An amazing 80% of English words aren’t even, technically, English words, having been filched from languages like French, German or even Zulu.
This mean there’s no shame in stumbling over the pronunciation of certain words, even if you’re a native English speaker.
Place names in particular sometimes come from Old English and the correct way to say them can be deeply counter-intuitive.
We’ve already listed the nine places name across London you might struggle to pronounce correctly but what about a little further afield?
Read on for the correct pronunciations of difficult names from surrounding areas.
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Pronounced: Hi Wik-uhm
High Wycombe is a large town in Buckinghamshire, a short drive up the M40 from West London.
It is so named because it lies in the valley of the River Wye, which flows through the Chiltern Hills.
While the y might make you assume it’s pronounced as Why-comb, it’s actually pronounced with a short vowel sound.
Pronounced: Saint Oh-sith
This small village near Clacton-on-Sea in Essex has been confusing holiday makers for years, as reported by EssexLive.
This is another case of a y-vowel creating problems – St Osyth is pronounced like ‘Oh-Sith’, like the Star Wars villains.
The saint in question was said to have been beheaded, only for her dead body to pick up the head, walk to a nunnery and knock three times before collapsing.
Pronounced: Mer-zee Island
Mersea Island is an island in Essex in the Blackwater and Colne estuaries to the south east of Colchester.
This estuary island’s name actually derives from the old English word “meresig”, which means “island of the pool”.
Pronounced correctly, you say “Mersea” with a z, rather than incorrectly saying it as mer-see.
This is a tricky one that annoys many of those living at the foot of the North Downs, according to KentLive.
The “th” in Wrotham leads people who may not know the area well to say the Wro- th -am.
When in actual fact, its spoken like “Rootham”.
This is one that people mispronounce quite often, according to CambridgeshireLive.
The small town of Godmanchester isn’t pronounced in the same way as the northern metropolitan city of Manchester.
Instead, it’s said without the “a”.
Burpham is a ward in Guildford, Surrey, with a population of 5,696 people at the time of the 2011 Census.
Burpham is often wrongly pronounced “Burp-ham” as if it were two words, which sounds a bit odd and like a pejorative comment about the people who live there.
Just to add to the confusion, there is another Burpham in West Sussex.
Leigh is a village and civil parish in Surrey, between Reigate, Dorking and Charlwood in the east of the Mole Valley district.
Leigh is a confusing one to pronounce, as you naturally want to say “Lee” or “Ley”.
However, the correct pronunciation is “Lie”.
Esher is a town to the east of the River Mole with a population of 6,743 according to the 2011 Census.
It has been known for people to pronounce it “Esh-er”.
However, it’s actually a long ee sound.
Caterham is in the Tandridge district and was the original home of Caterham Cars, makers of the Caterham 7 sports car, before it moved to Manor Royal in Crawley.
It is pronounced “Kate-er-rm”, not “Cat-erham” or “Kate-rum”.
We’ve debated whether the last syllable should be “rum”, “rm” or “mmm” so local residents might not agree with our choice of which is correct.
The reporters at BerkshireLive say they get a lot of people calling the office without knowing how to pronounce the name of the region.
The place where the Queen lives is not, in fact, pronounced Berk-shire.
The first part is Bark not Berk. Think of trees or the noise a dog makes rather than an insult for someone being a bit thick.
And the second part is how you would describe the “sheer” brilliance of a visitor getting the pronunciation right at the first time of asking.
Another place people struggle with is this affluent Berkshire town. They pronounce the “Wok” as if it’s an Asian cooking implement.
It’s not, it’s “Woke” as in to rouse yourself from sleep.
You also drop the ham, so it’s Woke-ing-um.
This village on the outskirts of Maidenhead looks like it should be easy to pronounce.
However, it’s not a “holy port” but in fact “holly-port”.
Upper and Lower Hardres
Pronounced: Upper and Lower Hards
These two areas in Canterbury catch a lot of people out, according to those at KentLive.
Upper and Lower are relatively simple to grasp but Hardres gives people more of a problem.
Forget the “res” when saying it. It’s spoken like “Hards”.
The ‘o’ in the name of this village near Gravesend is pretty much redundant.
It’s said like Mep’ham in two syllables so don’t let it throw you off.
The good people at KentLive can’t explain why this is pronounced in the seemingly inexplicable way it is.
But we take their word for it.