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  #1  
Old 09-19-2009, 10:02 PM
Satyagrahi Satyagrahi is offline
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How do locals pronounce the name of the town of Cirencester in Gloucestershire?

I'm working on a novel set in 15th Century England and part of the action is set near the town of Cirencester, Gloucestershire.

Given that the readers of a text novel will pronounce names however they want, still, I'm finding it irksome not to have the correct pronunciation in mind as I'm writing.

Wikipedia says that Cirencester is pronounced as 'SYE-rən-ses-tər' but, given what the British do with names like Leicestershire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire, I find that hard to believe.

I'll go with however local residents choose to pronounce it today.

Can anyone help? Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 09-19-2009, 10:15 PM
Giles Giles is online now
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This is an odd case. It used to be pronounced /sisester/, but fairly recently the pronunciation changed to follow the spelling. So, if you're in 15th century England, it might be pronounced either way! (I'm not sure when the spelling got fixed and the pronunciation changed away from the spelling).
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  #3  
Old 09-19-2009, 11:44 PM
Erdosain Erdosain is offline
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Is there a reason that Gloucester, Worcester, and Leicester lost their "ch" but places like Manchester and Dorchester didn't? Are Gloucester and the others older?

[sorry for the hijack, Satyagrahi]
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  #4  
Old 09-20-2009, 12:57 AM
Deflagration Deflagration is offline
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Having lived there for 30+ years and my family being there for at least 6 generations...

Siren - As in police car.
Sester - As to rhyme with the electric uncle from 'Addams Family'

Locals often contract it to just 'Ciren'.

Anecdotaly, in the past, it was pronounced 'Ziren Zester' although to my Cotswold ears this sounds more Somerset to me.

It's also been pronounced 'Sis-It-Er' in the past but I can't tell you when.

15th century fact:- The Parish church bell tower was built. Originally designed to have a spire but the foundations started to fail during construction. Hence the large and non-architectural flying buttresses.
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  #5  
Old 09-20-2009, 07:42 AM
Teacake Teacake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erdosain View Post
Is there a reason that Gloucester, Worcester, and Leicester lost their "ch" but places like Manchester and Dorchester didn't? Are Gloucester and the others older?

[sorry for the hijack, Satyagrahi]
All corruptions from Latin castrum, meaning a fort. Hard to say whether any of them are older than any others, in that despite their modern names coming from the Romans, settlements were probably already there before that. Dorchester, for instance, was the home of the Durotriges tribe, one of the Celtic tribes predating the Romans. Thanks to the tribe, the Romans called their town Durnovaria when they built a fort there. Dur= Dor and castrum=chester. I have no knowledge of why some places ended up with a ch instead of a c at the start of castrum, though if I was asked to guess I might say something about local accents or spelling variations which made it into official language and then filtered back to the people who actually lived there.
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  #6  
Old 09-20-2009, 03:16 PM
Satyagrahi Satyagrahi is offline
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Many thanks, Giles and Deflagration.

I've seen it noted that Shakespeare referred to the town in one of the historical plays as 'Sisiter'...and that would fit with what you're telling me.

And the fluid spelling of Middle English would make it likely that the name was often spelled phonetically as it was pronounced.

So my task is to balance accuracy with clarity for the modern reader. I'll come up with something.

Thanks again!
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  #7  
Old 09-20-2009, 04:16 PM
Chez Guevara Chez Guevara is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Satyagrahi View Post
So my task is to balance accuracy with clarity for the modern reader. I'll come up with something.
Like relocating the action to Cheltenham.

Not that there should be any doubt about it but, as a resident of Gloucestershire living less than 20 miles from Cirencester, I can confirm that Deflagration's information is bang on.
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  #8  
Old 07-09-2014, 09:31 PM
alixs alixs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deflagration View Post
Having lived there for 30+ years and my family being there for at least 6 generations...

Siren - As in police car.
Sester - As to rhyme with the electric uncle from 'Addams Family'

Locals often contract it to just 'Ciren'.

Anecdotaly, in the past, it was pronounced 'Ziren Zester' although to my Cotswold ears this sounds more Somerset to me.

It's also been pronounced '' in the past but I can't tell you when.

15th century fact:- The Parish church bell tower was built. Originally designed to have a spire but the foundations started to fail during construction. Hence the large and non-architectural flying buttresses.
I lived in Oxford and Leicester in the 1970s and I was told that it was pronounced sis-it-er, and that's how I've pronounced it ever since.

