This weekend I was given a great little book, Schott’s original miscellany, by Ben Schott, "a unique collection of fabulous trivia." The first article I read was about curious surname pronunciation. Here are a few examples:

As written

As pronounced

Cholmondley

Chumley

Mainwaring

Mannering

Tyrwhitt

Tirit

Featherstonehaugh

Fanshaw

Woolfhardisworthy

Woolsey

Wymondham

Windam

I’m sure there must be reasons and rules explaining why a word can have a spelling that differs so much from its pronunciation, but my phonetics classes at University are too distant to even provide me with a clue.

When you first learn a language and encounter a new word, you try and draw on your knowledge of other similar words to try and infer its pronunciation. It doesn’t always work. For some reason, I have a mental block about certain words’ pronunciation, like ploughman. When I see it, instead of thinking of plough, which would be logical, after all, I immediately think of rough or tough and normally proceed to confuse the person who’s taking my order.

There are other words that I still struggle with, like shin and chin. Which is which? Thankfully, after I yet again asked my friend Beth whether she was going to wear "chin pads" at football training, she took it upon herself to help me dissociate them. Luckily enough, she was studying linguistics at the time and was thus able to give me an insight into the mysterious workings of language:

Beth: "Okay, remember, your shins are next to your shoes, and your chin is next to your cheeks."

Who says language isn’t logical?