I had a meeting in London earlier in the week and as usual found myself surrounded by American accents (are there really that many Americans in London??) and overheard what to me is worse than nails on a chalkboard - "how do we get to lie-shester square?
Oh no they di'int!
Ok so I know you can't really blame them.. How are they to know? But for any new or aspiring expats out there, I thought I'd save you potential future embarrassment with a little pronunciation guide.*
The tourist Mecca that is Leicester Square is pronounced less-ter square. Same for the county in the north called Leicestershire - it's pronounced Less-ter-sher (do note that the -shire suffix is not pronounced shy-er.)
Other counties that can sometimes cause confusion are Derbyshire and Berkshire. In both instances, the second consonant is pronounced as an A rather than an E. Derbyshire = darby-sher (or actually more like darbeh-sher really) and Berkshire = bark-sher.
Others bound to trip people up:
Southwark = suth-eck
Ruislip = rye-slip
Gloucestershire = glosster-sher
In addition to the -shire suffix, there are a few others which will come up frequently. If you master these, you will greatly reduce the risk of making an ass out of yourself:
-ham = -em
-mouth = -meth
-wick = -ick
-borough = -bra (kind of)
Still confused? Lookie here - there's even a website that has sound files of people pronouncing words.
I should mention I had a bit of an argument about pronunciation once - another expat told me she would continue to say these words (including town/city/county names) however she wanted because she claimed it was her accent rather than a blatant mispronunciation, but I disagree strongly. I'm not saying that you should start saying al-loo-min-ee-um or to-mah-to, but in my opinion, Derbyshire, Berkshire, Southwark, etc are proper names of places in England and therefor should be said the proper way as determined by the people of England, not the way a "foreigner" thinks they should be said. (Attn: people who say Bear-ick Obama, pay attention to this rule!)
Happy Pronouncing! (oh and if you are moving to or new to Wales, may the force be with you)
*important to mention these pronunciations may vary slightly depending on the region to which you move. I live in the Home Counties, so keep that in mind.