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17 October 2011 | By: M@

How Do You Pronounce Theydon Bois?

How Do You Pronounce Theydon Bois?

Image by Ewan-M under Creative Commons.

We've all heard it. "Can you tell me where Lie-sester Square is?". English place names can be a bit of a challenge to the outsider. Even longtime Londoners might struggle with some pronunciations. Hands up who's contemplated the correct way to say 'Theydon Bois'?

Here's a quick guide to some of the commonest tongue-puzzlers:

Leicester Square: Any native knows this is pronounced 'Less-ter', but that complex run of vowels commonly stumps visitors.

Theydon Bois: A bit of a teaser, even for locals. The consensus seems to be 'Theydon Boyce' (or Boyz), given credence by Tube stop announcements. But we've found several reports of bus drivers pronouncing it as Theydon Boy. Most definitely, it's not Theydon Bwahh.

Hainault: On the Central Line, it seems that pronouncing words the French way is passé. A few stops round from Theydon Bois, we find Hainault, which is enunciated as Hay-nolt rather than the Gallic 'ay-no.

Cadogan Square/Hall: The Cadogan name is all over the Sloane Square area, named after a Georgian noble whose family still own much of the land thereabouts. It should be pronounced as Ca-duggan, not Cad-ogan.

Holborn: A perennial puzzler, Holborn is best pronounced using as few letters as possible – o'b'n rather than Hole-born. Ho-bun is probably the commonest form among locals.

Marylebone: As with Holborn, using fewer letters gets you nearer to the local pronunciation (up to a point). Mar'l'bun is a good start. Marry-lebone seems commonplace. Mary-le-bone is the tourist's choice, and close to the historical roots in St Mary-le-Bourne church.

Homerton: The Simpsons fans might be tempted towards Homer-tun, but the correct form is more like Hommer-tun.

The Mall: Potentially confusing for North American visitors, who may be expecting a shopping centre. The 'a' is short, making the word rhyme with 'pal'. And, as it happens, the name was borrowed from the neighbouring Pall Mall (definitely not pronounced Paul Maul), which itself was called after a croquet-like game called Pell Mell.

Rotherhithe: This had never struck us as particularly tricky, until one (anonymous) Londonist contributor admitted: "This probably marks me out as a moron, but I was convinced Rotherhithe was pronounced Rotherhither when I first moved to London. If we were in Germany, I'd totally have been right."

Greenwich/Southwark/Woolwich/Chiswick: The 'silent W' is a common peril for non-natives. The phenomenon tends to crop up in names of Anglo Saxon origin. If you see a W in the middle of a place name, just ignore it (hence Gren-itch, suth-urk, Wool-itch and Chis-ick). It's only a rule of thumb, though. Don't try it with Holloway or Queensway.

Tottenham: Most Londoners probably say something like Tott-num. The name was most famously mangled by former Spurs midfielder Osvaldo 'Ossie' Ardiles, who rolled it out to 'Tottingham' in this top-10 hit from Chas & Dave.


Here's a graphic you can pass around to any visitors who might need help.



The following have all been added post-publication following reader comments (thanks).

Deptford: The case of the silent 'p'. Simply, 'Det-ford'. Thanks to Gaz in the comments for the suggestion.

Penge: @emdobinson on Twitter asks about this one. It rhymes with 'henge'.

Plaistow: The correct form is 'Plass-tow'. Thanks to reader BeccaS

Ruislip: 20th Century London advises us that this should be pronounced 'Rye-slip'.

Struggling with other places? Share in the comments below.


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20th Century London

Ruislip usually catces out the unwary. Dropping the 'u' does the trick ok 'Rye-slip'


london historian

Ha. Pipped at the post on Ruislip!


Being on the Essex/London border, I think you'll find Hainault is more likely to be 'Ay-nort than Hay-nolt. And while we're in that area, us locals generally avoid the other problem by simply calling the village "Theydon".

Ben Hodgson

Green-itch? Surely Gren-itch?

Steve Smith

But what about Plaistow? I'm a Londoner who knows all the pronunciations above but nobody has ever clarified whether it's "play-stow" or "plass-stow". You regularly hear both.


I'm from old Deptford stock (no 'p' pronounced) and locals say Grin-idge for Greenwich.

Martin Seebach

Also an exception to the -wick rule: Gatwick.

Phia Little

I clicked through to this hoping to find an answer to the Play-stow/Plaah-stow dilemma! I haven't been there on the tube recently so that provides no help. Someone please illuminate me. 

