Mousehole memories

As you can see from the map, the village of Mousehole is due south of Penzance and is about 2.5 miles (4km) away. The name is pronounced ˈmaʊzl and is thought to be a reference to a cavern in the cliffs nearby. The original Cornish name is Porthenys (pronounced pərˈθenɪs), which means “island cove”.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about Mousehole here before , but what has prompted me this time is the discovery of an interesting short film about the place. It was made by The British Council and was released in 1943. The film is part of a large collection of films made by The British Council and can be viewed for free here. The village is not actually named in the film, but there is absolutely no doubt that it is Mousehole.

The British Council website looks very interesting, but I haven’t had time to investigate it thoroughly yet. Apart from the historical interest of what life was like in the 1940s in England, there is the added bonus that some of the narration for the films is in beautiful antique RP.

Map credit: Google Maps.

7 thoughts on “Mousehole memories

  1. Very beautiful, yes. Everything. –“The pictures on the windows show that the ways of fishing have changed little since Bible times”. Thank you.

  2. John, I am intrigued by the pronunciation of the Cornish name for Mousehole : “Porthenys (pronounced pərˈθenɪs)”. I had previously assumed from Cornish place names such as Porthcurno (Cornish: Porthkornow) that “Porth” was a semantic unit in Cornish (which I hypothesised as meaning “port”), in which case I would have expected the pronunciation of Porthenys to be /pɔː[r]θˈenɪs/, with the syllable break between /pɔː[r]θ/ and /enɪs/. However, the pronunciation that you give shows that not only is the /ɔː[r]/ of my putative pronunciation in fact a schwa, but, more importantly, that the syllable break occurs within “Porth” rather than after. Can you explain, please ?

  3. Philip,

    Your pronunciation pɔː(r)ˈθenɪs is perfectly correct, but not very Penwithian, if you see what I mean. In these parts unstressed initial one-syllable elements of place-names often have ə rather than a strong vowel. So, for example, Penzance is pronounced pənˈzaːns by the older natives of the area. The same sort of thing happens with bos, pol, porth, tre etc. So that explains why I wrote ə.

    The matter of the syllabification is a bit more troublesome. First, let’s be clear that I’m talking about syllabification of the phonological/phonetic form and not the splitting of the written form into syllables. I wrote the stress mark before the fricative because I reckon that the stressed syllable would capture the preceding consonant. Actually, for this word it doesn’t make much difference which syllable you think the θ belonɡs to. Secondly, there is no guarantee that morphemes and syllables are co-extensive, at least in English. Take the examples it is, it isn’t, at all, at any rate. Many speakers have a strongly aspirated t in these, suggesting that they are treating the plosive as syllable initial.

    Maybe I was being bloody-minded when I wrote pərˈθenɪs. pərθˈenɪs would do just as well.

  4. A beautiful example of antique RP!: a closer quality of /æ/ than in contemporary RP, many years to come before the occurrence of HAPPY tensing, occasional use of [ɾ] for intervocalic /r/, /hw/ for ‘wh’, etc.
    Thanks very much for the link!

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