I just stumbled across one of those bits of ‘research’ increasingly pad out our daily newspapers.
This time, it’s a study commissioned by Travelodge to reveal the most common spelling mistakes people make when they book holiday destinations.
Unsurprisingly, lots of people have trouble spelling the names of places such as Torquay and Morecambe.
Well, of course they do. It’s not news. And it’s hardly surprising – take a look at the list of UK places I’ve compiled, along with the pronunciation for each one.
Peterborough: Peter-bruh (‘bruh’ as in ‘brush’)
Tunbridge Wells: Tunbridge Wells
Folkingham: Fockingham (always a delight to hear out of the mouths of respectable old ladies)
And the list goes on and on. The examples above are reasonably well-known, but everyone – no matter how well educated they are – is likely to come a cropper if they stray far from their home turf. The other year I was down in Devon, and gaily boarded a bus that was going to Bideford. I thought it was pronounced ‘Bide-ford’, but I soon learned it is in fact ‘Bidder-ford’.
Place names are so often relics of the past – artefacts left by Romans, Danes, Normans and others. To worry too much whether holidaymakers spell a town as ‘Morecambe’, ‘Morecombe’, ‘Morecame’ or ‘Morcam’ is to miss the point – what matters is whether they are made welcome when they get there.
If it’s the spelling they were worried about, they’d have searched for a copywriter – not a hotel chain.