The British-Irish Dialect Quiz.

Courtesy of the New York Times, this quiz by Josh Katz is a lot of fun and it’s only 25 questions. Before you start, they give you two options: “I was raised in Ireland or the U.K.” and “I wasn’t raised there, but I want to play anyway!” I got the following accurate result: “Definitely not from around here are you? Your answers were closer to the average person outside of Ireland and Britain than anywhere inside it.” Katz says:

Constructing this quiz involved consulting previous research from linguistic experts in and around Britain and Ireland. The Survey of English Dialects, the BBC Voices project and several books on English linguistics — particularly Language in the British Isles and Studies in Linguistic Geography — proved especially useful.

Thanks, Eric and jack!


  1. I did it on Sunday. The one about playing tag, I screwed it up because I thought you could choose more than one answer. It disappeared before I’d even read all the possibilities. And I thought some questions were badly phrased: do they mean ‘would I say it’ or ‘am I familiar with the useage’? I liked the graphics but some of my maroon watercoloury splodges were in, like, both Northern Ireland and Suffolk and nowhere else, so I know something was verkackt. It turns out I probably grew up in southeast England. Are they going to USE the answers for anything? Why nothing on brexit like would you capitalise it?

  2. David Eddyshaw says

    I thought I would probably break the quiz, but it actually did a pretty good job of identifying me as a Welsh Scot. Or whatever it is that I am.

    The Welsh bit didn’t surprise me, as some of my vocabulary choices were pretty stereotypically Welsh, and I was consciously picking them. I was impressed by being localised surprisingly precisely (and correctly) to halfway up the west coast of Scotland, as opposed to elsewhere in the country. I wouldn’t have been able to finagle that on purpose.

  3. When I took it, it nailed me as “not from here”, of course (I was raised in New Jersey), but interestingly the map showed my language to be most like the West of Ireland, where my grandfather came from. Of course that might just be the general Irishness of American English.

    David E: I thought you were also to some degree English.

  4. I tried it and after the 25 questions it pegged me as someone from within a broad swath across central England — fair enough, probably, as I grew up in the south but inherited some vocabulary from my northern parents. One caveat is that since I left the UK in the 1980s, new slang has arisen that I’m not so familiar with and wouldn’t use. I did my best to remember what I would have said back in the 60s and 70s.

    After you’ve completed 25 questions you have the option of answering a whole bunch more. I did that, and the analysis now said I was very clearly from South Wales. No idea how that came about..

  5. I was found to be not from there (he-he, I told them so right away), but they put me on the map anyway. It was Dover + London + Luton (the name is new to me) with hints of Edinburgh, Inverness, and Aberdeen. Given that my true dialect is a badly learned version of General White American it sort of makes sense. Or does it?

  6. @JC: Southwestern Ireland was also the strongest match for me, so I’d guess that’s just an American thing. (And despite a few smaller spots in England, my family ties to Shropshire and Lancashire don’t seem to be reflected at all.)

  7. I can’t think of anything that would tie an expression to Luton but I’ve only been to the airport.

  8. David Eddyshaw says

    I thought you were also to some degree English.

    Evidently not. Quizzes never lie.

    I have first-degree relatives with distinctly West Country accents, though. But the West Country is just Greater Wales in any case. Soon we shall drive the Saxon back. Cernyw am byth!

  9. Stephen Carlson says

    I got the same results as John Cowan, though in my case I lack the Irish ancestor.

  10. Apparently the local equivalent of “Cernyw am byth” (Cornwall for ever) is “Kernow bys vyken”. Now all we need is a Cumbric slogan to join the great Brythonic resurgence.

  11. Nicholas Waller says

    My resulting map was fairly accurate in that I was reasonably locatable in the south west (Somerset), though sharing a lot of terms with a broad swathe of the south / Oxfordshire, and even incorporating Luton, where I lived for a few years.

    But the “where I was raised” question could have done with being a tad more multiply-answerable. Though British from birth, I was born and had primary school years 85% in Lebanon, immersed in the UK and international expat community there, with some time in the UK ( 3-12 weeks a year); after the age of 10 up to 17 I spent 2/3 of the year in York in the North with the rest split between Somerset and Beirut, largely. Yorkshire / North barely shows up in the results, interestingly: I was in a boarding school drawing from a wide area of the UK, though mainly the North, but presumably we were a bit insulated from local speech.

    I have had a 44 further years not strictly being “raised” but no doubt picking up other terms from living in Manchester, London, Luton and now Somerset. Not having had kids, some terms like tig or tag I haven’t really had to think about in 50 years; I think tig was the term we used in the British Community School playground in Beirut in the 1960s, but it could have been tag; and even so, I am pretty sure “you’re it” was the call on being caught.

  12. I have no documented non-Irish ancestors, and it placed me in a broad swathe of the Republic including the south-east, where I was born and grew up. The words that probably narrowed me down most were from my teenage years, which I’m sure are as subject to fashion as everything else teenagers touch, and I don’t think they were amazingly Wexford-specific. There’s probably still a bit of Wexford in my phonology, but I’m not sure that would be workable to pick up on this sort of quiz.

    Agreed, it’s misleading that some questions have ‘choose all that apply’ and some are single-choice-only.

  13. I wonder what is the largest British town no one heard about outside UK.

    After some searching, decided it’s probably Hull.

  14. David Marjanović says

    Agreed – I first heard of Hull in Blackadder.

  15. Hull I recognize from a song, I think. As for the quiz, I got not from there, of course, not being a native speaker at all so not surprising. It was quite interesting to see all the different choices, and how my answers mapped all over the place.

  16. ‘ull as the locals have it

  17. January First-of-May says

    I wonder what is the largest British town no one heard about outside UK.

    After some searching, decided it’s probably Hull.

    I only know of Hull as the place where Hull City (a football team currently playing in the Championship) are presumably from.

  18. Milton Keynes is good one too.

    No history, no culture, no famous people. (Bletchley Park doesn’t count – it was before the new town incorporation)

  19. I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family,
    though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who
    settled first at Hull. He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving
    off his trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he had married my
    mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that
    country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but, by the
    usual corruption of words in England, we are now called—nay we call
    ourselves and write our name—Crusoe; and so my companions always called

  20. I ticked “gowl” for old times’ sake. In my youth in the west that is forgotten I assumed it was a mispronunciation of “ghoul”.

    I can’t remember what we used to say before “skanger”. It wasn’t on the list.

    I hope Josh Katz knows ‘the “a” in “father”‘ is THOUGHT not PALM for many in Ireland.

    Was the tap water question to trap spoofers?

  21. So there aren’t any LH readers who hear Hull and think Larkin?

  22. But the West Country is just Greater Wales in any case. Soon we shall drive the Saxon back.

    Ah, I see, one of those nationalists whose mixed blood makes them all the more fanatical, like the infamous Zhirinovsky and his “nasty Asiatic vowel”.


    I don’t remember when I learned the Beggars’ (or Thieves’) Prayer, “From Hell, Hull, and Halifax, Good Lord deliver us”, but it was a very long time ago and probably the first I heard of Hull. The inclusion of Halifax almost certainly refers to the Halifax gibbet, an early guillotine that was used for summary justice on thieves caught with the stolen goods on them, but Hull is more mysterious. The danger there has variously been attributed to the infamous Hull Gaol; the tidal River Hull (the town is properly Kingston-upon-Hull); the practice of pressing men into the Royal Navy, as Hull is a port; or some other form of summary justice practiced there, such as whipping offenders out of town.

    As for Hell, pedants like to point out that there is by definition no deliverance from Hell since the year 33 (the Harrowing of Hell, in which the temporarily-dead Christ removed many of the virtuous pagans and Jews to Heaven), and so it is rationalized as originally being Hallam, the old name for a portion of the city of Sheffield, which at least has the virtue of not implicitly placing Hell within the borders of Yorkshire. But haud credo.

    Anyway, here’s a bit of 18C doggerel by one John Taylor:

    There is a proverb and a prayer withall,
    That we may not to three strange places fall;
    From Hull, from Hell, from Halifax, ’tis this,
    From all these three, Good Lord, deliver us.

    This praying proverb’s meaning to set down,
    Men do not wish deliverance from the town;
    The town’s named Kingston, Hull’s the furious river;
    And from Halifax’s dangers, I say, Lord, deliver.

    At Halifax, the law so sharp doth deal,
    That whoso more than 13 pence doth steal;
    They have a gyn[*] that wondrous, quick and well,
    Sends thieves all headless unto Heaven or Hell.

    From Hell each man says Lord, deliver me.
    Because from Hell can no redemption be.
    Men may escape from Hull and Halifax,
    But sure in Hell, there is not heavier tax.

    Let each one for themselves in this agree,
    And pray – from Hell, Good Lord, deliver me.

    [*] Engine, mechanism, as in cotton gin

    Update: Robinson Crusoe’s ill-starred voyages (there were three) began at Hull, and I might have read the book before I heard the prayer.

  23. I immediately thought of Larkin because I’d forgotten Robinson Crusoe. I nearly went there for a weekend as a small child, but chickened out at the last minute and my mother said I was ill. Strictly speaking it’s Kingston Upon Hull. Wm Wilberforce and Venn, the man who in-ven-ted the diagrams, were from Hull. It has a horrible reputation for being ugly & boring but like most such places (the American rust belt) it isn’t at all. It has a rather nice new footbridge over a muddy river.

  24. J.W. Brewer says

    I hear Hull and think Mick Ronson (1946-93, may his memory be eternal) before I might think Larkin, FWIW. Luton I think I first heard of in my teens because mentioned in a Monty Python sketch – I would have to defer to Brits on why that was the right toponym for maximum comic value in the particular context.

  25. I hear Hull and I think of Hull, Quebec, across the river from Ottawa. Never been there but in the 70s it was where you mailed certain items having to do with the Canadian government. It could have been my landed immigrant papers or maybe where you applied for a VAT refund, I don’t remember.

