Main Menu
What's New
The Watford Pronunciation Guide
By Andy Barnard
Lesson one:

This is mainly for overseas Hornets, but could also be handy if you're teaching English as a Foreign Language or travelling the world. I was just thinking the other day about how foreigners sometimes mis-pronounce English words (not their fault - it's all because of the strange spelling). And suddenly a terrible thought occurred to me. What if there are some Hornets who can't pronounce "Watford" right?

Picture the scene. An internet Hornet from the back of beyond arrives at the Vic for his first ever live match. As an avid reader of the Watford mailing list and BSaD he's steeped in the town's and club's culture - he knows all the songs ever sung, he can list the top 20 hottest, coldest, worst, best, most violent, windiest, noisiest, quietest, etc. Watford matches ever played/postponed, he can recognise every single member of the squad including Colin Pluck, and can tell you exactly why Tommy Mooney and not Steve Palmer should be playing just in front of the defence.

But then he tries to get a chant going, and it all goes horribly wrong because he thinks the "Wat-" in Watford rhymes with "hat" and that the r in "-ford" should be rolled. It doesn't, and it shouldn't.

Those Hornets lucky enough to live in areas with decent BBC World Service reception can avoid this problem by tuning in to the classified football results and listening out for our result. Don't copy the BBC announcer exactly - instead imagine how he'd pronounce Watford if he didn't have a peg on his nose.

But even then that's only the standard-English pronunciation. Here's how to get the authentic Garston sound:

First of all the "Wat-" bit. Think about the sound of the o in OK or Coca Cola. It's really two sounds together - you get the same sound if you say "hot" and "cool" quickly and leave out the h, t, c and l. Try it - first "hot cool", then "-o- -oo-". Quicker now ("o-oo"), and you get a long o. But there's no long o in Watford - I just put that in to demonstrate how two sounds can go together to make one. For "Wat-", they go the other way round. Instead of "hot cool", try "cool hot". And then leave out the c, l, h and t. "-oo- -o-". Faster, "oo-o". A bit of practice and it's just one sound - that's how "Wat-" sounds in Watford. And don't forget to leave out the t.

And that's the difficult part out of the way. For the "-ford", all you have to do is leave out the o and the r. "-f-d" - it's a bit like the sound you'd get if you took a stick and used it to hit a big sack of flour. Say the "Wat-" and the "-ford" sounds in turn: "-oo-o-", "fd". Not too fast. You mustn't rush them - they are two separate sounds and you should take pride in each one. You can even take a (silent) half-breath in between them if you like. That is how Watford is supposed to be pronounced.

So now you know. Perhaps you also know the tune of the song "Amazing Grace" (also variously known as "One nil", "Two nil" etc). Well, instead of the normal words, repeat "Wat-ford" lots of times, to the tune of that song. When doing so, raise your right arm up in the air at a slight angle away from your head and point the finger next your thumb up to the sky. Then, each time you repeat "Wat-ford", point that finger at your audience in a slightly aggressive manner.

If you're away from England, teach this song (including the pronunciation, of course) to other people - it's guaranteed to lift your spirits, especially if you're thousands of miles from the Vic. It can be a great way of passing the time when you've only got strangers for company, like if you're on a long journey or have been kidnapped. It also makes for a great lesson for people who are learning English as a foreign language - I suggest teaching it right at the start of the course and getting the class to sing it every lesson. Explain that it's a traditional song of friendship (well it is, sort of) - entire villages in Indochina believe this and are looking forward to the day when they can try it out on visiting British dignitaries, tee hee.

A couple of other things. You never say "Hornets" after "Watford" - Americans please note, it's either one or the other. And the H, e and t in "Hornets" are silent. Pronounce them and your street-cred goes right out the window.

In Lesson Two we will learn how to pronounce "Elton", "John's" "Taylor-made", and "Army", plus another song.