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Tuesday, June 30, 1998 Published at 22:12 GMT 23:12 UK


You say Althorp and I say Altrup

Earl Spencer's handwritten note to the BBC

In the week that the late Princess Diana's home opens to the public, Althorp has remained a matter of controversy.

"It's definitely awltrup" - Graham Pointon of the BBC Pronunciation Unit
But not every controversy is about the memorial fund, the memorial museum, the gift shop, or the celebrity concert. There's also the little matter of the name Althorp.

Ever since Diana's tragic death, broadcasters and residents of Northamptonshire have been at odds over the issue. Locals say it should be pronounced as it is spelt.

But Diana's brother, Earl Spencer and estate landlord since the death of his father in 1992, insists it should be pronounced All-trup (phonetically written įwltrop).

Last September the BBC, BSkyB and ITN agreed that they should all refer to the estate as awlthorp on the basis that most people say the word as it is written. But the debate raged on.

Rebel without a clause

Even within the BBC, there is some debate about the issue, even though the Corporation has officially decided to use awlthorp.

The BBC Pronunciation Unit, acknowledged experts on their subject, favour pronouncing Althorp the Earl's way, arguing that since the estate belongs to him, he can call it whatever he chooses.

[ image: Althorp: centre of rendition row]
Althorp: centre of rendition row
"The only criterion we go by is what the owner of a name says," Graham Pointon, Pronunciation Adviser, told BBC News online.

"It's the same for Spencer as for anyone else. If you call your house by a name which is perhaps a little bit unusual then the way in which you pronounce it is correct. What your neighbours say is irrelevant. And in this case that's what we think about the estate."

Nevertheless, Nicholas Moss, the BBC Broadcast's Head of Policy Management insists that the Corporation's policy should be followed.

'Foreign visitors' to blame

Right or wrong, Earl Spencer himself confirmed awltrop as his favoured way to say the name of his family estate in a handwritten note to the Pronunciation Unit five years ago.

[ image: Spencer:  mispronouncing Althorp 'came out of laziness']
Spencer: mispronouncing Althorp 'came out of laziness'
In the note he said: "I can remember my grandfather pronouncing it like this; my octogenarian great-aunt does, too - and it is clear that alternative pronunciations only came about recently, out of laziness (it became simpler not to correct the many who mispronounced it - the majority of whom were foreign visitors to the house.)"

He went on to say that at school he gave up "the unequal struggle" and welcomed the chance to put things straight.

Perhaps the Earl should consider an additional exhibit to his estate museum - an audio-visual guide to pronunciation.

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