  26. Wikipedia
    The hat making industry began in the 17th century and became synonymous with the town…Luton’s hat trade reached its peak in the 1930s

  27. Vauxhall Cars, Luton

  28. Hence the Luton Town Football Club nickname: the Hatters

  29. I wonder when Language Hat will reach its peak.

  30. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Hmm, it was very anxious to place me in South East England, where I’ve never lived. On the first 25 questions it had a small reddish spot in the right place (Newton Abbot in South Devon), but when I did the whole set it forgot about South Devon and was sure I was from South East England.

  31. January First-of-May says

    Now that I think of it, I do vaguely recall the name Kingston-upon-Hull from somewhere, but I have no idea from where, and when posting in this thread I wasn’t actually sure whether it was the same place as the Hull that Hull City comes from (and suspected it wasn’t).

    The place where Robinson Crusoe’s adventures started is Гулль in the Russian translation; I assumed that it corresponded to English **Goole or similar, and did not find out that it was actually a very archaic transliteration of Hull until years later (and had then promptly forgotten that obscure fact).

  32. When I entered Kingston-upon-Hull in the Google Books search box, the very first hit was Incidents in the History of Kingston-upon-Hull, from the Accession of Henry 7th to the Death of Henry 8th: A Lecture Delivered by C.S. Todd … Before the Literary and Philosophical Society, 1868 (Longman and Company, 1869). Which seems odd, somehow (no disrespect to C.S. Todd).

  33. The subsequent hits are Catalogue of the Subscription Library at Kingston-upon-Hull (1876), Charters and Letters Patent Granted to Kingston Upon Hull (1905), A Collection of Statutes Relating to the Town of Kingston-upon-Hull (1830), The History of the Town and County of Kingston Upon Hull by John Tickell (1798), and Recent Vital Statistics of Kingston-upon-Hull by George Blundell Longstaff (1879). People don’t seem to have been writing about Kingston-upon-Hull much in the last century or so.

  34. David Eddyshaw says

    one of those nationalists whose mixed blood makes them all the more fanatical

    Absolutely. Let the pure-blood hordes tremble!

  35. I learned that Hull is the UK City of Culture 2017.

    Very sad – the city is so thoroughly forgotten even within England that the government has to resort to such meaningless designations to raise its profile.

  36. Stu Clayton says

    Let’s not forget the novel Hull Breach, as reviewed enthusiastically here last year by Greg Pandatschang (sp?), now Savonarola (sp?).

  37. Right, so,well, quasi-scientific numerocratic study. I looked at 17 (why 17, no idea) most populous English cities as of 1991 (that’s what Wikipedia gives, more current data are partitioned in a way that I cannot comprehend) compared to the number of mentions in g-books around year 2000. On top comes Derby (#17 by population, almost 85 mentions per million words per million people), undoubtedly because they have Derbies in America. Then, non surprisingly, comes London, Manchester, and … wait for it … Hull (19 mentions per mil words per mil people). hull is a common word, but not a frequent one (I’ve checked). The most forgotten mid-size town? Wolverhampton, the next one being Stoke-on-Trent.

  38. @SFReader: I had heard of Hull before I saw Blackadder Goes Fourth, but I don’t know anything about the place, except that it is not the site of a great university.

    @juha: I associate the beginning ofRobinson Crusoe not so much with Defoe’s actual novel, but with The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare. The book is primarily about the relationship between two teens, one an Indian and one a white settler, who have agreed to teach each other their skills. Reading Robinson Crusoe is part of the reading lessons, but they realize early on that the first few chapters are too extremely dull.

    @John Cowan: The word gin usually refers to a mechanical device with a trapping or confining function. This applies to a guillotine, although in that case, holding the condemned in place is a strictly subsidiary function. I associate the word strongly with (my favorite poet) Walter de la Mare’s “Portait of a Warrior”:

    His right hand, bared of leathern glove
    Hangs open like an iron gin.

  39. The most forgotten mid-size town? Wolverhampton, the next one being Stoke-on-Trent.

    Stoke-on-Trent is right on the highway connecting Manchester with Birmingham, not exactly obscure.

    But people outside of UK probably never heard of it.

    Wolverhampton is a satellite town of Birmingham, no? So it shouldn’t count, otherwise we’ll have to include very large towns of Greater London or Greater Manchester like Croydon or Stockport.

  40. I wanted to report another obscure large new town – Telford.

    Then googled it and found that it managed to gain worldwide infamy for recent child sex abuse scandal.

    Very sad, but it’s the only thing the outside world would know about town of Telford for a very long time.

  41. SFReader, I really don’t know English geography, just pulled out city names from Wiki and that’s it. Birmingham is really not mentioned that much for it’s size either, but I guess, it’s old news. It is (or rather was in 1991) more than twice the size of Manchester, but is mentioned about 2/3 as often.

  42. @SFReader: Telford is the only example of a British town mentioned in this thread which I have truly never heard of. However, even though I had never heard of the town of Telford, I knew that a settlement by that name must exist, since it shows up in the name of the American war crimes prosecutor Telford Taylor.

  43. ObLanguageHat: Hull, in addition to /h/-dropping, has the tire-tar merger also characteristic of the American South, and the unusual SQUARE-NURSE merger.

    Other Hullensians I’ve heard of: Ian Carmichael, Andrew Marvell, William Wilberforce.

  44. @Brett – Telford Taylor the prosecutor (b. 1908) pre-dates Telford the new town (c. 1968) by some 60 years.

    Telford the town was, though, named after a man – engineer Thomas Telford, 1757-1834, “The Colossus of Roads”, who built lots of things including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which is still going at over 200 years old (the longest aqueduct in Great Britain and the highest canal aqueduct in the world), and the Menai Suspension Bridge (connecting the island of Anglesey to Wales).

  45. And Telford the surname is a variant of Telfer = Taillefer.

  46. That was fun; thank you Hat.

    What David L said: I grew up in a very specific suburb of West London. (Hounslow, if we’re playing the obscure name game. It’s mentioned in Shaw’s Pygmalion as where Eliza’s father is from.)

    But the quiz could only pick me as from a broad swath across S.E. England/South Midlands, and actually not W London. I think that’s because it’s unaware that vocab/pronunciation depends on your social class as much as on where you grew up.

    I can only explain the South Midlands because I picked something thinking it was a multi-choice question, but too late! And that dates from me working (but not living) several years in Nuneaton. (Famous — not! — as the place George Eliot was born.)

    Then I lived in York/Leeds for 20 years: it picked that OK.

    I now live in NZ, and I was aware some of the ‘dialect’ words it offered me are NZ or Aus slang; but I avoided giving those as answers.

    As David L said, there’s new slang since I left the UK (‘numpty’, ‘chav’ for example). I’m aware of it from talking to family, but I don’t use it.

  47. David Marjanović says

    I don’t know anything about the place, except that it is not the site of a great university

    There is in fact a university there; Blackadder just didn’t like it.

    I read Robinson Crusoe a few times when I was little, but probably it was an abridged retelling; I can’t remember the explanation of the bizarre name.

  48. @David Marjanović: While the bulk of Robinson Crusoe is an effective castaway adventure story, (I concur with Mrs. Speare that) the beginning and the end are surprisingly bad and forgettable.

  49. Stoke-on-Trent is right on the highway connecting Manchester with Birmingham, not exactly obscure. But people outside of UK probably never heard of it.

    Well they might have if they’ve read any Arnold Bennett or heard of the Industrial Revolution. All these places were connected by canals and then by railways; the motorways didn’t pop up until the 1960s. Lemmy is from Stoke (note that it’s ON Trent and not UPON, that’s important locally) as are Slash from Guns & Roses and also Robbie Williams, so music isn’t really their thing. The Potteries and the Six Towns is all because they have a peculiar kind of clay there, I saw it on a gardening programme on television. In Wikipedia it says John Wain came from Stoke though you’d never have known it from his accent. Surely you’ve heard of him, SF? Critic?

  50. I am sure I’ve seen references to Stoke-on-Trent many times, but forgot completely. This is shame, because I must have visited the town several times (well, our bus or car drove through it anyway).

  51. Birmingham … is (or rather was in 1991) more than twice the size of Manchester

    That was and is true comparing the metropolitan boroughs, which to be fair are the legal entities with the status of city and the name “Manchester”/”Birmingham”. (2011 populations: 545,500 vs 1,137,100). The larger metropolitan county has more relevance as a local government unit, but the respective names are “Greater Manchester” and “West Midlands”. (2011 populations: 2,573,200 vs 2,591,300).

    My impression is that municipal government is very powerful in the USA and much less so in the UK, and consequently population statistics based on “city proper” as opposed to “urban area” are much more salient in the USA than the UK. Not that the relevant UK census/statistical definitions will settle the Manchester/Birmingham size question:
    * “built-up area” (populations, date unspecified: 2,440,986 vs 2,553,379)
    * “metropolitan area” (2017 populations: 2,556,000 vs 3,683,000).
    * “locality” (2001 populations: 394,269 vs 970,892)

    [All data from wiki obvs]

  52. David Eddyshaw says

    Some years ago there was a correspondence in the Times about which was “England’s Second City”; traditionally this was Manchester (I believe) but sundry Brummies were pushing the claims of their city.

    The correspondence was definitively closed by a Mancunian who wrote that he was delighted to learn that Birmingham was now England’s Second City; he had always hitherto supposed that London was.

  53. J.W. Brewer says

    US fans of the old British sitcom Are You Being Served (such as my wife) know the phrase “Best curry I’ve had since Wolverhampton” as a punchline from some memorable episode. But as with Monty Python I expect it’s difficult to tell from a distance if it’s sort of a random reference or if instead there’s something specific about the place’s stereotypical reputation with other Brits that made that the funniest possible toponym to include in the line. I am vaguely familiar with the alliterative Wolverhampton Wanderers, but probably only because they are one of the minority of UK soccer teams that has a proper US-style team name.

  54. It’s amazing how much of my UK geography knowledge derives from football, not having lived there once. I have heard of all the UK places mentioned so far apart from Telford, and I see that Telford-based football clubs have not competed in nationwide, full professional leagues.

