congratulations to the leicester city f.c. foxes who against ridiculous odds (probabilities) clinched (secured, guaranteed) the english premier league last monday and celebrated their championship over the weekend after their final home match of the 2015-2016 campaign. before the season started, the foxes were a 5,000 to 1 pick to win the league.
over the course of the season, as leicester continued to shock everyone, football fans around the world began to ask, “why is leicester pronounced lester?” grammarphobia.com citing the oxford english dictionary, explains
“chester,” [is] a long-defunct noun that originally meant a roman encampment in ancient britain. this word, spelled ceaster in old english writings, comes from the latin castra (camp), and is “often applied to places in britain which had been originally roman encampments.”
defunct means doesn’t exist anymore. chester may be defunct as a common noun (thing), but it still exists as a proper noun (name): it is both a first and a last name.
the final two syllables of leicester are not pronounced chester though. grammarphobia.com continues
the names of [the] english cities (worcester, gloucester &leicester) are much easier to say than to write. they sound like WOOS-ter (with the “oo” of “wood”), GLOSS-ter, and LESS-ter. the names of the corresponding counties—“worcestershire,” “leicestershire,” and “gloucestershire”—are pronounced the same way, except that each has another syllable (“sher”) at the end.
so when did chester become just ster? nobody knows. grammarphobia says
it would seem at first glance that the “-ster” pronunciation established itself sometime between 1709 and 1764 assuming lexicographers [of the day] were in touch with local usage. however, as a reader of the blog points out, the names “worcester,” “leicester,” and “gloucester” appear dozens of times in the works of shakespeare [1564-1616].
at first glance means just looking once but not analyizing closely. a lexicographer is a dictionary writer. in touch is familiar with, connected. point out means show, indicate.
based on the rhythm of the lines of shakespeare where leicester and the names of the other cities appear, the pronunciation was probably the same as it is today.
regardless of when it happened, the correct pronunciation of the current champs of english football is “lester”. to folks (people) not from the region, including native english speakers, this is confusing. lester is also a common first and last name; with a more obvious spelling.
were u impressed by leicester’s improbable championship? can u name any other chesters or lesters? share your comments under leave a reply
richyrocks has over two decades of english coaching experience. his philosophy is a strong focus on vocabulary expansion and authentic, fun material.