Frome tops list of most difficult to pronounce place names in the UK

BBC News 1 month ago

A market town in Somerset has topped a list of the 10 most difficult-to-pronounce place names in the UK.

Frome is the most mispronounced town in England, according to a team of linguists behind a language learning app.

Ballachulish in Scotland, Beaulieu in Hampshire and Woolfardisworthy in Devon also made the top 10.

The list's makers said British English was "famous for some of the most confusing pronunciations on earth".

'How do you say?': The Top 10 'most difficult' place names

  1. Frome, Somerset, England
  2. Ballachulish, Highland, Scotland
  3. Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire, England
  4. Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
  5. Woolfardisworthy, Devon, England
  6. Beaulieu, Hampshire, England
  7. Bicester, Oxfordshire, England
  8. Ynysybwl, Cwm Clyndach, Wales
  9. Rampisham, Dorset, England
  10. Quernmore, Lancashire, England

How would you pronounce these place names? See below to find out if you are correct.

The name Frome is though to come from the ancient Brythonic word "ffraw".

It means fair, fine or brisk, and describes the flow of the river that runs through the town, which dates to the 7th Century.

Paul Wynne, of Frome Town Council, said the name was most commonly mispronounced as rhyming with "home".

He said: "We're not a town that toes the line. Now it seems that even the way we pronounce Frome is different too. Ours is the right way, obviously. We always know who is new to the town by the way they pronounce Frome.

Tourists 'struggle'

"But this is a good thing, as it's easy for us identify and welcome newcomers, who are then immediately part of the community."

Kent Barker, owner of Eight Stony Street wine bar and restaurant in the town, said: "It doesn't surprise me at all. We have a lot of tourists who visit in the summer, and certainly the majority struggle with the name.

"Probably more the Mediterranean visitors and all the Americans get it wrong.

"But I love them being here and don't mind what they call it as long as they come and visit Frome."

Woolfardisworthy road sign
There are two places in Devon called Woolfardisworthy - both equally difficult to pronounce

Woolfardisworthy in Devon also featured on the list, but which one? There are two places in Devon called Woolfardisworthy.

Woolfardisworthy West - the bigger of the two Woolfardisworthys near Bideford - has adopted the easier to say version of its name Woolsery.

However post office manager Andy Fryatt said people sometimes still struggled to pronounce the shortened version.

"When you know it and you use it every day, then obviously you wonder why people can't (say it), especially with the shortened version," he said.

Longer name

"Maybe it is just something that gets lost in translation over the telephone, or people just don't hear properly, or they think it is something that is spelt wrong and they are pronouncing it correctly."

The smaller Woolfardisworthy east near Crediton has kept the longer version of its name.

The two villages are just over an hour apart, and Alison Evans, who runs two holiday rentals in the village, said people used to get the two places confused.

"Thank God for postcodes," she said, adding that sat navs now meant people usually navigated to the correct Woolfardisworthy.

Ms Evans said she had been living there for 25 years, which was not that long in local terms.

"When we first arrived people would look at you blankly if you said Woolfarisworthy (phonetically)," she said.

Babergh District Council building in Stowmarket
Babergh District Council takes its name from the Anglo Saxon name Barberga

Another place on the list, Babergh in Suffolk, is apparently so hard to pronounce that the district town council is planning to rename it at a cost of £10,000.

Council leader John Ward said: "Babergh has a proud history but we know that people from further afield are often unaware of exactly where Babergh is and even struggle over its pronunciation."

The top 10 has been compiled by the creators of language app Babbel.

One of its editors, Ted Mentele, said: "British English is famous for some of the most confusing pronunciations on earth.

"The main reason that these are difficult to pronounce is that they're not spelled phonetically - there are a lot of silent letters and letters that are pronounced differently depending on where they are in the word.

"Many people in the UK, particularly locals to these areas, have grown up hearing these names and naturally don't find them so hard to get their tongues around.

"Others attempt to pronounce them as they're spelled, and without knowing the origins of the word, can get it far from correct."

  1. Frome - "Froom"
  2. Ballachulish - "Ball - a - hoolish"
  3. Godmanchester - 'Gumster'
  4. Omagh - "Oh-ma"
  5. Woolfardisworthy - "Woolzery"
  6. Beaulieu - "Bew-lee"
  7. Bicester - "Bister"
  8. Ynysybwl - "An-is-abull"
  9. Rampisham - "Ran-som"
  10. Quernmore - "Kwor-mer"

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