Norfolk names to trip up the unwary visitor

PUBLISHED: 10:51 03 June 2018

Happisburgh: the village that trips up more furriners than Wymondham or Costessey...

Happisburgh: the village that trips up more furriners than Wymondham or Costessey...

Archant Norfolk 2015

Is it Cli or Clay? When you dip into Norfolk place names you find find it's rare to be certain, says Keith Skipper.

Countless debates continue over the “correct” way to pronounce certain Norfolk place-names, especially when signs point to Sprowston, Trowse and Postwick.

As one who lives near Elmerton, Hazeburrer, Munnsley, Porlin’ and Webbun, I feel entitled to join the fun. But you are not obliged to take my word for anything or anywhere along the way.

After all, my long-time home of Cromer comes out as “Crummier” on the computer spell-check. We get our own back by calling a nearby inland town Halt during the week and Howlt at the weekend when there are more posh people about.

Visitors and newcomers must take their share of the credit for confusing natives who knew where they stood when Vikings dropped in to set fire to signposts or ask for bawd and breakfast.

Happily, there’s fair mileage yet in the likes of Alburgh, Guist, Hautbois, Salle and Skeyton and a few choice abbreviations. Garblesham and Inglesthorpe top that list.

Some folk still talk fondly of Hindol – they’re referring to Hindolveston – while Hunny can make it sticky going for strangers round the pretty parish of Hunworth. Norfolk’s delight in dewin’ diffrunt gives Gillingham a hard “G” unlike its much larger Kent counterpart.

In some cases, older residents are best judges of the proper way to pronounce the name of the place where they live, although there’s no guarantee they will share their wisdom with outsiders.

I’ve heard Cley veterans arguing vehemently over whether it rhymes with deny or obey. I’ve noticed gnarled natives discussing Hollem on the coast near Brancaster in one breath and Hoom Hale near Swaffham in the next.

I once went to Worrum, Wifton and Woodorlin’ all in the same day. Scotter, Stanner and Study called the following week. I’m off to Belaugh tomorrow. Or is it Bylaugh? You can’t win. You can’t lose.

Take away all those little pronunciation potholes and you’re left with the sort of blandscape any self-respecting Viking would ignore on village pillage rounds.

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