Steve Smith

Thanks to BeccaS for clarifying "plass-stow". Phia Little would find that travelling on the Tube doesn't help as I've heard it pronounced both ways by train drivers.

london historian

For Plaistow, I follow Ian Dury's lead in Plaistow Patricia. @martin Excellent observation, I'm now going to be an insufferable PITA and call it "Gattick"


Erith - pronounced by locals as Ear-riff. No need for those pesky H's!


I pronounce Chingford as "Cheenkford".  How wrong is that?


Leytonstone is now officially know as Leyton-Saint-One by more
bourgeois residents. 


Greenwich? If you talk to a local, it's Grinnidge.

And an anecdote. I used to work for a Japanese company many years ago. During a quiet afternoon we had a round of tongue twisters. "Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry" had our Japanese manager in stitches as she tried to sort out her R's and L's. All went well until one wag asked her where she lived straight after a particularly long run of "Red Lorry Yellow Lorry".

CRAPHAM came the reply....


I've never been convinced by the Holborn argument. I'm convinced it was the plummy-voiced upper classes who enforced their own pronunciation on the grovelling masses. Somehow the idea of a Covent Garden barrow boy calling it Ho-Bun just doesn't fit.


Hampstead. Properly pronounced "luxury yacht".


Maybe just out of London - but Ewell always used to get me! (I used to pronounce it Ee-well, rather than the correct You'll)

Alix Kroeger

What about De Beauvoir Town? Or is it easier just to call it North Hoxton?


Spuyten Duyvil, on the north tip of Manhattan ... Now there's a place name to get your teeth into...


What about the announcement on the 271 bus?  she says "cannon bewrie"

Dan M

There seems to be no consensus about Becontree in east London. I grew up nearby and it's pretty much a 50:50 split on Beacon-tree and Beckon-tree fans. There's a clue from a pub there called the Beacon and Tree, but I'll still be calling it Beckon-tree until some sort of law comes into effect telling me not to.

Mark Walley

Let's not forget Borough, which you pronounce as any English person would, in the manner that is entirely at odds to it's spelling. Burra would be a better phonetic spelling, but I fear we'd be accused of being australian.

Also, having lived in Marylebone and now living just along from it, the common way of saying it (one that the girls school and parish church seem to use as well) is marley-bone (as in dead friend of scrooge, dog's bone)


Look. I'm sorry about this, but if you're as posh as me, you'll pronounce it Tea-down Boze.


Theydon Bois looks guilty if you ask me.


If you're having difficulty pronouncing "th" like a Londoner, remember it's not my fault, it's Northolt.

David Whittam

There's the Dull Itch of Dulwich of course.


One of my pet hates when people pronounce De Beauvoir Town (Hackney), 'De Boo-vwah'. It's 'De Bow-vwah'!

And while I'm in the neighbourhood - for a long time after moving to Hackney I pronounced Kingsland Road as 'Kings-LAND' when, as any fule kno, it's 'KINGS-Lund'


There used to be an advert on the tube for Jamieson's whisky (I think) which was headed 'How to separate the Debden from the Theydon Bois'. I've used that as my basis for pronunciation ever since.


Maybe you can also alert tourists (American) that Wimbledon is not pronounced "Wimbel-tun"!

Britt Warg

Then there's Grosvenor St. Far from self-explanatory...


Personally, I always thought it was 'Rovver-ive'; true Londoners know that 'th' will either be pronounced as a 'v' or an 'f', depending on context. 

Aldwych: I grew up hearing it as 'Auld-witch'. 

Adam White

Theobald's Road at the top of Hole-born is traditionally 'Tybbald's', although it's increasingly rare to see anyone say it. At what point do we adopt the popular pronunciation?

Geoff Webber

Not London but an Aussie was once heard on a train asking for Loo-ger-ba-roo-ger. Transpired he was after Loughborough.


How about Aldwych? The announcement on the number 13 bus says 'Ald-which' but I would have gone with 'Ald-itch'.


Friern Barnet is definitely Fry-ern Barnet, in line with its lovely Friary Park. It's not Free-ern, whatever my mum says.

Jim M

It is definitely Plar-stow.

There is no debate about this. Classic way to spot the outsider. 


And St. John's Wood. So often pronounced 'saint' not 'St'. I've ranted at US tourists about such errors.

John Parkinson

No Isleworth? Pronounced locally as Eye-sul-worth. Most outsiders think it should be Aisle-worth.


