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Top 10 confusing London place names


Not unlike the human ear, AI sometimes struggles with confusing place names. Names that are spelt completely different to how they are pronounced. 

That’s where Machine Learning comes in – the boffins at JUST: have to either train the technology via algorithms, or in some cases manually. Be it acronyms, legal or medical jargon, or simply place names, it can be a long and exhausting exercise.

London, as an example, has an array of unusual and sometimes confusing place names. Let’s take a look at our top ten.

10. Walthamstow 

A large town in East London and part of the borough of Waltham Forest, it’s official pronunciation merges the t and h as in “tooth”. But it can still be tempting to say it as “walt-hampstow”.

9. Jermyn Street

A street in St James’s known for retailers of gentlemen’s clothing, Jermyn Street can rhyme with “vermin”. Its namesake is 17th century developer Henry Jermyn, although the original spelling was “Jarman”, hence why many say it like “German”, which is why it’s almost never AI transcribed accurately.

8. Swiss Cottage

This one’s less a punctuation peculiarity than a geographical misnomer. Swiss Cottage by name sounds so picturesque. In real life, it’s a residential district of North West London with several high rise buildings, all dotted around a large traffic junction, where you can find its namesake, the pub named Ye Olde Swiss Cottage.

7. Edgware

Yes, this North London suburban town is spelt with just one E, just to confuse computers. And it’s not to be confused with Edgware Road, which is found – you guessed it – in the City of Westminster, starting at Marble Arch.

6. Conduit and Lamb’s Conduit Streets

Before you ask, a conduit is a cistern or a dam across a river. Conduit Street is a relatively wide avenue connecting Bond Street and Regent Street. On the other hand Lamb’s Conduit Street is a slim avenue in Holborn.

5. Wardour

Over to Soho and to Wardour Street, which used to be a centre for film and pop music. Again, it’s another that has different pronunciation takes. Depending on who you talk to it can sound like “colour” or “door”.

4. Any London location ending in “wich”

It’s the ultimate foreigner frustration that places such as Woolwich, Greenwich and Dulwich, all of which are pronounced seamlessly without the “w”. And then there’s Aldwych which is pronounced “ald-witch”. Who said London place names are logical?

3. Grosvenor Square

Pronounced “Grow-vna”, this beautiful Mayfair Square gives its name to the estate that owns sizeable swathes of Mayfair and Belgravia. Until recently it was the home to the impressive eagle topped US Embassy before it moved over the river to Nine Elms.

2. Holborn

The northerners’ nightmare. This central district is nestled between the Borough of Camden and The City is home to just about everything from diamonds (Hatton Garden) to children’s hospitals (Great Ormond Street), and the Old Bailey. But it’s probably best known for having a totally confusing name that sounds like “hoe-bun”.

1. Marylebone

The most contentious name of the lot belongs to the well heeled West End district which also gives its name to a rail terminus. Etymologically, it comes from the parish St Mary Le Bone. How it is pronounced depends on who you’re listening to. On the Bakerloo line it sounds like “mar-li-bone”, but after a backlash from purists, TfL bus announcements are recorded as “ma-ri-le-bun”.


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