The English language is an odd one sometimes.
While it’s certainly managed to position itself as the access language to the rest of the world over the years, with a total of 378 million native speakers and 743 million non-native speakers currently dotted across the globe, there’s no denying it’s a tricky one to pick up.
This 1,400 year old West Germanic language – with close to 50 regional dialect variations in just the UK alone – gives even native speakers many a chance to slip up in their pronunciations from time to time.
Nothing illustrates this more perfectly that the pronunciations of place / location names.
Here in Greater Manchester, our ten boroughs are filled with place names that commonly get mispronounced by anyone other than local residents, so we’ve picked out 10 that are most likely to catch people out.
Let’s set the record straight.
This area of Bolton is often known to catch even some of the borough’s residents out themselves, so don’t worry if you’re confused by it.
While many would presume it’s ‘dawb-hill / dowb-hill’, it’s actually closer to /dobble/.
Another one where you’ll need to ignore the way it’s spelled if you want to pronounce it correctly, as it’s not ‘black-ly’ like the colour.
It’s /blake-ly/ instead.
This pronunciation may be a little easier to have a crack at first time round if you’re familiar with other similar words and place names across the country.
Think Keswick, Warwick, Alnwick and so on.
Basically, the ‘w’ is silent, just forget it’s there – it’s pronounced /bez-ick/.
If we take this Oldham place name, most of us not from the area would likely split the word into two and presume it’s pronounced the same as ‘green’ and ‘acres’ – but we’d be wrong.
In reality, locals tend to pronounce it as /grin-ickers/.
This one’s a pretty common word name in the Manchester borough.
Whether it’s used for the area of Hulme itself, or as a suffix to other areas such as Levenshulme, Davyhulme, Cheadle Hulme and so on, people often have trouble pronouncing it.
If you want to get it right, you’ll need to ignore the fact there’s an ‘l’ in there, as it’s silent.
It’s pronounced more like /hewm/.
If we’re talking about pronunciations that don’t make sense, this one’s got to be up there.
The affluent Trafford town attracts crowds from far and wide, and those crowds probably all pronounced the name incorrectly on the first try.
That ‘ch’ sound is actually pronounced as ‘g’.
So rather than it being ‘Altrin-ch-am’ or ‘Altrin-kam’, the pronunciation is actually closer to /oltrin-gum/ instead.
We’re convinced they stuck the ‘u’ in this place name for fun as a way to trip people up when they try to pronounce it.
For some reason, it’s actually just pronounced /bag-ly/.
8. Whalley Range
No, we’re not referring to the second word in this particular place name, luckily that’s pronounced exactly as you’d expect.
Whalley, on the other hand, can cause some slip-ups as it’s another case of a silent letter creeping into a spelling and confusing matters, so you’ll want to ignore the fact there’s a ‘h’ in there, and pronounce it closer to /wall-y/.
This isn’t to be confused with the neighbouring Derbyshire town of Whaley Bridge either, as that one’s pronounced /wayl-y/.
9. The Haulgh
Yet another Bolton place name that catches even the best of us out.
By looking at the spelling of this one, it’d be easy for most of us Northerners to presume it’s pronounced ‘halsh’ thanks to the popular local bakery chain Greenhalgh’s – which is also a common surname – but again, we’d be wrong.
It’s pronounced the /hoff/.
We had to stick one that’s a bit up for debate on this list, didn’t we?
In the case of this Greater Manchester borough, the pronunciation of the name is very much open for interpretation depending on who you ask, and whoever you ask is likely to be very adamant that their pronunciation is correct too.
It’s either /burry/ or /berry/ – and if we’re honest, the latter is more commonly used.
BONUS – Godmanchester
Okay, so this one isn’t in Greater Manchester at all, it’s actually a little town that lies in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, but we obviously don’t need to explain why we’ve chosen to stick it on the end of this list.
What we do need to explain is how it’s pronounced, though.
Us Mancunians only need to take one look at this place name to presume it’s pronounced /god-man-chester/, like our wonderful city, just with ‘god’ added in front, but we’d couldn’t be further from correct.
It’s actually pronounced /gum-ster/.
Why it’s pronounced that way is simply down to regional dialect and nothing else – we can’t really explain it.