Thursday, May 8, 2008
On British names
Rhys Bowen's book Her Royal Spyness is chock-filled with wonderfully goofy, frightfully British names like Binky and Fig and Whiffy and Daffy Potts and Marisa Pauncefoot-Young and Roland Aston-Poley (AKA Roley Poley). But I'm more taken by one in particular, a Lady Featherstonehaugh. This is, as the author tells us, pronounced Fanshaw. How you get Fanshaw out of Featherstonehaugh is beyond me, and if you don't know it, you'd never guess it. There are other British names like that. My favorites are Beauchamps, Cockburn and Taliaferro, pronounced Beechum, Coburn and Tolliver respectively. We Americans always think a British accent sounds so high-class and educated. Maybe in fact it's just that our cousins across the water are really bad at pronunciation.