I am reading Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, and a prominent character in the story has the name of Betteredge. My question is (since I like to imagine the dialogue in a British-English book as if spoken with a British accent), would "Betteredge" sound more like "Better edge", more like "Bedderitch", or is it pronounced completely differently?


Most British speakers would neither voice the '-tt-' nor devoice the final '-dge'. They might however syncopate the middle syllable. So

/'bɛtəɾɛdʒ/ or /'bɛtɾɛdʒ/ (better-edge or betredge)

They might raise the final vowal a little

/'bɛtəɾɪdʒ/ or /'bɛtɾɪdʒ/ (better-idge or betridge)

  • Either of the two-syllable variants is far more likely than either of the three-syllable versions unless the family attained status by purchasing a manor house and a prefab heritage in the eighteenth century (as parodied in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance: "Frederic, in this chapel are ancestors: you cannot deny that. With the estate, I bought the chapel and its contents. I don't know whose ancestors they were, but I know whose ancestors they are...") – bye Jul 5 '11 at 12:33
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    @drm65 - Everyone has their own scheme, but I generally don't vote on answers to my own questions. That doesn't mean I won't pick one to accept, but I feel like if I'm voting then I'm putting my thumb on the scales and not truly listening to the wisdom of the crowd here. – T.E.D. Jul 5 '11 at 12:52
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    @T.E.D. I am part of the crowd. – Daniel Jul 5 '11 at 13:17
  • +1 This nicely covers the possibilities that I would consider (as a native British English speaker). – psmears Jul 5 '11 at 15:27

Proper names in English come from such a wide array of sources, and go through generations with relatively random dialects. The result is that you pretty much cannot make any assumptions about how they are pronounced. You have to listen to the person say their own name to know for sure.

Being the cradle of the language, England is the worst about this. How the same name is pronounced can change radically multiple times just within a few city blocks in London.

For this reason I really don't worry about proper pronunciation in situations (like reading works of fiction) where there's no way for me to find out the right answer. Just come up with your own and move on.

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