Braintree (was: George Washeengton's Spich empeedeemint)

Paul A Johnston, Jr. paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Mon Feb 25 17:11:05 UTC 2008

Does anyone know what the traditional vernacular pronunciation of Braintree was in Essex?  It's
[braeIntr at i] now, but I don't know what it was in pre-20c. traditional dialect.  A shortening of the
first vowel would give [braen] or [brEn], and Brantry or Brentry would make sense.  (cf. Plaistow,
London, which was [plae:st@] and then [plA:st@ = "plaster"!] traditionally; same dialect group, too)

Paul Johnston

----- Original Message -----
From: Damien Hall <halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
Date: Monday, February 25, 2008 10:12 am
Subject: Braintree (was: George Washeengton's Spich empeedeemint)

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header ------------
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Damien Hall <halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Braintree (was: George Washeengton's Spich empeedeemint)
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
> -----------
> There's a town in Suffolk, England, called Braintree.  Is it
> possible that at
> some point someone thought that people saying 'Brantry' /braentri:/
> were merely
> mispronouncing 'Braintree', and that person hypercorrected the
> spelling, which
> then stuck?  That would presumably be by analogy with so many other
> Englishplacenames that reappear multiple times in the different
> states of New, ahem,
> England.
> I'd like there to be a satisfying phonological explanation too, but
> maybe the
> idea of a false equivalence with the English name goes part of the
> way.
> And, yes, whenever I see 'Braintree' on either side of the
> Atlantic, I think of
> 'brain stem' and the appearance of human brains in general too.
> Damien Hall
> University of Pennsylvania
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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