    I met a couple of backpackers from Hull, and it took me a few seconds to recognize their hometown from their pronunciation, with the northern u vowel and the dropping of the h.

    A similar example that comes to mind is when I met a Dutch lad from [ˈɑləkmaːr]. I fortunately was aware of Dutch vowel epenthesis and was able to recognize it as Alkmaar immediately, thanks of course to their football team (which we then proceeded to talk about). He seemed surprised that I recognized his hometown, but perhaps more would if he anglicized the pronunciation just a little.

  55. January First-of-May says

    I am vaguely familiar with the alliterative Wolverhampton Wanderers, but probably only because they are one of the minority of UK soccer teams that has a proper US-style team name.

    Now I’m wondering what other UK soccer teams have a proper US-style team name. I’m guessing that the pattern is [place name] [plural noun], right?

    If so, within the four league tiers, this would only be a bunch of Wanderers (one more of them alliterative), a bunch of Rovers (none alliterative), the Queens Park Rangers, and possibly the infamously unpopular Milton Keynes Dons.
    (Next season this list may also be joined by Solihull Moors.)

    That said, I admit that it would be quite awesome if at least some of those weird nicknames actually became part of the respective team names. Leicester Foxes, Manchester Red Devils, Hull City Tigers…

  56. J.W. Brewer says

    The internet informs me that the official name of the Glasgow Rangers (Glasgow’s currently still in the UK, innit?) is simply Rangers F.C., so maybe they don’t fully fit the pattern but they’ve got the PLURALNOUN part of it down. And since there are actual American professional sports teams with the very same PLURALNOUN (the New York Rangers in hockey and the Texas Rangers in baseball) it doesn’t even sound semantically off the way rovers and wanderers do to my ear. (I think those sound off because they sound weirdly non-confrontational – stop a-roving and a-wandering all over the field, dude. Just go right after the fellow on the other team who has the ball and take it away from him.)

    Team names of that PLACENAME PLURALNOUN pattern seem notably more common percentagewise in England for rugby teams although they are certainly not universal there. I have no idea why.

  57. That pattern is probably why Americans often erroneously refer to Tottenham Hotspur as Tottenham “Hotspurs”, though that also has to do with their nickname being Spurs, confusingly enough for casual followers.

  58. January First-of-May says

    Glasgow’s currently still in the UK, innit?

    I must have misinterpreted the question as “English teams” (probably by contamination with the initial “obscure English city” question), or I would definitely have checked Scottish teams as well.

    Surprisingly, the four Scottish league tiers only add two more Rovers (one of them alliterating) and the Berwick Rangers.

    For completeness’ sake, Wales (one league tier) has the Cefn Druids and Connah’s Quay Nomads (neither of which I have heard of before), and Northern Ireland (three league tiers) has the Dungannon Swifts (which I’ve vaguely heard of) and the Ballyclare Comrades (which I hadn’t).

    I did not check the situation of the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, or any other assorted exotic places that might count as part of the UK (though I probably should still mention, again, the Lincoln Red Imps from Gibraltar).

  59. The team name “Texas Rangers” is actually rather odd. It’s uncommon for professional sports teams to use a state name to identify their location, but it is certainly not unknown. (For example, there were the California Angels, until they became the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.) However, that’s not what makes the Dallas-area baseball team name unusual. The oddity comes from the fact that “Texas Rangers” was already an existing term before the team (originally the third Washington Senators team) moved there in 1972. Since the Texas Rangers are the state’s senior law enforcement agency, it always seemed to me that the name of the baseball team should be something like the “Arlington Texas Rangers” (comma optional).

  60. They like their odd names in Texas. Don’t forget the Houston Colt .45s.

  61. One verse of the White Knight’s song from Through the Looking-Glass:

    I heard him then, for I had just
    Completed my design
    To keep the Menai bridge from rust
    By boiling it in wine.
    I thanked him much for telling me
    The way he got his wealth,
    But chiefly for his wish that he
    Might drink my noble health.

    I didn’t realize when I first read the book as a child that expressing a wish to drink someone’s health is a request for money (ostensibly) to do so, and the White Knight obviously doesn’t realize it at all.

    think those sound off because they sound weirdly non-confrontational

    Neither does the Jazz.

    Isle of Man, the Channel Islands

    Definitely not part of the UK. As is well known, it was the Channel Islands that conquered England.

  62. Neither does the Jazz.

    One of the odder sports-team names I know, especially since they moved to a very un-jazzy place.

  63. When I was very young, I remember that my father mentioned that the Lakers had moved from Minneapolis, and I wondered aloud, “Oh, so they weren’t always in L.A.?” My father was annoyed and asked me a rhetorical question about why anybody would name a team from Los Angeles after lakes. But at that age, I hadn’t been to Minnesota or California, and I had no idea that one state was famous for its innumerable glacial lakes, while the other state was not.

  64. Speaking of Wolverhampton, I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Mama Weer All Crazee Now

  65. There are no obscure large towns in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

    They are either small or well known. But England has them in abundance.

  66. Los Angeles Angels

    If Arkhangelsk ever gets an internationally famous baseball team, they should name themselves Archangels of Archangel.

  67. January First-of-May says

    There are no obscure large towns in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

    They are either small or well known.

    Or occasionally both, like, for example, Caerleon.

    That said (looking at the relevant Wikipedia lists) I don’t recall having ever heard of East Kilbride, Cwmbran, or Newtownabbey before.

  68. Jen from Edinburgh says

    I’m not absolutely sure what Rangers were before they died and rose again, but I think ‘Glasgow’ has always been a description rather than a name.

    Hamilton Academical is possibly my favourite football team name, but I can’t decide whether it’s on the same pattern as Tottenham Hotspur or the same pattern as ‘court martial’.

    Heart of Midlothian is another singular one, although the heart was there first – and Queen of the South, the only Scottish football team mentioned in the bible!

  69. Jen in Edinburgh says

    East Kilbride is the Milton Keynes of Scotland, except that it doesn’t even have concrete cows.

    I’ve only heard of Telford because of Thomas Telford, but apparently no one in Telford has heard of him.

    You can’t move in Scotland – particularly the highlands – without falling over something Telford did, so I had a very odd experience last year reading a book about him by a very English Englishman, who assumed that because he hadn’t heard of him no one had, and that this was some poor forgotten soul he had to champion to the world.

    (I’m sure it was Max Adams, also quite English, who I heard describe Telford as the modern equivalent of the Romans, in the sense that if we came across his works in a new Dark Age we would believe that giants had built them, because humans couldn’t – but although Max writes about the north I think he’s from the southwest, which is the other area where Telford was most active.)

  70. David Marjanović says

    Glasgow’s currently still in the UK, innit?

    Currently, yes, but if the second referendum of one kind doesn’t happen, a second referendum of the other kind is sure to follow.

    Man and the Channel Islands are not part of the UK and not part of the EU.

  71. Man and the Channel Islands are not part of the UK and not part of the EU.

    Then we’ve got Brexit sorted! England should secede to the Tynwald (this will be tantamount to the Norway option); then the united kingdoms of Scotland, N.Ireland, possibly Wales can cancel the Article 50 process.

  72. a rhetorical question about why anybody would name a team from Los Angeles after lakes
    I’d always just assumed it was L.A.-kers. The LA Lake-Dwellers is more vivid.

    I’ve only heard of Telford because of Thomas Telford
    Me too. There’s also Heriot-Watt University and Brunel University. They like their engineers in Britain.

    There’s a joke about Milton Keynes being named appropriately after the writer of Paradise Lost and an economist.

    [place name] [plural noun]
    Don’t forget rugby league’s… HULL KINGSTON Rovers. There was a BBC rugby-league commentator from Yorkshire called Eddie Waring. From his Wiki page:
    During the 1960s, his eccentric mode of speech (rugby league was pronounced /rəɡˈbiː ˈliːɡɑː/), Hull Kingston Rovers (as “Hulking Stan Rovers”) and his northern accent began to be widely impersonated

  73. Teesside is also big and industrial (bigger than Hull anyway), but no one outside of UK knows it.

    Granted, it is comprised from several smaller independent towns, but no one knows them either – Middlesbrough, Billingham, Redcar, Stockton-on-Tees, Thornaby.

    Nearby Hartlepool at least known for hanging a monkey, but what ever happened at the Teesside except boring steel making and petrochemicals?

  74. Teesside isn’t a place, it’s a description. Like the Bay Area for Richmond, Oakland, SF, Palo Alto etc. It’s based presumably on ‘Tyneside’, the old shipbuilding area around Newcastle; the Tyne & Tees are both rivers.

    but no one outside of UK knows it.
    Oh all right, I’ll bite. That’s roughly 7.5 billion people you say you’re representing. Or do you just mean you live outside the UK and you hadn’t heard of it? 🙂 But it’s probably got some truth, and it’s going to get worse as pops rise and sprawling conurbations take the place of cities all over the world. Goodbye New York, hello Tristate Area.

  75. David Marjanović says

    this will be tantamount to the Norway option

    I like that.

    The LA Lake-Dwellers is more vivid.

    Meh, not exactly a basis for a system of government.

    Goodbye New York, hello Tristate Area.

    I was already taught in school about Boswash, Chipitts and Sansan.

  76. I am vaguely familiar with the alliterative Wolverhampton Wanderers, but probably only because they are one of the minority of UK soccer teams that has a proper US-style team name.

    Now I’m wondering what other UK soccer teams have a proper US-style team name. I’m guessing that the pattern is [place name] [plural noun], right?

