Saying British place names

The United Kingdom, no doubt due to its rich cultural and linguistic history, has rather a lot of place names that are pronounced differently from what a non-Briton might expect from the spelling. Here are some examples I’ve encountered, along with the actual pronunciations given in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Some of these will no doubt already be familiar to readers because of similarly or identically named places scattered through the English-speaking world.

Thames /ˈtɛmz/
Islington /ˈɪzlɪŋtən/
Southwark /ˈsʌθək/
Borough /ˈbʌrʌ/
Marylebone /ˈmɑrlɪbən/
Holborn /ˈhoʊbərn/
Slough /ˈslaʊ/
Reading /ˈrɛdɪŋ/
Leicester /ˈlɛstə/
Gloucester /ˈglɒstə/
Salisbury /ˈsɔlzbri/
Willesden /ˈwɪlzdən/
Greenwich /ˈgrɛnɪtʃ/
Woolwich /ˈwʊlɪtʃ/
Norwich /ˈnɒrɪtʃ/
Chiswick /ˈtʃɪzɪk/
Lewisham /ˈlʊwɪʃəm/
Fulham /ˈfʊləm/
Ruislip /ˈraɪslɪp/

Regional accents can influence the pronunciation of certain place names.

Newcastle /ˈnjukɑsəl/ (Received Pronunciation)
Newcastle /njuˈkæsəl/ (Geordie)

Consequently, identically-named places in different parts of the country may be pronounced differently.

Wapping (London) /ˈwɒpɪŋ/
Wapping (Merseyside) /ˈwæpɪŋ/

This is London calling

I’m currently in the United Kingdom doing a medical elective attachment in General & Emergency Medicine at The Royal London Hospital, organised through Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry; part of Queen Mary, University of London. The medical elective is a component of final-year in most medical programs worldwide and gives students the flexibility to complete an attachment of their choice in a location of their choice (usually overseas where practicable).

"Dancing Queen" Virgin Atlantic A340-600
“Dancing Queen” Virgin Atlantic A340-600

The journey here was a challenge in itself. During the flight I became rather acquainted with Virgin Atlantic’s quirkiness – the plane was named “Dancing Queen”, the safety video contained visual jokes, Virgin Cola was served (not bad, actually), and as we approached Heathrow Airport the pilot remarked that it was a “perky 2°C” and “moist” in London. So after some 23 hours aboard an aeroplane, I found myself in Heathrow Terminal 3 severely jetlagged and feeling deserving of an award for endurance. As for getting into London proper, I knew better than to catch the Tube, but nothing quite prepared me for the swarming sea of commuters when I got off the Heathrow Connect train at Paddington station (mental note: never catch London public transport with luggage during peak hour). Needless to say I gave up on public transport at this stage and caught a taxi the rest of the way to the hospital.

London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5
Ooh, shiny… Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 (Terminal 3 was underwhelming)

First impressions? As an Antipodean who’s never previously travelled to Europe, what’s struck me most about being here is how short the winter days are: the sun rises at around 0800 and sets around 1550! I realise that it’s associated with the relatively high latitude (London 51.5°N vs Sydney 33.8°S), but nevertheless I’m already starting to feel SAD (seasonal affective disorder)!

More posts to come later…