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How to say: Chester-le-Street

Host Host | 11:32 UK time, Monday, 24 July 2006

A guide to words and names in the news, from Catherine Sangster of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.
Catherine Sangster
"Today's pronunciation is for the English town Chester-le-Street.

"Our recommendation, based on the advice of people who live there as well as published sources, is CHEST-uhr-li-street - the first part rhymes with 'westerly'. Most English placenames with 'le' in them are pronounced in this way, rhyming with 'me' rather than the French-sounding 'luh'."
(Click for a guide to our phonetic pronunciations (PDF).)


  • 1.
  • At 01:44 PM on 24 Jul 2006,
  • Candadai Tirumalai wrote:

Somewhat to my surprise, even though Chicago is very well known, the English tend to pronounce it with a "ch," as in "Chinese" rather than than with the correct "sh," as in "show": they tend to do the same with the "ch" in Michigan. "Leicester" and "Hertford" are not easy for Americans.

I used to live in or near the town of Frome, in Somerset. It rhymes with 'room', not 'Rome'. I remember hearing Kenneth Horne (whose brother lived in the town) making a joke about it on one of his radio programmes once - he 'couldn't find out' [why it was pronounced that way] so "I came hoom".

I don't mean to be a pest, but you appear to have run afoul of your own pronunciation guide. In the pronunciation you give the third syllable as 'li', which supposedly is pronounced /lɪ/, but then the rest of the post ('rhymes with "westerly"', 'rhymes with "me"') implies that you meant it to be pronounced /li/ or /lij/, which the pronunciation guide says should've been written as 'lee'.

This is exactly the sort of problem I alluded to in my earlier comment, and I really wish you'd consider switching to IPA if this blog is meant to be useful (and I think it can be! or I wouldn't still be reading it). I've never been to Chester-le-street and after this post I still don't know how to pronounce it.

I was always brought up with it been pronounced with le rhyming with me!

  • 5.
  • At 09:13 PM on 24 Jul 2006,
  • jenny wrote:

The first part rhymes with ‘westerly’?

Close, but not quite. Have another go.

  • 6.
  • At 04:20 AM on 25 Jul 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

I've noticed that a big difference between my side of the pond in America and the other side in Britain is arborial. In my world, we have elm trees, maple trees, and oak trees. But in Britain's world, they grow mili-trees, minis-trees, and secre-trees. And while pruning elm trees, maple trees, and oak trees is relatively straightforward, pruning mili-trees, and minis-trees as every taxpayer knows is next to impossible. As for pruning secre-trees, I wouldn't touch that one with a ten foot pole.

  • 7.
  • At 05:19 AM on 25 Jul 2006,
  • David de Vere Webb wrote:

Why, I wonder, was a name meaning "Camp the street" invented, along with "Houghton the spring"? Perhaps to avoid confusion with another Chester or Houghton?

However, I suspect that Sulgrave once derived from "Sous le havre" rather than "under the Margrave" and Sunderland not from a monastic severance but from "Sous Nadder land".

I've heard neither Chicago nor Michigan pronounced other than in Frank Sinatra's way.

  • 8.
  • At 09:14 PM on 26 Jul 2006,
  • elizabeth wrote:

i think 1 word "fantastic"

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