    “Wolverhampton Wanderers” does not have a “proper US-style team name”; it has a proper UK-style nickname, to wit “Wolves”. Not “the Wolves”. A US-style name would be “Wolverhampton Wolves”. One might refer to Wolves as “Wanderers”, but it sounds bombastic. Manchester United and Manchester City are referred to as “United” and “City” when playing each other, and by extension in other circumstances without bombast. Those particles are really short forms of the official name rather than nicknames, and shared by many clubs; just as a Street may be “Lime Street”, “Lime Avenue”, or “Lime Road” where the particular denominator is essentially arbitrary, so a football club may be “United”, “City”, “Rovers”, or “Wanderers”. Many British teams have nicknames see Wiki list, but most are unimaginative (“the Blues”) and/or used only by hacks for elegant variation (“the Toffees”). There are a few that are in general use, like Wolves and “Spurs” for Tottenham Hotspur.

  77. Richard Hershberger says

    The question that startled me was about “farm’ and “palm” rhyming. How are they pronounced, in places where they rhyme?

  78. David Eddyshaw says

    /fɑ:m/ and /pɑ:m/. Pretty standard for them to rhyme in non-rhotic England-English. Don’t know about the US.

  79. “I grew up in Boswash” is good and vivid.

  80. January First-of-May says

    My idiolect is apparently, at least in this context, not rhotic but lambdic (lambdatic? lambdous? judging by Google examples, “lambdic” is probably correct), so to me “farm” and “palm” don’t rhyme because they’re /fɑ:m/ and /pɑlm/ (give or take some phonetic details). Though there may actually be a short /ɹ/ (or similar) in the former that nearly merges into the vowel.

    OTOH, I was bothered by the question about “full” and “fool” – the difference is in vowel length, which I try to follow but usually fail. I answered that they were different, but wasn’t actually sure.

    In a few other cases I wasn’t sure which words I would use as opposed to which words I would recognize, and far too often ended up answering according to the latter (which still usually meant only 2-3 options).

    The only English name I know for the game of tag is tag; in Russian, for what it’s worth, the game is known as salki (салки), and probably by a bunch of other dialectal names that I’m not aware of either.
    (Russian Wiktionary brings up a few, including one that I did know, but associated, for some weird reason, with a completely different game.)

  81. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I wondered what had happened to my football comment, but apparently it’s because I can’t write my name!

    Teesside is a place, it just isn’t a town. But then you’d have to count Humberside, rather than Hull….

  82. Wow, that’s quite a list. (The only one I knew was горелки.)

  83. January First-of-May says

    The one I was associating with a different game was пятнашки – for some reason (probably by free association from the 15 puzzle) I thought it was the same thing as классики (i.e. hopscotch).

    In retrospect, I might have been mildly familiar with догонялки as well.

  84. Then we’ve got Brexit sorted! England should secede [sic; recte accede] to the Tynwald (this will be tantamount to the Norway option);

    C’mon, that’s not reasonable: nobody puts the capital of a federation on a tiny island (well, the Danes do) without even a city on it.

    then the united kingdoms of Scotland, N.Ireland, possibly Wales can cancel the Article 50 process.

    Alas, I fear that Wales would go with England: there is already a political object called “England and Wales” for some purposes, and Wales was heavy Leave country. So we are left with the United Kingdom of Scotland and Northern Ireland, the UKSNI for short, and the Kingdom of England and Wales, England for short. In which case surely England would be treated as the continuing state by international law: they have only a minority of the land area, but they have most of the population, most of the money, and the capital of the former undivided state. So it is for the UKSNI to apply to the EU for admission, probably with a derogation from the euro and a currency pegged to the English pound for the sake of convenience, and Article 50 can go through for England without problem (except for the obvious problems of a hard Brexit and the resentment of the disenfranchised English Remainers).

  85. you’d have to count Humberside, rather than Hull….

    Humberside is a bureacrats’ invention (1974 local government redistricting; overturned 1996). It never was a place. Just putting a suspension bridge across the Humber and drawing a line round ‘ull, Goole, Grimsby and Scunthorpe (such names!) does not make them a place.

    For heck’s sake! trying to take away part of Yorkshire?! My friends who live between ‘ull and Beverley (lovely Minster, you should see the misericords) insisted on writing their address as East Riding/Yorkshire.

    And people on the Lincolnshire side were equally affronted. (They also have ridings.)

  86. (They also have ridings.)

    Parts, rather?

  87. Lars (not the original one) says

    @John Cowan, Zealand is not “tiny” in proportion to all of Denmark. 7,031 km2, says Wikipedia, about one sixth of Denmark.

  88. I was thinking of Amager, but I see now that the old core of the city, as well as most of its modern land area, is in fact on Zealand.

  89. quite a list

    The original source, if I’m not mistaken, was at:

  90. Parts, rather?

    First bullet on that page (did you actually read it?):

    * Lindsey in the north, itself traditionally divided into three ridings (North, South and West);

    “and then into wapentakes.” adds wp on Lindsey

    Lindsey’s North Riding (and part of the West R) was dragged into Humberside.

  91. Sussex is divided into six rapes (possibly < ropes, but this is disputed). Kent, on the other hand, was divided into seven lathes, now reduced to five by mergers and renamings.

  92. Old town of Stockholm is on the small island too. In fact, “holm” in Stockholm literally means “island”.

    Now, there is an old mystery related to Norse name of Novgorod – Holmgard (“island fortress”).

    Novgorod is not built on any island, but some medieval Arabic geographers do say that capital of Russia is situated on a small island in the north. Usually it is taken to mean Novgorod or thereabouts in 9-10 centuries AD., but why island?

    But maybe it meant some island fort of Viking pirates somewhere on the Baltic from which the Vikings came to Russia – on island of Rügen, for example.

  93. holm n. “”small island in a river; river meadow,” late Old English, from Old Norse holmr “small island,” especially in a river or bay, or cognate Old Danish hulm, from Proto-Germanic *hul-maz, from PIE root *kel- (2) “to be prominent; hill.” Obsolete, but preserved in place names, where it has various senses derived from the basic one of “island:” “‘raised ground in marsh, enclosure of marginal land, land in a river-bend, river meadow, promontory'” [“Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names”].”

    (The “obsolete” means in English, not necessarily in other/Norse languages.)

    “The city [Novgorod] lies along the Volkhov River just downstream from its outflow from Lake Ilmen.” — wikipedia

    Then the ‘holm’ could be an island in the river (Île de la Cité in Paris).

    Or could be an area of land slightly raised/dry in the middle of swamps/fens (Isle of Ely, same Fenland feature as Lincolnshire). From the map, looks like the whole Volkhov basin is nonstop lakes/rivers/marshes. Peter the Great had to drain swamps and build canals to expand Sankt-Peterburg. (But he didn’t manage to eradicate the swamp’s mosquitoes.)

    I’m not seeing why the mystery? Of course Novogrod-Holmgard is not today on an island: the rivers have been channeled; the marshes have been drained.

  94. (did you actually read it?):

    No. I had heard that the top-level divisions of Lincolnshire were called parts, so I didn’t feel the need to. (My mistake.)

  95. David Marjanović says

    But maybe it meant some island fort of Viking pirates somewhere on the Baltic from which the Vikings came to Russia – on island of Rügen, for example.

    Rügen at the time had a Slavic sanctuary, not a Viking fortress.

  96. Well, there is this Slavic Vikings theory, you know…

  97. January First-of-May says

    ‘ull, Goole, Grimsby and Scunthorpe (such names!)

    Wait, you’re saying Goole is an actual place? That’s quite a coincidence.
    I’m stiil assuming that Гулль isn’t it, but now I’m a lot less sure about Гуль:

    Джон Дул, профессор трёх наук,
    Спешил в Карлайль из Гуля
    И в речке Уз заметил вдруг
    Коллегу Клода Буля…

    (Уз is presumably supposed to be Ouse; I don’t know enough British geography to even start to guess which of the three rivers named Ouse makes the most sense in this context.
    The spelling is from memory; Google does find such a version, along with about a dozen other ones [most of which do, in fact, have Гулля in the second line]. That’s folk process for you, I guess…)

    …For what it’s worth, Scunthorpe is of course known worldwide for the Scunthorpe problem. Grimsby sounds vaguely familiar, but I’m not sure why; probably something to do with football again.

  98. I’m Dutch, grew up in Morocco (American school), Spain (UK), the UK (really crap comprehensives in London), Italy (UK) and Austria (UK), so my English is a messy mix of vaguely transatlantic English and UK English; these days I don’t even speak it with native speakers very often, but this test did manage to pinpoint me very precisely as a (fake) Londoner. I guess it’s the schoolboy slang.

  99. Grimsby sounds vaguely familiar

    Dr Grimsby Roylott from “The Adventures of the Speckled Band”?

  100. Looking up the area, wonderful place names all around – Goole, Airmyn, Snaith, Knedlington and my new favorite – Great Heck.

    I am starting to get a suspicion that lazy fantasy writers just use the map of East Riding of Yorkshire.

  101. an area of land slightly raised/dry in the middle of swamps/fens

    I was thinking at first that that must be where the holm oaks grow, but no:

  102. January First-of-May says

    Dr Grimsby Roylott from “The Adventures of the Speckled Band”?

    Never heard of that book or character, sorry.
    In any case, it’s almost certainly football (Grimsby Town are apparently in League Two right now).

  103. @January

    The difference between “full” and “fool” is one of vowel quality, vowel length, and probably the pronunciation of the ‘l’, too — at least it is in my English.

  104. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Grimsby’s main claim to fame is as an old fishing and whaling port – for a while towards the end it was Grimsby trawlers who were paid something to take mail to St Kilda, as they were the only people reliably heading out that way. It’s a name you keep falling over if you read nautical kinds of history.

  105. I don’t know enough British geography to even start to guess which of the three rivers named Ouse makes the most sense in this context.

    I’m not following your Cyrillic, sorry, But the Yorkshire Ouse runs from just upstream of York out to the Humber.

    All of the other rivers that drain from the Yorkshire Pennines also run out to the Humber, through Goole.

    To continue the Soccer theme, there’s a mnemonic for those rivers: Sheffield United Never Win Against Class Divisions.

    (From North to South) Swale, Ure, Nidd, Wharfe, Aire, Calder, Don.

