There are a few things that annoy all Londoners collectively. Those that get on the wrong side of the escalator, slow walkers, Tube delays – and seemingly mispronunciation. Mispronunciation wasn’t something that I thought annoyed people but after speaking to those in the Marylebone area of London – pronounced maa-luh-buhn – saying the names of iconic London areas incorrectly seemed to really tick people off.
Marylebone arguably has the most contested pronunciation, along with Holborn, Chiswick and Ruislip, and on interviewing people in highly sought after area, I found that saying it perfectly really is a rarity.
I have lived in London for most of my life and I still had to double check Google to remind myself how to spit out the name of the second station on a Monopoly board. I headed down to the exclusive Central London area to see how different people pronounced the ten letter word.
I asked each individual the same question, ‘How do you say the name of the station/area we’re in?’. For some that I asked it seemed that maybe they weren’t from round there or had been asked the question already today. One man proceeded to tell me it was pronounced “shut up” and another “f***k off”. It was against my better judgement to correct them and I let them carry on with their day.
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Other weird pronunciations came from busy pedestrians that I annoyed with the (quite normal) question. “No” and “not today”, were my other favourite answers. I continued my search. I quickly came across Frank, Zacaria, Serena and Tilly, all in their 20s who amazed me with their perfect pronunciation.
They had the name down to a tee, although they answered my question with a look of disgust. I think they knew I was searching for mistakes and showed off their perfect pronunciation. The group of students lived in the area and looked offended that I dared question them on how their area was pronounced.
My next contender was John, 58, who was visiting from the Midlands, who went with the reasonable guess of Maaa-lay-Bone. John was a tourist from the Birmingham area and was amused by the question. Well, his answer amused me. He spent ages thinking and replied with a stretched out version of the first syllable. He was close, but no cigar.
The next Londoners I came across included Felicia, 21, who was local, and Michael, 32, and Anna, 23, both from West London. Despite being local to the area Felicia seemed to think the station and area she had grown up was pronounced Mary-lie-bon, but I excused Michael and Anna who said the same, as they were from elsewhere in the city.
Isaiah, who was visiting from France, probably came the furthest from the answer, trying his hardest with Mak-Lie-Bon. He spoke with such conviction but I think he was halted by his accent. He knew the answer, I’m sure of it. He laughed and knew he was wrong. Even on correction he said it the same way.
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A rogue answer from Richard, 50, from Sheffield came in the form of Maaarly-B. A nickname maybe? He gave up on the word before he had finished it. It may be some kind of Northern slang that I wasn’t aware of but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. It wasn’t pronounced that way and he knew it. He rushed off before back to his building site before I could correct him.
Mark, 40, who works as a city banker came in strong with the dad joke and hit me with Mark-lybon, definitely one of the more original answers of the day. But unsurprisingly, there was one group who hit the nail on the head every time – the TfL staff working at Marylebone station. I mean they had to be right. It would have been inexcusable had they been wrong.
I think though Tina summed it up for most of London though, as she simply said: “Don’t ask me, I gave up years ago.” I respected her honesty.
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I am a general reporter for MyLondon and am based in West London. I am interested in all stories London wide and have a particular interest stories affecting the climate. In the last month I have written stories about climate change, illegal boy racer meet ups and crime.
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