Wor-ces-ter-shire? Wo-chess-tershire? Wer-ches-ter?
We definitely put “Worcestershire” on our list of the hardest words in the English language to pronounce. The Worcestershire pronunciation is definitely tricky. But where does the word even come from? Worcestershire sauce is named after the place it was first commercialized in Europe, also called Worcestershire. You may have noticed that a lot of places in Britain have the ending “shire“, a word synonymous with American English’s “county”. Worcester, England, located about two hours north of London, is a historic town, but it’s most famous for its primary invention, Worcestershire sauce.
Where did Worcestershire sauce come from?
Worcestershire sauce is a unique blend of soy, vinegar, garlic, and a handful of other ingredients depending on who is manufacturing it. It’s used in recipes ranging from marinades for your steak to the perfect Bloody Mary. The delicious and diversely used sauce first went on sale in 1837 after it was produced by two chemists, John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins, in the small community of Worcestershire. After an order was placed for a specific blend based on an existing sauce already used in India, the chemists reportedly put some aside for themselves but, disliking the initial pungent aroma, stored it in their basement and promptly forgot about it. Learn about the surprising birthplaces of more of your favorite foods here.
Years later, they came across their concoction and tried it, immediately deciding to bottle it up and sell it. The sauce did incredibly well, even spawning copy-cat attempts all over Worcestershire. Lea & Perrins keep the recipes used in Europe and the U.S. (they’re quite different!) completely secret, but recently the original recipe used by the chemists was found and included fish, pickles, peppers, and a whole variety of spices. No wonder the dish didn’t do well at first smell!
How to pronounce “Worcestershire”
The sauce, while based on a recipe used in India, did not grow popular in the west until marketed by Lea and Perrins. As such, it has retained the name they gave the sauce, “Worcestershire.” But for those of us who didn’t grow up in the UK, we may run into trouble with the Worcestershire pronunciation. (Although anyone from Worcester, Massachusetts, definitely has a leg up on us with the Worcestershire pronunciation.) According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, skip pronouncing the first “r” altogether, and the “ce” while you’re at it, and barely say the second “r”. Start the word off by saying “Wooster” and then finish off with the British “shire.” Woostershire. Still confused? Listen to this audio clip by PronunciationLexicon to hear someone say it properly! Worcestershire isn’t the only county you’re mispronouncing, and these place names you’re pronouncing wrong are a bit closer to home.