    Swaledale is where Wensleydale Cheese comes from. Didn’t see Ouse there? That’s because the Ure and Nidd flow together to form it. The Wharfe runs into … the Aire & Calder Navigation which form the start of the Leeds to Liverpool canal. Don as in Doncaster.

    The other two Ouses (Great and Little) are in Ely (again)/Cambridgeshire/Norfolk, flowing out through The Wash, so a long way further south/other end of Lincolnshire. (Actually there’s several other less well-known Ouses.)

  106. Looking up the area, wonderful place names all around – Goole, Airmyn, Snaith, Knedlington and my new favorite – Great Heck.

    I am starting to get a suspicion that lazy fantasy writers just use the map of East Riding of Yorkshire.

    Actually, you can look anywhere on a map of England and find wild and crazy names — opening my Ordnance Survey atlas at random, my eye lit on Farleigh Wallop, Thedden Grange, West Meon and East Meon, Anthill Common, Newton Valence, Ewshott, Liphook, Funtington, and Cocking, and I’m sure I could go on all morning if I felt like it. I once posted about such a set of names I found looking at the same atlas, but I don’t know how to locate the post.

  107. OK, it’s settled then.

    England IS a magic kingdom straight out of fantasy books.

  108. David Eddyshaw says

    Chipping Sodbury.

  109. Карлайль

    Wait, is that Carlisle? And Google Translate alleges something about hurrying.

    If you’re hurrying from Goole (presumably having disembarked a ferry), you’d take the train to Leeds then on to the Settle-Carlisle branch. From Goole you’d initially run along the course of the Ouse, on the Pontefract line.

    Pontefract another great name, most famous as ‘Pomfret cakes’. “The name “Pontefract” originates from the Latin for “broken bridge”, ” sez wp. River Aire, see above.

  110. I found the post!

    I’m over halfway through Daniel Martin […], and having gotten to the chapter “Westward,” where the protagonist drives to a place called “Grimstone Down,” I of course had to haul out my Ordnance Survey Motoring Atlas of Great Britain, and was once again struck by the amazing concentration of tasty, crunchy, unpredictable place names on the map of England—no wonder the English have such a knack for using language! In the bit of Dorset where the Downs are located, glancing around I find Toller Fratrum and Toller Porcorum, Chilfrome and Cattistock, Wynford Eagle and Maiden Newton and Compton Valence, Up Sydling and Sydling St Nicholas, Cerne Abbas and Nether Cerne, Minterne Magna and Alton Pancras, Plush and Duntish and Mappowder, Piddletrenthide and Piddlehinton, Puddletown and Tolpuddle and Afpuddle and Briantspuddle… you actually have to hunt to find a relatively boring name like West Stafford or Crossways. And down by the coast there’s Eype and Burton Bradstock and Swyre and West Bexington and Langton Herring… I’d better stop before I bump against Durdle Door and fall into Lulworth Cove!

  111. Within walking distance of my house is Claxby Pluckacre, Mavis Enderby, Ashby Puerorum, Bag Enderby, and Skendleby Psalter, to name but a few.

  112. There you go.

  113. England should accede to the Tynwald (tantamount to the Norway option)
    C’mon, that’s not reasonable: nobody puts the capital of a federation on a tiny island (well, the Danes do) without even a city on it.

    There’s an argument for making the Isle of Man the capital of the UK precisely because there’s nothing much there. Get the buggers out of SE England. It’s very close to being the geographic centre of the UK. You could build 3 tunnels, each roughly the length of the Channel Tunnel, from Scotland, Northern Ireland & England and site a new 1-chamber parliament there with ministries, shops and housing for the families of civil servants and MPs. It’s a massive construction project that would employ tens of thousands and if it were in China they’d start tomorrow and finish next Friday week. I wouldn’t mind designing it. In memory of ‘the Irish backstop’, Toller Porcorum would be a good name for their new capital.

  114. Old Bolingbroke sounds like a full sentence.

    What’s the story of Scrivelsby Beck?

    Vikings came all way from Norway in 9th century to name this tiny stream?

  115. Vikings came all way from Norway in 9th century to name this tiny stream?

    Denmark, actually. The area was heavily bilingual at one time, and most or all of these wonderful Yorkshire names are adaptations from Old Danish into Old English. And then there’s the waterfall called Catterick Force …

  116. Jen in Edinburgh says

    The Norwegians were too busy naming all the hills in the Western Isles.

  117. Too busy discovering North America. It was a busy time for all the Vikings.

  118. They were founding Russia, too.

  119. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I thought it was Swedes who founded Russia, because it was easier for them to head east than west.

    (I could easily be wrong, but if so, what *were* the Swedes up to?)

  120. @SFReader

    My village of Bolingbroke, site of John of Gaunt’s Bolingbroke castle, birthplace of Henry IV in 1367, became known as Old Bolingbroke in the 19th century to distinguish it from New Bolingbroke which was established by the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks of nearby Revesby Abbey to house agricultural labourers.

    A few miles south there is the village of New York (many centuries older than the parvenu settlement across the pond) so in the local vicinity there are many road signs such as this:

  121. I thought it was Swedes who founded Russia

    Oh, it probably was, I was thinking of Vikings in general rather than Norwegians specifically. But as a proud half-Norwegian-American, I hate to credit the Swedes with anything.

  122. David Marjanović says

    Swaledale is where Wensleydale Cheese comes from.

    As logic dictates.

    There’s an argument for making the Isle of Man the capital of the UK

    Agreed, but first it would have to join the UK! Currently, the head of state of the UK is Lord [sic] of Mann [sic] the same way she’s Queen of Canada and Queen of Australia.

    many road signs such as this


  123. Trond Engen says

    The Swedes were busy founding Russia, or at least travelling in the eastern Baltic, from the late sixth century or so. The Danes were probably busy founding the later Danelaw from about the same time. Except that it’s the Swedish Vendel graves that are closely related to Sutton Hoo. The Norwegian west coast shows an affinity to Gotland and the Eastern trade. There was a lot going on up here before the Viking Age, and little is well understood. So exactly what the sudden outburst of Viking Age raids was about is somewhat unclear. One suggestion is a coordinated response to Carolingian interference supported by the Church.

  124. David Eddyshaw says

    Tumby Woodside reminded me of

  125. @ languagehat “Duntish and Mappowder, Piddletrenthide and Piddlehinton” – of course, names like that are what inspired John Lloyd and Douglas Adams to create The Meaning of Liff, a dictionary that set out to find a use for the “spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places”. A couple from your list appear in their work:

    Duntish (adj.): Mentally incapacitated by a severe hangover [Duntish is a word I use from time to time].

    Piddletrenthide (n.): A trouser stain caused by a wimbledon (q.v.).
    (Wimbledon (n.):That last drop which, no matter how much you shake it, always goes down your trouser leg.)

    Alex M mentioned Mavis Enderby, which also has an entry: Mavis Enderby (n.): The almost-completely-forgotten girlfriend from your distant past for whom your wife has a completely irrational jealousy and hatred.

  126. But as a proud half-Norwegian-American, I hate to credit the Swedes with anything.

    Am I mistaken in thinking this is an allusion to i vsyakikh raznykh shvedov?

  127. I wasn’t thinking of Mayakovsky, but I’ll try to remember to cite that in this context!

  128. I always thought sten and -son was Swedish, ikke Norsk, but it turns out Peter Halsten Thorkelson had a Norwegian father.
    Peter Tork, RIP!

  129. I’ve had “Daydream Believer” running through my head all day.

  130. -son is the traditional patronymical ending in Norwegian, but it had many local forms. It was mostly written with the Danish -sen in the Dano-Norwegian of most parish priests and also by families who adopted an original patronymic as their inheritary surname. When inheritable surnames became mandatory around the year 1900, the Dano-Norwegian form had enough history to become almost universal (by those choosing the patronymic), even in (at the time) staunchly Landsmaal regions. Among Norwegian-Americans, however, -son seems more common — maybe because the written form with -sen wasn’t fixed yet or because Norway was in union with Sweden at the time of emigration, or maybe because -son is English too.

  131. ‘syn’ used to be standard Russian male patronymical ending (but always detached) for common people. (-vich ending was strictly for boyars and nobility). And since common people lacked surnames, patronymics ending in syn were the only last name for almost everyone.

    Ivan Andreev syn (Hans Andersen), Yakov Petrov syn (Jacob Petersen), etc.

  132. @SFReader: That’s interesting; I had never heard about that. When did the practice change?

  133. Late 19th century, I think. The government ordered everyone to get a surname and patronymic ending in -vich, so ‘syn’ became redundant and disappeared.

  134. I have seen several pieces of science fiction in which American English has acquired patronymics, something like John sunna Tom.

  135. David Eddyshaw says

    Much cooler to adopt the Arabic practice of naming yourself after your children.

  136. Among Norwegian-Americans, however, -son seems more common

    Somehow, the actor Lance Henriksen and … hm … the actress Elizabeth Olsen are the first to come to mind.

  137. Trond Engen says

    Oh, I didn’t mean to say that -son is dominant, only significantly more common than in the old country.

    There are probably patterns to be found based on the time of emigration, the region of origin and the place of settlement. Those from towns or from regions with prominent use of patronymics would be more likely to adopt a patronymic in the new country than those from regions were the farmname was the more common surname. Those settling in a predominantly Norwegian environment may have been more faithful to their heritage, or faithful in a different way, than those settling among “foreigners”. Those settling in the Norwegian quarters in Brooklyn may have made other choices than those heading west. Settlers in Wisconsin or Minnesota in the 1860’s or 70’s wouldn’t necessarily have made the same choices as those in North Dakota in the 1880’s. Family background is obviously important too. Those who had an inherited surname of some significance back home would have been likely to keep it. 20th century immigrants to Brooklyn, Chicago and the Pacific Northwest would mostly carry their inherited names with them.

  138. It said I was “way off”, and as an American, I probably am. But I live in a border county in the Republic of Ireland, and my husband is from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, where his family still live. The only town that the test identified by name on the map was Omagh, which is, indeed, the county town of County Tyrone. The map itself was about evenly split in colour between Northern Ireland and Scotland, which would come as absolutely no surprise to my husband’s Protestant family of recent-ish Scottish origin and likely owes something to my mother’s stepfather, who had a Scottish mother.

