Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Divided by a common language

The first weirdness of language in Cambrdige I picked up before I came here.

One pronounces the River Cam with a short “a” (as in “Sam”), but “Cambridge” with a long “a” (as in “came”).

Why don’t we say “Came-bridge” or “the River Came”?

No consistency.

Still, at least I picked up on two classic Australian blunders before they happened to me:

(1) The college “Gonville and Caius” is pronounced Gonville and Keys”, and only ever referred to in casual conversation as “Keys”.

(2) I was wondering for a while why there was a ruefully, nostalgically drunk college – until I realised “maudlin” is written “Magdelene” – which means that Cambridge also has a “maudlin” street.

So much charm, so many possible mispronunciations.

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