I can’t really say anything about this two-and-a-half-minute video by Reginald Pikedevant except: it’s funny, watch it! (One of my favorite bits is the po-faced spelling pronunciation of wagon-lit.) Thanks, Paul!


  1. Very good! The inclusion of Wriothesley reminds of the running joke in Wolf Hall, where Cromwell always refers to the man as “call me Risley.”

    Also, I’m happy to have learned how to say Godmanchester properly, although I’m pretty sure I have heard unsophisticated yokels pronounce it as spelled, with the stress on the first syllable and the second a schwa. I have never dared say the name myself, for fear of sounding foolish and being mercilessly sniggered at by toffs.

  2. I have never dared say the name myself

    Yes, I fear that’s one result of learning about these unintuitive pronunciations.

  3. BBC America (rule Britannia!) has a fun blog entry titled How To Pronounce Deliberately Off-putting British Place Names. Within is a link to pronouncing U.S. place names.

  4. Ken Miner says

    P. G. Wodehouse used a family name “Featherstonehaugh (pronounced “Fanshaw)”. I always wondered if it was real or created by him. I’m sure one of you can tell me.

  5. Wodehouse reveled in those. Another is Mapledurham, pronounced “Mum”. Both are real placenames. The pronunciation “Fanshaw” is authentic as well, but “Mum” is not.

    Wodehouse, by the way, is pronounced “Woodhouse”, not “Woos”.

  6. I only recently learned of Champoeg, Oregon, pronounced “shampooey”.

  7. Everyone who went to school in Oregon knows how “Champoeg” is supposed to be pronounced. The place (as opposed to the modern town with the same name that is located nearby) played a crucial role in the state’s history; that’s where the vote to join the United States was held. What people don’t know is the story of how the vote proceeded. Every version of the story that I heard was different, and most of them were self-contradictory. (This includes the one given in a professionally produced video I saw at the Champoeg site ca. 1988.) I assume the version of the story that I heard at the Oregon state capitol was the correct one, since it (unlike all the others) explained all the folklore surrounding the story while simultaneously making sense.

  8. And what was it?

  9. Well, many of the details are still unclear, but the gist of the story is probably this: Local settlers began holding meetings at Champoeg to discuss problems with wolves. Many sources claim that these “wolf meetings” were always a front for discussing democratic governance and union with the United States; at the time, the dominant economic interest in the area was the Hudson’s Bay Company, a British firm, which employed many Canadians, particularly French Canadians. However, the notion that the meetings were part of a pro-U.S. project runs into contradictions later on.

    Yet the meetings did evolve into more general discussions of community issues, including governance. Eventually, in 1843, there was a proposal to create a provisional government under U.S. sovereignty. There were two votes. The first was inconclusive, with the Canadians almost all voting against the proposal. At this point, the story gets haziest. Joe Meek, an American fur trapper who was on good terms with many of the French-Canadians, convinced a small number of the French-Canadians (most likely two), to change their votes. He then arranged for a second vote (according to many tales, by calling out “Who’s for the divide?” although this does not appear to feature in any of the earliest accounts of what happened), which approved the provisional government, in which Meek was elected the sheriff.

  10. Thanks!

  11. Local settlers began holding meetings at Champoeg to discuss problems with wolves.

    That was uncommonly civil of the settlers.

  12. Heh. I had the same thought.

  13. Wagon-lit is the genre that tells such stories as Joe Meek guiding the settlers to the Whitman Mission.

  14. This might be well-known:
    Dalziel (deeyell not dalzeel) pops out of it as different – it’s a Scottish surname. The z is a replacement for a yogh – a letter that looked a bit like a cursive z which printers used instead. Both Dalziel and Yogh have wiki articles.

    There are a few Scottish names with this oddity. The most common is Menzies – it’s common to hear both menzeez and mingiss.

  15. ^ In America these names are common among the Scotch-Irish (or Scots-Irish, please let’s not go there) settler population who generally spell them Dial and Mingus.

  16. @Rodger C – being Scottish, it’s Scots-Irish. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong. ;o)

  17. Boswell, though a Scot of the Scots, said Scotch of things other than food all the time, and so did his American contemporaries of the same or similar origin. You must allow for the passage of time (as do not I).

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