    In other words, the test was correct, I was correctly placed on the map as to word usage and pronunciation, and the test reported this with no confidence.

    My exceedingly Northern Irish mother-in-law told me last time I visited, “You don’t sound like an American anymore except when you say AWWWESOME” and laughed like a hyena.

  139. SFReader says

    I was looking at map of north east Lincolnshire when I suddenly discovered something amazing – a village named Stalinborough!

    Couldn’t believe my eyes at first – surely not in England!

    I misread, of course, the village is actually called Stallingborough and I am sure it has nothing to do with Iosif Vissarionovich.

    But my conviction was shattered when I learned on WP that this village was first mentioned in the Domesday Book as Stalinburg.

    Maybe some time-traveling Stalinist founded it.

  140. That could be the basis for a Russian best-seller.

  141. Stalin notoriously saw Great Britain as the source of all evil in the world, the hidden hand behind the anti-Soviet activities of the Poles, the Chinese, everyone. So he had a top-secret research institute develop a time machine to send operatives back a thousand years to take over the country. Unfortunately they got no farther than founding and naming a town and holding an organizational session, after which they succumbed to the torpor of the life around them.

  142. Really, and what Theresa May were doing in nearby Grimsby only yesterday? Brexit is a Stalinist plot? Grimsby also has Princess Diana hospital. Are Stalinists behind her death or, on the contrary, she was a Stalinist agent with a plot to seize British throne and … [whatever. I shouldn’t even try. Nothing, but revolting banalities]

  143. Obviously she was killed by Grimists.

  144. AJP Crown says

    It’s Grim Up North:

    “…Bolton, Barnsley, Nelson, Colne, Burnley, Bradford, Buxton, Crewe, Warrington, Widnes, Wigan, Leeds, Northwich, Nantwich, Knutsford, Hull, Sale, Salford, Southport, Leigh, Kirkby, Kearsley, Keighley, Maghull, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Oldham, Lancs, Grimsby, Glossop, Hebden Bridge.”

    “Brighouse, Bootle, Featherstone, Speke, Runcorn, Rotherham, Rochdale, Barrow, Morecambe, Macclesfield, Lytham St Annes, Clitheroe, Cleethorpes, the M62.”

    “Pendlebury, Prestwich, Preston, York, Skipton, Scunthorpe, Scarborough-on-Sea, Chester, Chorley, Cheadle Hulme [or Cheadle, Hulme], Ormskirk, Accrington, Stanley [Accrington Stanley F.C.], Leigh, Ossett, Otley, Ilkley Moor, Sheffield, Manchester, Castleford, Skem [Skelmersdale], Doncaster, Dewsbury, Halifax, Bingley, Bramhall….”

  145. David Marjanović says

    Grimsby is an extremely Viking name, so there’s the Rus’ connection right there.

    Putin isn’t a Stalinist, though.

  146. His ascension is the result of the failure of Stalin’s Great Experiment.

  147. SFReader says

    It’s Grim Up North:

    with name like that, I would think the song should list everything all the way to the Scottish border, but no.

    somehow the North ends at Lake District and Pennines.

    I am sure there is a good historical and geographical reason for this, but it evades me.

  148. AJP Crown says

    a good historical and geographical reason

    “It’s grim up north” was graffiti on the M1 motorway outside London in the 1970s. It was quite well-known, and even I saw it. I think there’s a strip cartoon with that name. In my mind it’s expressed with a Yorkshire accent because there’s a stereotype of Yorkshire folk boasting about their county being the most extreme in any category good or bad, as well as being frightful know-alls (“You can tell a Yorkshireman, but you can’t tell him much,” is I think the original of this now ubiquitous joke). As to whether it’s true, the northern atmosphere of ‘grimness’ is attributed here to a book by JB Priestley, in 1933. It’s most remembered episode nowadays is probably the Jarrow marches by the unemployed, of 1936.

    “Up North” means northern England not northern Britain. In 1763, there was a big freedom of speech row over issue no. 45 of John Wilkes’s magazine The North Briton, the name of which he utilised because of this important distinction. So in other words, if you were referring to Scotland you’d write “It’s grim up in Scotland,” but it wouldn’t have the same social significance.

    The grim-up-north trope is best shown in this 199-something recreation by Harry Enfield.

  149. AJP Crown says

    @ SF, sorry about all the Scottish stuff. I see now you didn’t include Scotland, but the authorities down at BlogCentral immediately grabbed my comment, and so I can’t get rid of it.

  150. The grim-up-north trope is best shown in this 199-something recreation by Harry Enfield.

    Gave me a good laugh, thanks.

  151. “Up North” means northern England

    I get that, but the names don’t include anything in the Lake District, in fact nothing north of Morecambe-Scarborough line leaving out a large chunk of northernmost part of England.

    I guess it’s not that grim in Cumbria or Northumberland

  152. AJP Crown says

    Yeah, see what you mean. But bugger me, north of that, Newcastle and Tyneside, where the shipyards used to be, and with its Geordie accent, is about as grim-up-north as you can get.

    Gave me a good laugh
    I don’t know how they made it so authentic. The only wrong note is the young man’s plaid shirt.

  153. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I don’t know how they made it so authentic.

    Could you really judge the authenticity? Somehow I didn’t picture you growing up in those sort of surroundings, AJP. I’ve lived up north myself (1954 to 1966, or thereabouts), on the outskirts of Manchester, but in the more salubrious outskirts (Hale, Cheshire).

  154. AJP Crown says

    I’m dahn sarf all the way from birth – 1953 – to 1976 when I moved to America. No, I meant they captured the sound and image of those late 1940s British newsreels. All I know from my own experience is that the uncultivated northern landscape (esp. Yorkshire) is more beautiful than anything I’ve seen in southern England. It’s quite like parts of rural Norway. But I’ve only been there once, in 1975, and even though my gt gt grandparents got married in Manchester Cathedral in 1847, I’m no expert on up north. And however salubrious it is in Cheshire, I take your Cornish ancestors to be southerners, Eton & Bloomsbury, and way more exalted than mine.

  155. David Marjanović says

    Geordie accent

    Whoa. That sounds easily twice as Scottish as I expected! Are there any extracaledonian features in it other than the nonrhoticity and the lack of the FOOT-STRUT split?

  156. When I was growing up (in Oxfordshire) we had neighbors move in next door who were from Consett, Co. Durham. Lovely people but for the first several months we could hardly make out a word they said.

    One thing that sticks in my mind:
    English: I’m going home
    Geordie: Am gan hyem [or hayem, or something like that]

    They do a lot of diphthongization. Cake becomes ‘key-ick’ [first syllable like ‘key’ but abbreviated]

  157. Stalin Road, Colchester, Southern England. Like Stalin Avenue in Chatham, Kent, Southerner England, it intersects streets named after Roosevelt and Churchill.

  158. A tale of Milton Keynes:

    Several employers ago, my immediate neighbor was from England, though he had been in Nerw York for some years. But then a lady of a certain age came to our office for a visit. She had a cut-glass RP accent, despite having been in America for at least two generations. She rounded on my neighbor and inquired “And where are you from?” He mumbled something and she told him sharpish to speak up, young man. He mumbled somewhat more clearly “Milton Keynes”. She replied “Never heard of it”, and turned away.

    In my role as ualchstod, I said to her back “It’s a New Town, that’s probably why you don’t know it”. At which she turned back and both of them glared at me, presumably because I was an Iggerant (and Interfering) Yank. No more was said by anyone.

  159. Ualchstod. This is originally an appellative: OE w(e)alhstod = ‘interpreter, translator, mediator’, early used as a name; cf Walhstod Bede Cuthbert ch. 38.”

  160. David Eddyshaw says

    I have heard of Milton Keynes, but I have never met anyone who actually came from there. The lady’s confusion is understandable; the Keynesian will have known his place and accepted it, and naturally will have resented your Utopian implication that he could ever transcend his origin. Americans are such idealists in these matters. It is at once their strength and their weakness.

  161. originally an appellative

    Indeed. I was trying to split the difference between wealhstod and gwalstawt by lowercasing the by-name of a quondam Bishop of Herefordshire.

    known his place

    He was as good a New Yorker as she was, if not more so. If you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere, whether you are a son of the Piedmont or a daughter of China.

    I am now watching on public television a production of Much Ado performed in Central Park, but (according to the titles) set in Aragon, Georgia. The play opens with a simultaneous performance of “What’s Goin’ On” and the true national anthem, “America the Beautiful”, which is followed by the arrival of the soldiers, carrying such signs as “Hate Is Not A Family Value”. Utopian idealism? Certainly. And yet the alignment between African American wit and that of Elizabethan London is very noticeable.

  162. David Eddyshaw says

    I should perhaps clarify that I greatly approve of idealism; and I have great faith in the homoeostatic qualities of the US. As I have often remarked, when foreigners are disturbed by the latest aberration of American politics, they should reflect that a great many Americans are even more disturbed by it and are actively trying to do something about it.

    I am actually rather less sanguine about the UK, but am far from despairing even so.

    I’m sure Milton Keynes is very nice. But I can understand an indigène wanting to make a new life for himself in the Land of Opportunity, or even in New York. A bit like joining the French Foreign Legion, I dare say.

    I have no experience of African American wit, but can testify to the liveliness of African African wit: Ghanaians are past masters of the self-deprecating humour which too many of my fellow-countrymen ignorantly imagine they hold a copyright on.

  163. John Cowan says

    I should perhaps clarify

    Nay, we do but jest, poison in jest, no offense in the world. But I confess it was a great day for me when I could post in truth “This is an example of that American thing called irony, which Brits are not supposed to understand.”

    I am actually rather less sanguine about the UK

    “I thought–at one point we all thought–something might be going to happen. All the old filthy uproar. I got as far as saying to Bunter one night: “It’s coming; it’s here; back to the Army again, sergeant….” But in the end, you know, it made a noise like a hoop and rolled away–for the moment.’