Last edited by alixs; 07-09-2014 at 09:32 PM.. Reason: misplaced modifier
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  #9  
Old 07-09-2014, 11:14 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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My cousin lives there. She pronounces it Deflagration's way (not that I expect the OP cares any more).

They say a lot of things funny in Oxford. Its a town full of classicists, after all.

Last edited by njtt; 07-09-2014 at 11:15 PM..
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  #10  
Old 07-10-2014, 02:16 AM
Pjen Pjen is offline
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I hale from nearby. Older (now dead) members of my family referred to it always as Sisester, but most people now call it Cirensester. I am in my sixties.
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  #11  
Old 07-10-2014, 03:17 AM
Claverhouse Claverhouse is offline
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As far as I remember growing up in Cheltenham, we pronounced it siren'ster. No idea what the locals called it.


Cheltenham we pronounced Cheltenham.
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  #12  
Old 07-10-2014, 03:49 AM
Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party is offline
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My father-in-law and his family lives in Stroud, nearby, and I've only ever heard them pronounce it as it is written.
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  #13  
Old 07-10-2014, 04:57 AM
bob++ bob++ is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Claverhouse View Post
As far as I remember growing up in Cheltenham, we pronounced it siren'ster. No idea what the locals called it.


Cheltenham we pronounced Cheltenham.
is that Chelt en ham with all the syllables evenly stressed, or Chelt 'nam, with stress on the first syllable. In my experience, coming from the frequently mispronounced Werr cester shire (Woostershere), the former is how many Americans will pronounce it
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  #14  
Old 07-10-2014, 05:03 AM
Celyn Celyn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
is that Chelt en ham with all the syllables evenly stressed, or Chelt 'nam, with stress on the first syllable. ..

More like the latter. I mean, you don't exactly swallow the other syllables completely, but the stress is on the first syllable.
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  #15  
Old 07-10-2014, 05:21 AM
Quartz Quartz is online now
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Just to confuse matters, there's also Chichester.
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  #16  
Old 07-10-2014, 05:35 AM
Celyn Celyn is offline
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But Chichester isn't confusing, is it? A tourist could have fun with Bicester, though.
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  #17  
Old 07-10-2014, 05:37 AM
vontsira vontsira is online now
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And, yet further confusement: I recall hearing / seeing it suggested a few times, long ago, that another local-pronunciation variant for the Gloucestershire town, was "sister" -- just as in, female sibling. I suspect that that was a myth -- thought up so as to make work, the following foolish limerick.

There was a young lady of Cirencester
Who stood up to speak, and they hirencester:
A man threw a carrot --
She screeched like a parrot --
But ducked in a flash, and it mirencester.
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  #18  
Old 07-10-2014, 07:47 AM
vontsira vontsira is online now
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The heck with it – I cannot resist posting the following verse offering – part of a piece by the late British humorist Paul Jennings, about pronunciation / spelling craziness re place names in England; and attempting rhyming guidance, for those perplexed by that issue.


...Tourists, attention ! Nor forthwith assume
You say as spelt each little town, like Frome.
The Welsh have funny names your tongue to twist with
Like Penmaenmawr and Gwlch and Aberystwyth:
That you expect. But when in England, how
Dare any tourist ask the way to Slough,
Who yesterday put someone in a huff
By thinking “brow” homophonous with Brough?
Though Glyndebourne opera for the cultured few is,
How can they get there but by way of Lewes?
Under the Sussex Downs, where snug they both lie,
Are many other gems – for instance, Hoathly.
What lord of maps, what orthographic jouster
Grapples with Bicester and its sicester, Towcester [A],
And never gets in something of a panic
If blank stares greet him when he asks for Alnwick,
Nor ends by thinking people downright spooky
Who make a place spelt Stiffkey rhyme with Newquay?
Tourists, you needn’t be alarmed unduly
By England’s treatment of a word like Beaulieu.
These Norman names (or Saxon ones, like Wrotham)
Unlettered men have modified to suit ‘em,
And pundits long since gave up trying to teach ‘em
How you should really say a name like Beauchamp.
Our names and views hold unexpected joy: --
Views English-Channel seaward, as at Fowey;
Views over sands, or rocky views and pebbly;
Pastoral views, near inland towns like Weobley;
East Anglian views, with churches old and mossy,
Each as unique as disyllabic Costessy...



[A] The author would seem here to have cheated a bit, in order to get the desired rhyme: I understand that the usual pronunciation of the T-place, is the same as that of the thing with which one makes toast.
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  #19  
Old 07-10-2014, 11:42 AM
blindboyard blindboyard is offline
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Around here we Have Norwell, Southwell and Averham, or norrel, suvvell and airem. And others.
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