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Posted: 21 March 2008 04:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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In 50 years I’ve never met a Rafe, although I’ve known several Ralfs. Even British newspapers have to point out to readers that Mr Fiennes’s first name is pronounced Rafe. I have no evidence at all on how common one pronunciation is versus the other in Rightpondia, but Rafe would definitely be regarded as upper-class, rare and affected. When this change to make the spelling pronunciation the “normal” one happened I don’t know, but normal it now is ...

Huh. Learn something every day, especially around here.  Thanks for updating my UK mental database!

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Posted: 21 March 2008 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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I second Zythophile. The pronunciation Rafe is vanishingly rare in the UK now. I’d lay odds that the overwhelming majority of the British populace have never even heard of such a pronunciation. The name seems to have been an early victim of the speak-as-you-spell impulse, with the upper classes succumbing last.

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Posted: 22 March 2008 12:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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I once knew someone whose surname was Ralfe, pronounced Rafe.  He still lives in South Africa, according to google.

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Posted: 22 March 2008 12:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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I’d lay odds that the overwhelming majority of the British populace have never even heard of such a pronunciation.

Unless they are Gilbert and Sullivan fans: the juvenile lead in “HMS Pinafore”, Ralph Rackstraw, must be pronounced “Rafe” throughout, as right at the end of the opera it’s rhymed with “waif”. This was clearly something the W S Gilbert took for granted when he wrote it, but sounds odd to most Rightpondians now.

FWIW, whenever my mother (born 1921, of southern English gentlefolk) read “Ralph” she assumed the pronunciation “Rafe” unless informed otherwise.

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Posted: 22 March 2008 02:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Some British names are, indeed, a bit quirky. Two surnames that have always mystified me are ffrench and ffoulkes --- effing odd, I’d say. Has anyone here got a clue on the history of these (I would guess) very archaic survivals? Did some long-ago ffather get nervous, and stammer at the baptismal ffont? Or pperhaps the pparish registrar had pparkinson’s disease?

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Posted: 22 March 2008 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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ffrench and ffoulkes are spellings based on Welsh orthography, where single f is pronounced v (there being no v in the Welsh alphabet) and you need double f to indicate the f sound, for example in Fforestfach in South Wales, pronounced (approximately) “forest-vak” and meaning “little forest”. Similarly David in Welsh orthography is Dafyd, simgle f being v.

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Posted: 22 March 2008 05:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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I’d lay odds that the overwhelming majority of the British populace have never even heard of such a pronunciation.

Really?  Have they never heard of Fiennes and Vaughn Williams, or do British announcers mispronounce the names?  If so, that would be a case of the colonies preserving distinctions the mother country has forgotten, because in my experience American announcers always pronounce “Rafe” in both cases.

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Posted: 22 March 2008 07:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Yes, I should have perhaps written the mobile vulgus, to whom the name Vaughn Williams would mean nothing. I’d also lay a pound to a penny that they would pronounce the name Ralph Fiennes as Ralf on sight. ‘Overwhelming majority’ is too strong, I withdraw the ‘overwhelming’, but I’ll stick with ‘majority’.

Yes, radio announcers on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 would have the pronunciations spot on, but I would imagine they serve only a minority of the populace.

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Posted: 22 March 2008 08:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Makes sense—thanks!

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Posted: 22 March 2008 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Thanks, Zythophile.

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Posted: 22 March 2008 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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Zythophile - 22 March 2008 04:24 AM

ffrench and ffoulkes are spellings based on Welsh orthography, where single f is pronounced v (there being no v in the Welsh alphabet) and you need double f to indicate the f sound, for example in Fforestfach in South Wales, pronounced (approximately) “forest-vak” and meaning “little forest”. Similarly David in Welsh orthography is Dafyd, simgle f being v.

Yet I’ve seen the name rendered Daffydd, which should be pronounced “Dafith”.  I think the single “f” in Welsh must be half way between “v” and “f” in English to account for the prevalence of the generic nickname “Taffy” for a Welshman.  (This is a WAG, any supporting evidence gratefully received.)

To return to the original subject, I was interested to discover that Wales has as many “River River"s as England, with Afonau Tawe, Dawe, Tavy, Towy, Taff, Teifi, etc.

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Posted: 22 March 2008 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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duplicated post

[ Edited: 22 March 2008 10:23 AM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 22 March 2008 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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Re surnames beginning with ff:

It was a common practice in the middle ages, and even later times, to write “ff” for capital F. This continues in some families to the present day, and arose from the old way of writing the middle cross of F. which made the letter resemble two small f’s. In this connection, these excerpts from the old church register at Twyford, Norfolk, will be of interest:

“Willmus fficklyn filius Gwalteri fficklyn and Alicia Uxoris ejus baptizatus fuit tertio die Marcii, 1582.”

link

Take Our Word For It agrees:

In case anyone is puzzled about those “two small Fs”, some English families begin their surnames with ff because ff resembles the way an upper-case initial F used to be written.  Once.  A long time ago.  In a very peculiar script.

and

Welsh does indeed use FF to represent the sound /f/, with F representing /v/. Breton formerly used FF as well to represent nasal vowels, although Breton spelling has since been reformed and now uses Ñ for this purpose.

It doesn’t seem to be the explanation for the surnames in ff- though. According to the OED’s introductory remarks on the letter F, in mediaeval manuscripts ff was often used in place of the capital F and this habit has in some cases stuck. Quite why this was done is not mentioned; they may just have thought that F was unattractive.

This would answer samivel’s question - no capital is used because, in effect, ff is a capital. Which does mean that the likes of Jasper Fforde are, to the purist, spelling their names incorrectly.

link

I’m trying to find something more authoritative, but in the meantime could zythophile please tell us what sources he used to substantiate his findings on the Welsh connection for surnames beginning with ff-.

edit:  Here’s the OED entry:

In MSS. a capital F was often written as ff. A misunderstanding of this practice has caused the writing of Ff or ff at the beginning of certain family names, e.g. Ffiennes, Ffoulkes.

[ Edited: 22 March 2008 10:43 AM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 23 March 2008 03:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Basil Cottle’s Penguin Dictionary of Surnames, 1967 edition, page 104, which says that ffoulkes is “common in North Wales, aptly enough, since Welsh ff is the English f sound and f the v.  However, it’s true Cottle seems to blame the “old medieval manuscript habit” of writing ff for capital F for the origin of names from ffinch to fforde, and hints that Welsh orthography has more to do with the spellings with ff being maintained in Wales than with their actually originating within the Principality because of ff being the equivalent of English f. You’d probably have to check the family tree of every ffitch, ffrench and so on to see if they were perpetuating a Welshism or what Cottle called a “typographical absurdity”.

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Posted: 24 March 2008 02:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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languagehat - 20 March 2008 11:20 AM

Porsche is often Porsh not Portia on both sides of the pond I’ve noticed. My excuse is that I have never studied German.

Joke time:

Householder to decorator: Now you’ve finished the back door, could you go round the front and paint the porch?
Decorator: [returning later]: OK done that. By the way mate, it ain’t a porch - it’s a Ferrari . . .

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