    ‘Thanks to the comic cross-talk?’

    ‘Oh, no. Great Scott, no. Mine was a very trivial affair. Slight frontier skirmish. Don’t get it into your head that I’m the man who saved the Empire.’

    ‘Then who did?’

    ‘Dunno. Nobody knows. Nobody ever does know, for certain. The old bus wobbles one way, and you think, ‘That’s done it’! and then it wobbles the other way and you think, ‘All serene’; and then, one day, it wobbles over too far and you’re in the soup and can’t remember how you got there.

    I’m sure Milton Keynes is very nice

    From the same author: “[He] said [the paintings] were very nice, which is his way of expressing utter damnation.”

    I have no experience of African American wit

    Well, it is with our black swans as with the Swan of Avon: much of the wit is lost when desiccated on the page. But here is Richard Pryor: “It’s been a struggle for me because I had a chance to be white and refused.”

    I would add that the AA tradition of fancy talk (using big words without caring very much about what they “actually” mean) is said to be West African in origin, but it correlates very well with Dogberryisms.

  164. which Brits are not supposed to understand

    there is a Russian expression “English humor”, it means humor so sophisticated no one gets it.

  165. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    A few quick words about Wolverhampton. Comparing it to Stockport or Croydon is misleading, because it was a significant town before anyone had heard of Birmingham.

    Wolverhampton Wanderers appears to be a minor club today, but it wasn’t always so. When I were a lad (in the 1950s) it was the English football club, famous enough much earlier to have inspired the name of Santiago Wanderers “(El Decano del fútbol chileno)”, located in Valparaíso, not Santiago, as the name suggests.

    Another claim to fame (now pretty much forgotten) is that Wolverhampton was, I think, the first place in England to have traffic lights.

    As for Hull, it’s a place no one just passes through on the way to somewhere else: you only go to Hull if you’re going to Hull. It’s the only town that still has its own municipal telephone company.

  166. David Marjanović says

    Stalin Road, Colchester, Southern England. Like Stalin Avenue in Chatham, Kent, Southerner England, it intersects streets named after Roosevelt and Churchill.


    Even the Stalinallee in East Berlin was promptly changed to Karl-Marx-Allee in 1953.

    (It keeps that name, and so does the Karl-Marx-Straße.)

    I have heard of Milton Keynes, but I have never met anyone who actually came from there.

    I have… admittedly in upstate NY.


    “the great universities… Oxford… Cambridge… Hull…”
    – Blackadder, trying to catch a German spy. It works.

    There is, however, a university in Hull, and apparently a fine one.

  167. Just did a search and followed three persons from Milton Keynes on Instagram.

    Any other places I need to know someone from?

  168. >Wolverhampton …

    >“the great universities… Oxford… Cambridge… Hull…”
    >– Blackadder, trying to catch a German spy. It works.

    I would have sworn Wolverhampton was the shibboleth for catching a German spy in some WWII spy novel I read in the late 70s, with the v pronounced as a w. But trying to check my memory online I find no such pronunciation. Anyone recognize this?

  169. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Any other places I need to know someone from?


    Many Germans claim that this is a fake city created to fool the innocent. Have you ever been to Bielefeld? Do you know anyone who comes from Bielefeld? Do you even know anyone who has been to Bielefeld?

    As it happens I am such a person. I went to Bielefeld for a meeting and spent a couple of nights there. I can reveal that it does exist and that it’s big and important enough to have a Metro.

    I mentioned this in a previous discussion, and Mr Hat said that that just meant that I was part of the conspiracy to pretend that there was a real place called Bielefeld.

  170. Did a search and followed half a dozen pretty girls from Bielefeld on Instagram. Seems real enough.

    I guess I am part of the conspiracy now.

  171. Stu Clayton says

    I wonder whether this idea has something to do with the fact that Luhmann was professor in the U Bielefeld from 1968-1993. He helped to establish there the faculty of sociology, which harbored proponents of various flavors of “social constructivism”. This is what the intellectual masses understand as a theory which says “it’s all made up, nothing is real”.

    I knew a zombie from Bielefeld.

  172. I have heard of Bielefeld. I’ve also heard of God and the Wizard of Oz but there’s no certainty that either exists.

    I shouldn’t think a German would pronounce the W as a V. The Germans have very strict rules: W is ALVAYS pronounced as V in English and V is pronounced as F. But a Norwegian might do so; my wife, an otherwise perfect English speaker, often switches them, much to her daughter’s amusement. So perhaps the German spy was pretending to be a Norwegian?

    An early morning in WW2, and two conscripts from Wolverhampton show up at the gates to Aldershot barracks:
    “Well done, lads. You’re prepared to die for your country,” says the sergeant.
    “We was prepared yesterdie evening, an’ all, but there was no one to let us in.”
    – Ancient Midlands joke.

  173. She had a cut-glass RP accent, despite having been in America for at least two generations.

    Sounds like quite an achievement. Having lived two generations, not the accent.

  174. Stu Clayton says

    What’s achievous about that ? A generation is commonly understood to be 25-30 years. The woman would merely be of a certain age, as indeed John described her.

  175. Yes, I’ve lived at least two generations. Proof: I have grandchildren.

  176. I am probably even more stupid today than on other occasions, but I cannot quite get the Milton Keynes affair. Surely “never heard of it” is a put down and not an admission of ignorance and everyone who would try to clarify, would be met with the same incredulity as someone who on suggestion to hear from the horse’s mouth would begin searching for a horse. Obviously, JC understands this, but his listeners missed some hidden sarcasm in his ualchstoding and so do I.

  177. Interesting. I can understand a family living in a place for two generations. I’m less comfortable with a person living in a place for two generations. Sure, a generation can be mathematically understood as “25 years”, and perhaps the lady has children in NY, but I don’t quite see why this interpretation of “generation” has much bearing on a person’s accent. You don’t change your accent because of the number of generations.

    Surely “never heard of it” is a put down

    Agree. Even I’ve heard of it and I’m not British.

  178. Surely “never heard of it” is a put down and not an admission of ignorance

    Yes, of course.

  179. @David Marjanović: You must be misremembering that episode of Blackadder Goes Forth. Captain Blackadder does not, in fact, correctly identify the spy.

  180. PlasticPaddy says
  181. David Eddyshaw says

    Cecily: This is no time for wearing the shallow mask of manners. When I see a spade I call it a spade.

    Gwendolen: I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different.

  182. David Marjanović says

    Captain Blackadder does not, in fact, correctly identify the spy.

    Argh, yes. It seems to work, but turns out to be too clever by half and to expose nothing but General Melchett’s opinion that Oxford is a dump. In a way, there is no spy…

  183. it’s all made up, nothing is real”

    Nothing to get hung about (or for), anyway.

    V is pronounced as F

    Except when it isn’t. Many foreign words, notably November, have /v/, and it’s unpredictable which way the name Valentin is pronounced by its bearers.

    Surely “never heard of it” is a put down […] Obviously, JC understands this

    Like many people who know me only in writing, where I have time to think, you grossly underestimate my tendency to take what people say literally and my general social ineptitude. I knew that I had put my foot in it, but had no idea why. I certainly did not understand it as a putdown at the time, and being a sufferer then and now from Geek Answer Syndrome, I often take a statement of ignorance as a request to be enlightened. Indeed, I can’t say that I actually understood until I read this thread.

    I do know about dismissive “Never heard of it” and have been known to say /nɛvəˈhʌɪ̯dəvɪt/ in Bugs Bunny style on occasion. But I didn’t recognize it in its BrE version at all. John Wells insists that BrE and AmE have the same intonation-emes, and only differ at the -etic level, but I find that hard to believe (see the link).

    You don’t change your accent because of the number of generations.

    “Two generations” was, alas, just elegant variation for “fifty years”, but at least it provoked plenty of responses! And people do change their accents when they move somewhere, even after a much shorter time than that. I’ve posted about Gale sounding much more Southern when she talked to her relatives, but her sounding like a Yankee to them.

  184. Stu Clayton says

    being a sufferer then and now from Geek Answer Syndrome, I often take a statement of ignorance as a request to be enlightened.

    I often take a statement of knowingness as a plea to be taken down a notch. I believe this and GAS are variants of Helper’s Syndrome.

  185. David Marjanović says

    V is pronounced as F

    That’s (not too southern) Dutch. German accents in English resort to /f/ when /v/ is phonologically impossible in German; and people who have learned to pronounce [w] tend to hypercorrect like Chekov.

    it’s unpredictable which way the name Valentin is pronounced by its bearers.

    Well, most of its bearers are dead, so the name seems increasingly exotic; I predict universal /v/ within the next few years.

  186. John Wells had a very good blog (thanks, JC), whose comment threads still attracts spam (it’s inactive since 2013)

  187. I hate it when people stop updating their blogs and don’t turn off comments. Why provide a home for spam?

  188. Well, most of its bearers are dead, so the name seems increasingly exotic

    Talk about cultural relativity.

    To me, Valentin is boring, common and absolutely non-exotic. If it’s getting old-fashioned, I never noticed.

    Feminine variant, Valentina, is probably more popular.

  189. That’s (not too southern) Dutch.

    Wait, what? Your discussion of effs, vees, and wows nowhere suggests that Standard German written v is anything but /f/.

  190. David Marjanović says

    …because I was already explaining too many topics at once!

    As an accent in English, if you find someone who pronounces every v as [f], leaving w out of the confusion, they’re Dutch; if you find someone who pronounces v as [f] only syllable-finally, and elsewhere confuses v with w (one way or another), their first language may be German or Slavic.

    In German, v is /f/ in native words, and /v/ in obviously recent loans except syllable-finally and, regionally, by morphological analogy from there; the (mostly geographic) variation lies in what counts as “obviously recent”. Vera (rare) and Verena (very common in my generation, but not before or after) seem to have /v/ everywhere. Eva (rare but universally known) is so well established it has /f/ everywhere (so if you hear it with [v], that’s a Polish Ewa).

