Weekly Writing Challenge – Stylish Imitation: When ham is not a ham

Weekly Writing Challenge: Stylish Imitation

I chanted “A for apple, B for boy” as a precocious 3 year old and I remembered fondly “X is for Xylophone.” Wow, xylophone is a useful word.

When I arrived in London 15 years ago, my bag was loaded with framed university certificates. I could competently spell and pronounce xylophone,  so my English would be understood. So I thought. Clutching my blue-and-red lettered London A to Z map, I wandered in central London like a proud scholar.

“Where is LeiCester Square?”

“What? Where?”

“China Town, LeiCester Square!”

“AAAAAhhhh, you want to know how to get to LEster Square!”

I bought my first laptop on TottenHam Court Road, which you would call Totnam Court Road. You dislike the ‘h’ sound. You’ve even killed the ‘h’ sound in BuckingHam Palace. You giggled when I uttered the name Debenhams. “The department store is pronounced Debenams, darling, not Debenhams.”

LeiCESter Square? BuckingHAM Palace?

Place names in London are designed to make oriental tourists sound foolish. My friend didn’t live in a posh house in ChisWick. She lived in ChZick instead. You don’t like the ‘w’ sound very much either. Look at what you’ve done to these names: War(w)ick, Nor(w)ich, Wool(w)ich and Green(w)ich!

The pronunciation of Marylebone Road still haunts me after 15 years. As a prudent student, I made a great effort in pronouncing every single syllable — Ma-Ry-Le-Bone, yet you’ve shrunk the word to Ma-Ri-Ben. Why oh why?


Cover of "Notes From a Small Planet"

Cover of Notes From a Small Planet

Bill Bryson‘s Notes from a Small Island was the first book I read in England. It opened my eyes to the eccentricities and sweetness of Britain. I enjoy this book for his wry wit, attention to fascinating details, and his cultural awareness. If an English-speaking American could have been so bewildered in Britain, I could be forgiven for failing to comprehend why lunch is called dinner, dinner is called tea and why cream tea is not a liquid. I’ve also learnt that Britain is actually a part-time land, even the traffic light in my suburban area only works part-time.

I ‘ll continue writing about my own Notes on this beautiful island. Notes From a Small Island is a treasure. I love Bill Bryson.

7 thoughts on “Weekly Writing Challenge – Stylish Imitation: When ham is not a ham

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Mmm, this one does sound a bit challenging. Phonetically it would be Wu-Lu-Mu-Lu, wouldn’t it? If people laugh at you, you could also ask them to pronounce Southwark. Thanks for your message.

  1. Pingback: My Site Table of Contents – I did it! | Janet's Notebook

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