I always thought Theydon Bois was pronounced 'They done boys', preferably in a thick Cockney or Essex accent. After all, it is next to Fiddlers Hamlet...

Richard Mellor

De Beauvoir is the classic here. 

(I'm not sure where Benjamin Mathis and his strict-speaking is quoting from, but I'd argue there is no correct way - place names and intonations change over time anyway, so what was correct a decade ago might be wrong a decade later.)

I've heard it De Beaver, De Bow-Vwah, De Boovi-ay, De Bwavah.  On the basis that De Bow-Vwah is the commonest utterance, I'd argue that that's therefore the most correct pronunciation.  There isn't really a right or wrong, basically. 

William B.

Greenwich and Southwark, both on the Jubilee line, and both tricky for the unawares.

The "w" is silent and useless in both words. 


There seems to be a misconception that locals pronounce the place-names correctly. Please, let's not take a lowest common denominator approach!


Just been to Canterbury and had a pint in the George and Dragon in "England's smallest town" Fordwich
The local radio traffic report and the landlady both said ford-witch but it just doesn't sound right to me!
I'll keep calling it Ford-itch as it sounds better.


Cheyne Walk?


Streatham is my favourite bugbear.  A few years back, I was in a play set in Streatham, and had a hell of a time convincing my fellow actors that it wasn't pronounced "Streeth-ham."


I've heard calling Crouch End 'Croux-on', again, thanks to our french neighbours.


Tottenham - Nam, as in Viet.




This is probably me being stupid but how do any of you pronounce Leytonstone? I'm moving there later in 2012 and I'm totally stumped.  I've heard "lay-tonne-stone" by estate agents and "lay'un'stun" or "leytunsun (no t) by locals.... It's probably any of those but I'm just curious as I'm not from London originally :)


lay'tun'stun I'd say, just a bit of a t after the y unless you're really local

Stefan Hilzinger

Gloucester Road

Pete Allen

How about Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge? Commonly pronounced "bee-cham" is this correct?


Not London, but what about Bevois Valley. Is it pronounced "Beeviz" (as in Beavers), or "B' vwah", or neither of those?


Isleworth. Apparently Eye zal-Wuth. Who knew?

Stephen Chapman

I was in the USA in the Summer and the area southeast of Boston is littered with towns that have names "stolen" from us: Chatham, Sandwich, Falmouth, Plymouth etc. In the main, the Americans pronounced them correctly... apart from one. They insisted on saying Harr-witch when they meant Harwich!


Pall Mall is Pal Mal but the Mall is the Maul.

Zoey Vardanis

Edgware Road: agewah-rod, not edgah-road or age-where-rod


Marl i bone not mar'l'bun


When you think about it, it doesn't make sense to pronounce place names derived from Anglo-Norman (such as Heinault heydon Bois) as in modern French. There's about 800 years and another dialect apart...

Thanassis Deriziotis

What about Rugeley? It must be pronounced "Roozly" or "Ragly"?


When I lived in Bow, a colleague used to pronounce it bow as in 'bow to the audience' rather than a bow that you tie in your shoelaces.

Phil Armond



Speaking about not pronouncing in a French way, how about "Vauxhall"? Great article, by the way.


Holdborn, from Middle English for 'Old Brook' is pronounced Hoe-bun not Hold-bon or hold-born.


Colesdon or Coolsdon for Coulsdon? My money's on the former.

And it's Plah-stow, not Plass-tow


I've now been inspired to join the Queen's English Society!




it should be pronounced Me-pem, not me-o-fam or me-fam


and Wandsworth is mispronounced all the time, instead of correct "wand's worth" I hear all the time, especially on train announcements as a rhyme to hands forth, grrrrrrr!!!


Faydon Boys


You forgot to mention Minories ("minnor-rees" often mispronounced "minor-rees").
Also, how do you say Anerley? AYN-er-ley or ANN-er-ley? Or perhaps AYN-er-lay?

Matthew Baylis

I have heard both Muzz'l and (from a French-Lebanese lady) the delightful Mazool'ill for Muswell Hill. Nobody in that postcode seems able to agree on whether it's Coll-nee Hatch Lane or Coney.

And no-one, not even the poshest resident, can pronounce Highgate quite like the announcer lady on the Northern Line. Haiiy-git.


Haringey is confusing. Is it Harringey or Herringay.


Haringey (borough) and Harringay (area within the borough) are both pronounced 'Harring-gay'. Not confusing at all...