Take me to the Hotel War Wick

I once stayed in Manhattan in the Hotel Warwick. The cab-driver who took me there didn’t understand where I said I wanted to go. When I showed him my confirmation, he said ‘Oh, the hotel War Wick’. And at the hotel, the staff also called it the ‘War Wick’, though of course the name was written Warwick.

This shouldn’t have surprised me. Warwick is one of many British place names whose spelling preserves a fossilized relic of an earlier pronunciation. If I tried to read the name without knowing its current British pronunciation, I too would pronounce it as ‘War Wick’ /’wɔːr.wɪk/, not as /ˈwɒ.rɪk/.

I have transcribed the British pronunciation as /ˈwɒ.rɪk/.
The Cambridge Dictionary transcribes it as /ˈwɒr.ɪk/. How to pronounce Warwick in English (cambridge.org)
But, to my untrained ear, the /r/ in the middle starts the 2nd syllable, rather than ending the 1st syllable.

In 3 respects, the British pronunciation differs from what the spelling implies:

  • the 1st vowel is pronounced short instead of long, and as a result also has a different quality (/ɒ/ instead of /ɔːr/)
  • no /w/ is pronounced at the onset of the 2nd syllable
  • the 2nd syllable is not stressed at all, whereas the spelling probably implies at least a secondary stress. (and if the name is pronounced as 2 separate words, they would probably carry almost equal stress)   

Incidentally, the Cambridge Dictionary gives the US pronunciation of Warwick as /ˈwɔːr.ɪk/. That is similar to the British pronunciation in the first two respects I mention above. Does this imply that US speakers might use something close to the British pronunciation for the English place name—even though they clearly use a different pronunciation for American names, such as the name of the hotel I stayed in.

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