Tuesday 9 November 2010

At The Burh

Two blogs (one run by John C Wells, the other one by Jack Windsor Lewis) yesterday (the 8th of November) discussed the pronunciation style of Sir David Attenborough, Britain's best-known natural history film-maker. Sir David has a very clear diction, and his pronunciation undoubtedly represents the General British (= GB) type. Born in 1926 (and still going strong) he must have experienced (and probably been influenced by) quite a few changes of GB pronunciation from his youth to now.
credit: telegraph.co.uk

What I want to take a look at is the meaning of his surname 'Attenborough". It actually consists of three separate words: at - ten - borough. Atten is Middle English for 'at the' and the Old English word for borough was burȝ (with various spellings: burg, burh, ...). A burȝ was a fort or a fortified mansion, so 'atten burȝ' denotes someone who lives at the / near the fortified mansion.

His pronunciation style displays interesting features which I will dwell upon in a future blog.

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