth to have thought he did.

  21. In America, uppity was primarily applied by racist whites to blacks who didn’t know their place, so it’s not a word in good odor these days.

  22. J.W. Brewer says

    John Cowan: do you have corpus data for that claim about “primarily”? I’m more used to hearing the contention from feminists that “uppity” is a MCP word used to deprecate women who didn’t know their place. And in a less politicized context I saw a usage just a few weeks ago of it being emply to reflect the disdain felt by non-elite whites living in small-town Pennsylvania toward those from that background who aspired to join the coastal private-school Ivy-League elite. That struck me because it resonated perfectly with a family anecdote (Pittsburgh about 60 years ago, everyone involved is white, Protestant, and well above blue-collar in the local class hierarchy, although certainly very far from the country-club/trust-fund set) in which relative A expressed concern that the whole neighborhood would think the family was “uppity” if relative B were to go off to a Fancy East-Coast Ivy League College rather than Penn State or Carnegie Tech.

  23. John Emerson says

    “Reaching above your station” would fit all cases, and wouldn’t really make the word innocuous. Perhaps people talked about uppity Irishmen or uppity Jews at one time, and it may even be that some blacks called other blacks uppity, but it seems clearly to be an enforcer of station. And if you are OK with the enforcement of station you could use it freely, but at risk of unfriendly communication with people who aren’t OK.

  24. Yes, the corpus evidence appears to be against my use of primarily, looking at Google Ngrams (which, however, reflects only books, not speech). Uppity really took off in the last half of the 20th century, unlike variants of uppity n*****, which have remained fairly stable at a much lower frequency.
    it may even be that some blacks called other blacks uppity
    Indeed, the first OED quotation is from Uncle Remus, where a white author puts it in the mouth of the black narrator: Hit wuz wunner deze yer uppity little Jack Sparrers, I speck.

  25. J. W. Brewer says

    Well, social mobility is a good thing, but you’d have to be a pretty complacent member of the current elite to think that we are so objectively awesome that everyone else in society does aspire or should aspire to be like us and not only have our money but have our quirks of language usage and our NPR tote bags and our thousand-dollar espresso machines. What I find interesting is the pejorative use of “uppity” by people who are not currently members of the elite trying to keep others out but members of some non-elite group who aren’t particularly impressed by the elite and think they’re a bunch of stuck-up snobs not worthy of emulation (and thus that someone not to the manor/manner born who is transparently engaged in such emulation should be justifiably subject to mockery). You can certainly treat both types of usage as instances of the more general category “enforcement of station,” but I think you may miss some useful nuances along the way.
    I can’t link to the recent usage of “uppity” I was remembering because hat’s filters quite sensibly think that the news-etc. source known as See En En Dot Com presents a risk of “questionable content.” The piece is googleable (author Susan Bodnar, title “Don’t Forget Where You Came From”). One of the points made or implied is that Manhattan-elite types who are self-consciously committed to “diversity” often think of it in highly racialized terms, which conveniently spares them any need to think about regional/class distinctions and snobbery as between different populations of white Americans.

  26. Uppity is certainly not an elite word; that would be not our kind, dear.

  27. John Emerson says

    Uncle Remus was written by a white man, though. Julius Lester and Ralph Ellison did respect the book.

  28. I’ve actually encountered the term “uppity blacks” used in a neutral or even positive way, by whites who are apparently racist, but who reserve their racism for poor blacks. They essentially used “uppity blacks” to mean something like “middle-class blacks” or “blacks, but not, y’know, black blacks”. (I’m not sure if this usage evolved from the older usage, or if it was simply due to confusion, but I’ve encountered it in at least two unrelated instances that I can recall, so it’s definitely not just one person’s mistake.)

  29. Urban Dictionary also has downity, to mean
    1. considerate 2. inverted snobbery.

  30. Biggity ‘proud, arrogant’ is a similar word; the OED links them because of the shared suffix.

  31. Karen Hogsflesh says

    Well my name is Hogsflesh & on entering into High School I decided to tell everyone that it was indeed French & was pronounced Hoflay …. The name comes from a long line of pig farmers . My cousin has researched our family tree . But imagine if you will , my mum Peggy SMITH taking home my dad Alfred HOGSFLESH , to meet her parents

  32. Great story! Do you still pronounce your name Hoflay?

  33. David Marjanović says

    Why was a writer named Lamb well-known for writing about pork products?

    Bosnian Muslim is invited in mixed company, discovers the buffet. “Mmm! Lamb!”, he exclaims, leaps forward and begins to eat.
    Christian: “Uh, actually… that’s pork.”
    Muslim, enthusiastically: ” 🙂 No, it’s lamb! 🙂 ” – continues eating.

  34. Karen Bettridge (Hogsflesh) says

    Hey … I married & became a Bettridge. I divorced & stayed a Ms Bettridge . My choice because I have two children that share the name

  35. My wife kept her first married name for years and years because she literally didn’t have the $50 court costs required to register a name change (back to the original) when she got divorced. Later she dropped it in favor of mine, on the grounds that being married to #2 while using the surname of #1 made little sense. I was flattered. (To be sure, she didn’t have a public persona.)

  36. I don’t know why I didn’t mention this back then, but I have an old friend who was a Pigg back in the day but when he grew to man’s estate and didn’t want to saddle his dependents with the same mockery he had suffered changed it to McKay.

  37. David Marjanović says

    I’m quite disappointed I didn’t go look for Sir Wilfred Death (one of the other six most evil men in the kingdom).

  38. “Ima Hogg (July 10, 1882 – August 19, 1975), known as “The First Lady of Texas”,[1] was an American society leader, philanthropist, mental health advocate, patron and collector of the arts, and one of the most respected women in Texas during the 20th century.” (Wikipedia).

  39. I have an old friend who was a Pigg back in the day but when he grew to man’s estate and didn’t want to saddle his dependents with the same mockery he had suffered changed it to McKay.
    I don’t remember whether I told that story here already; my father knew a man with the last name Ficken. That’s a last name not unheard of in Northern Germany, but it means to fuck, and he told us that his daughter was so bothered by that name that she changed it.

  40. David Marjanović says

    Impressive. I knew Fick was a thing – Google finds at least two pages* of Julius Fick alone –, but not Ficken

    * Why has Google stopped estimating numbers of results?

  41. Stu Clayton says

    Why has Google stopped estimating numbers of results?

    They are converting Search to produce ay!-generated summaries instead of hit lists. So I’ve read in the meedja.

    A luta continua

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