    Talk about cultural relativity.


  191. Added note: in Northern German place names, “v” is also sometimes pronounced [v] between vowels, based on Plattdeutsch phonology.

  192. I take it that the point with “Wolverhampton” is that it requires the German speaker to get both the /w/ and the /v/ right in quick succession. I once had a seminar from a German professor whose English was quite good but who consistently pronounced “Forsythe” as “Forthyce.”

  193. PlasticPaddy says

    Verena is a perennial name in some parts of Germany near Switzerland (and I suppose in Switzerland) I think because of the saint’s particular links with not only Switzerland but with the Alamannen.
    Dabei soll die Heilige Blinde und Besessene geheilt haben. Angesichts dieser Wunderheilungen bekehrten sich der Vita zufolge die Alamannen zum Christentum und wurden von einem verbannten Priester aus Italien getauft.

    So she is a sort of patron saint for Alemannen.

  194. During the late 1960s and early 70s the architect Jim Stirling designed a headquarters for Olivetti in Milton Keynes that – since it’s unbuilt – is most famous now for the perspective drawings of the interior made by Leon Krier (nowadays anyone could draw them but without computers it took remarkable skill). A feature of Krier’s drawings is the portraits of “Big Jim” Stirling with Thomas Hope furniture (Stirling collected it). Thomas Hope, furniture designer, interior decorator and extremely rich banker (the Hope diamond) wrote Anastasius (résumé here) and the Essay on the Origin and Prospects of Man. The last link is to Roger Scruton, philosopher (a good book on Kant), foxhunter, æsthete, New Statesman wine critic and Conservative, who died last week. Scruton writes:

    The Essay is not an easy read: Latinate syntax and subordinate clauses are used to extend sentences for page upon page, with at least two sentences surpassing two thousand words before reaching their main verb.

    [Can that be true about the verb? Hope was born in Holland.]

    The cumbersome syntax of Hope’s essay is attributed by Herbert Huscher to Hope’s legal training, and to the Ciceronian Latin taught in the Dutch university of Leiden. See Herbert Huscher, ‘Thomas Hope, author of Anastasius’, in Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin, Rome, 1968, pp. 2-13.

    Hope as an Oriental & Byron as an Albanian. I think Byron wins for best outfit, best portrait and best looking.

  195. For some reason I thought Scruton was a town in Lincolnshire.

    Which then led me to wonder what famous person Milton Keynes could be if it wasn’t a city?

    I came up with

    John Milton Keynes, English poet and economist, author of the epic poem Economic Consequences of the Peace Lost, written in blanc verse.

  196. David Eddyshaw says

    Punch once had a set of cartoons depicting an English New Town called “Milton Friedman”, a more neoliberal-dystopic version of beloved state-intervention-created Milton Keynes.

    In those far-off days this was merely a charming (if dull, in accordance with Punch house rules) jeux d’esprit, alas …

  197. Athelstan John Cornish-Bowden says

    I take it that the point with “Wolverhampton” is that it requires the German speaker to get both the /w/ and the /v/ right in quick succession.

    I have exactly that problem with French words that have u and ou in quick succession. I could say Mulhuse without difficulty if that were its name, or Moulhouse, but Mulhouse is too difficult, and the address of the Pasteur Institute, La rue du Docteur Roux, is a nightmare, made worse by the succession of rs.

  198. PlasticPaddy says

    My problem is audessous and audessus. ????But it is not only the sound, as I have similar problems with lassù and laggiù. I can only conclude that any problems I had with up and down, over and under and above and below lie far enough in the past that I do not remember them. I still mix up “on the right” and “on the left”.

  199. For some reason I thought Scruton was a town in Lincolnshire.

    A lot of people confuse him with W.H. Auden.

  200. But not with Lincoln.

  201. David Marjanović says

    Northern German place names

    Oh yes. From my southern perspective they’re “obviously recent loans”. :-þ

    (Myself, I’m always unsure about Hannover.)

    I take it that the point with “Wolverhampton” is that it requires the German speaker to get both the /w/ and the /v/ right in quick succession.


    Verena is a perennial name in some parts of Germany near Switzerland (and I suppose in Switzerland) I think because of the saint’s particular links with not only Switzerland but with the Alamannen.

    Oops, I was really talking about my experience in the eastern half of Austria. I think I always had a Verena (without any Alemannic ties) in my class in school.

  202. David Eddyshaw says

    I think Byron wins for best outfit, best portrait and best looking.

    No contest. I mean, Byron

  203. Trond Engen says

    The only Verena I’ve ever known was a Verina. She used to live a couple of houses down the road from here — the mother of one of my son’s first friends. I once asked about her name and was told it was traditional on one side of her family, hailing from the inland district of Gudbrandsdalen, IIRC. Gudbrandsdalen does have a tenuous connection to Germany through the immigration of miners in the 17th century or thereabouts.

  204. I think Byron wins…

    This gives me an excuse to retell an old Soviet joke. On some literary conference a certain person has given a speech on optimism (he was for it, duh) in the end someone asked from the audience:
    — I would like to inquire about Byron, was he a rich man?
    — Well, yes, he was a lord, he lived in a castle.
    — And was he good looking?
    — Yes he was very handsome.
    — And the last question, if I may, was he talented?
    — What are you talking about? He is one of the most famous English poets!!
    — Now, see. Byron was rich, handsome, and talented. And he was a pessimist. And you are poor, plain, and useless. And you are an optimist.

  205. (Myself, I’m always unsure about Hannover.)
    It has [f] in the standard. But Hannoveraner “inhabitant of Hannover” has [v]. I have seen this pair of words being used to illustrate Verner’s law.

  206. n German, v is /f/ in native words, and /v/ in obviously recent loans except […]

    … Right. Of course I knew that, I even posted it. What I meant was, I think, that written v is /f/ except …., but it is never going to be long /f/ or lenis /v/. Is that right?

  207. Just discovered a Boston version of the It’s Grim Up North.

    Elif Batuman’s novel “The Idiot” which we discussed somewhere has this rearrangement of the Boston transit stations:

    Eliot, Holyoke, Copley Square,
    Symphony, Wollaston, Hoosac Pier,
    Marblehead, Maverick, Fenway Park,
    Haymarket, Mattapan, Codman Yard,
    Wonderland, Providence, Beacon Hill,
    Watertown, Reservoir, Mystic Mall.

    The clip should feature shivering passengers under cold November rain.

  208. David Marjanović says

    It has [f] in the standard. But Hannoveraner “inhabitant of Hannover” has [v].

    That’s how I do it the most often. 🙂

    I have seen this pair of words being used to illustrate Verner’s law.

    I think it’s the Latinate -an- that drives Latinization of the v, though.

    but it is never going to be long /f/ or lenis /v/. Is that right?

    The exception with /fː/, for those who do long consonants (the same people who can deal with short diphthongs, as it happens), is Nerv (sg.), Nerven (pl.). Maybe that’s because short /f/ is so rare.

    What do you mean by “lenis /v/”? /v/ doesn’t have a partner any more than the English /w/ does.

  209. I’ve found I made a mistake:

    Regarding the speculation on WH Auden’s scrotum, it wasn’t David Hockney who used the phrase (Letters, 19 December) [“If that’s his face, what must his scrotum look like?”]. It came about after he and Jim Dine had been drawing Auden’s portrait. As they left, Dine turned to Hockney and said: “I wonder what his balls are like?” Alan Bennett made the same misattribution, and when I wrote to him about it he sent a reply which began: “Thank you for your letter about Auden’s balls”.

    Alan Byrne

    Auden – a heavy smoker, whose father was a gp and who died from heart failure – probably didn’t take β-blockers or ACE inhibitors (I’m guessing).

    Give me a doctor

    Give me a doctor partridge-plump,
    Short in the leg and broad in the rump,
    An endomorph with gentle hands
    Who’ll never make absurd demands
    That I abandon all my vices
    Nor pull a long face in a crisis,
    But with a twinkle in his eye
    Will tell me that I have to die.

    – W.H. Auden (by D. Hockney)

    No contest. I mean, Byron …

    OK, but Thomas Hope wins Best Polymath in Show as well as Richest Furniture Designer, and don’t forget that Anastasius “was at first mistakenly attributed to Lord Byron, who, according to legend, confided to Marguerite, Countess of Blessington, that he wept bitterly on reading it. ‘To have been the author of Anastasius, I would have given the two poems which brought me the most glory.’” (- via Wiki)

  210. It would have nicely rounded things off if he’d said “…I would have given the two testicles which brought me so much pleasure.”

  211. I’ve seen some balls and revels in my time…

    Beppo, A Venetian Story. In Verse by Lord Byron.

  212. John Cowan says

    What do you mean by “lenis /v/”?

    The effs, vees, and wows link goes to your own comment, which talks about the Swiss sträflich/höflich minimal pair among many other things. What WP says is that the first is fortis, the second lenis, in dialects that distinguish them, because of the MHG long /i/ in höflich (search on that page for “/f/”).

  213. David Marjanović says

    Ah, that’s the original meaning of fortis & lenis, i.e. simply long & short. In (western?) late OHG and MHG, the short fricatives all became voiced except word-finally, explaining the v spellings for what was /f/ earlier and is now /f/ again except in the southernmost isolated dialects. Once that was over, /w/ became the new /v/; it has never (since Proto-Northwest-Germanic) participated in a length or a fortis/lenis distinction.

    (The Walser dialects that keep the old /v/ also keep /w/ as [w]. The Bavarian dialect that keeps the old /v/ – Cimbrian – has turned the old /w/ into a new /b/, apparently voiced and thus distinct from the old /b~p/.)

  214. John Cowan says

    So the notation [v̥] given at WP is Just Wrong?

    I note that brav has /f/, which I never quite realized before. I think I say something like [bʀɑvf], whereas Nerv is just [f].

  215. David Marjanović says

    So the notation [v̥] given at WP is Just Wrong?

    It’s arguable at best.

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