Episode 64 (‘What’s in a Name?’)

Graham Pointon

For the May 2023 episode of In a Manner of Speaking, Paul and his guest, Graham Pointon, attempt to answer the popular question “What’s in a Name?” Specifically, they discuss how one decides on pronunciations of people and place names, and the issues surrounding “proper” pronunciation of words in general.

Graham is the former pronunciation adviser for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). After studying French and linguistics for an MA (Hons), receiving the diploma in phonetics at Edinburgh University, and spending a year on a Spanish-government scholarship at Madrid’s Complutense University, Graham spent six years as a lecturer in English phonetics at Trondheim University in Norway. He also completed his MLitt for Edinburgh on the rhythm of spoken Spanish.

He then moved back to the United Kingdom to take up the post of pronunciation adviser at the BBC, where he stayed until the end of 2001. Since leaving the BBC, he has co-authored three books on English usage with a former colleague in Norway, Stewart Clark, and writes an occasional blog: Linguism.

For more information on the BBC Pronunciation Unit, go here. For more on Paul Auster’s novel, 4-3-2-1, see Wikipedia.

And learn how to pronounce one of the world’s longest place names:

And for further reading on this topic, Graham suggests Jurg R. Schwyter’s Dictating to the Mob, from Oxford University Press in 2016 (ISBN: 9780198736738), which discusses the history of the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English.

(Bach’s Cello Suite #1 in G Major BMV 1007 Prelude (by Ivan Dolgunov) is courtesy of Jamendo Licensing.)