A POPULAR YouTube series has explained why so many people from outside Somerset find the name Frome so difficult to pronounce.

Frome – which is pronounced to rhyme with broom, not home – featured on comedian Jay Foreman’s YouTube channel as part of Map Men, a series he created with fellow comedian and former geography teacher Mark Cooper-Jones.

In the series, Jay and Mark “team up to talk about the world’s weirdest/funniest/interestingest maps”.

In a video published in December, ‘Why are British place names so hard to pronounce?’, Jay says: “British place names cause more trouble than most because they often look straightforward but contain nonsensical phonetic traps that are impossible to predict.”

He then encourages viewers to try and pronounce Frome, which is followed by Mark saying: “If you did say Frome (like home), you’re in good company.

"Frome is officially the most mispronounced place name in Britain – and that’s according to a proper survey.”

The research they are referring to comes from language app Babbel, which put Frome at number one in its list of the top 10 most difficult place names to say.

According to the Map Men, other place names commonly mispronounced are Beaulieu (Hampshire), Rampisham (Dorset), Mousehole (Cornwall), Towcester (Northamptonshire), Gotham (Nottinghamshire), Quernmore (Lancaster), and Alnwick (Northumberland).

“As you can hear, no letter of the English alphabet is safe from being pronounced any of dozens of different ways,” says Mark.

“The only way to be absolutely sure of pronouncing British place names correctly is to live here long enough to learn every single one of them one at a time. Sorry!”

The comedians then explain how the modern English language emerged from Celtic and several other languages brought to the British Isles by historic invaders, such as Germanic Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Norman French.

Over a long period of time, this mix of linguistic influences evolved into modern English.

“By looking at a map of Britain today, we can clearly see which invaders influenced our language where by plotting the origins of British place names,” says Mark.

For example, Roman Latin influenced modern place names ending ‘-caster’, ‘-cester’, ‘-chester’ or ‘-cetter/xeter’, which were likely forts – or ‘castras’ – under Roman rule.

But what about Frome?

“Unusually for a place name in England, Frome is from a surviving Celtic word: Frāmā, which means fair, fine or brisk, probably describing the flow of its lovely river,” said Mark.

Jay added: “It’s not really surprising that the oldest language in these islands is the one that’s drifted the furthest from pronounceability.” 

Celtic languages also contributed to place names containing ‘Aber’, ‘Tre’, ‘Loch’, and ‘Bryn’.

The Celtic origins of Frome’s name are considered “unusual” because much of southern England is dominated by names of Anglo-Saxon origin.

It is likely Frāmā came from an ancient Brythonic word, ‘ffraw’.

Ted Mentele of Babbel said: "British English is famous for some of the most confusing pronunciations on earth.

"The main reason that these are difficult to pronounce is that they're not spelled phonetically - there are a lot of silent letters and letters that are pronounced differently depending on where they are in the word.”

Paul Wynne, Frome Town Council clerk, said: "We're not a town that toes the line.

“Now, it seems that even the way we pronounce Frome is different too.

“Ours is the right way, obviously.

“We always know who is new to the town by the way they pronounce Frome.”

The Map Men video about British place names has been watched over 2.5 million times.

Jay’s YouTube channel has racked up more than 127 million views since he created it in April 2006.

He also creates videos for his two other YouTube series: Unfinished London and Politics Unboringed.