During World War II, Dutch Resistance fighters exposed infiltrators by asking them to pronounce Scheveningen; with its two subtly different gutturals, it was a trick only native speakers could pull off. The stakes of course aren’t so high when you’re on holiday in a new place, but there is some satisfaction in not immediately revealing yourself as a tourist when you ask for directions. From the obscure English pronunciation rules to odd Irish spelling, learn these common tricks, and you’ll stay under the radar.
Pity the poor visitor. One little island has so many tripwires! Place names can look unwieldy, but they can usually stand to lose a syllable: Leicester is LES-ter, and Gloucester is GLOS-ter. Consonants can get squished: Chiswick is CHIZ-zick. And don’t take vowels at face value: anything ending in –shire is said “sher” or “sheer”, and when asking directions in central London, say “BARK-lee Square” for Berkeley Square.
Much worse than Britain, on the surface, but you just need to learn some quirky spelling: “bh” makes a “v” sound, as in the town of Cobh (“Cove”), and a “gh” is just “h”, as in Armagh (are-MA). Then again, somehow Dún Laoghaire becomes Dun Leery, so maybe all bets are off in Ireland.