Pete’s comment about the correct pronunciation of Norwich when he looked up Rocky Neck State Part reminded me to return to a post I started before the chaos of war in the world. Because I cannot say any more than I already have on the subject of Ukraine and Russia, I return to the earlier writing.
One of the obvious marks of a new comer to an area is her way of saying a place name. In Oregon it was the word said as “or-ee-GONE’ instead of “or-ee-gun.” In a similar way, saying the “will-a-met River” ensures you weren’t raised near the “will-AM-it River.” A blogger in Cornwall made sure that I didn’t pronounce “Mousehole” the way it appears and wrote it is closer to “mowsel. But I don’t think anyone would think I was from Cornwall once they heard the ways I say ordinary words!
My favorite encounter with a completely unphonetic place name was the night my mother and I stayed in Kirkcudbright, Scotland. We had driven back from the Island of Skye on our return to London and needed a room for the night. After passing through Newton Stewart, we came to Kirkcudbright. In those days, before internet and cell phones, we just went into an inn to see if there was a room. We were fortunate to not only get a room but to also find ourselves in the middle of a wedding reception. My more proper mother thought we should stay away. My young adult self insisted we “crash” the party. We did and we were warmly welcomed to the fete.
It was at the party that we overheard the town name. It was so far removed from the phonetic rendering that we didn’t even realize at first what they were saying. But ever after when I see that name I remember that night, that wedding party and “cur-coo-bree.”
Sad to say in Connecticut they pronounce Norwich as “nor-witch” and have the poor sense to call the Thames River just the way the word looks, long “a” and all.