Anglo Saxon, Bertie Wooster, Bloody Mary, Caesar Salad, cooking, Jeeves, Language, Latin, Lea and Perrins, Old English, Welsh Rarebit or Oysters Kirkpatrick, Worcester Source, Worcestershire Source, Words
Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” However he died before another certainty, the inability of nearly everyone not from the UK in pronouncing Worcestershire Source.
It is something that is well known, ‘The Simpsons’ ‘The King of Queens’ and even ‘The Big Bang Theory’ have all made light of it, but it isn’t just Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and even an Irish TV chef have problems with it.
This last week ‘Wrestling with Wregret’ star Brian Zane made light of his own problems saying Worcestershire in a Cooking Segment.
Worcestershire Source was invented in the West Midlands town of Worcester, England, by two chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins trying to make a long life anchovy source. It was one of several mixtures that the two came up with, but at first they were not happy with the result it was far too sharp and tart, so they carried on the experimenting.
Over a year later they found the barrel they had made and again tasted it. After 18 months of fermentation it had mellowed and it was this that became the product we know today. They decided to name it after the Shire where they came from. Shire is an Anglo-Saxon word for a division of land, in England a Shire is an ancient County that was never a Kingdom in it’s own right.
In 1837 Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Source was first marketed. It is still the market leader today and made to the same 1830s recipe which is kept secret.
However Lea and Perrins didn’t have it all their own way, in 1876 a court decided that they didn’t have the rights to the name Worcestershire Source so they could not trademark it. Their product is actually called ‘Lea and Perrins Original Worcestershire Source’. This gives those who can’t pronounce it an out. Just call it Lea and Perrins, this does mean that there are now many varieties of Worcestershire Source, and the recipe varies.
It is impossible to have a real Caesar Salad, Bloody Mary, Welsh Rarebit or Oysters Kirkpatrick with out it and it is used in Japanese, Indian, Bangladeshi, Mexican, American and cuisine from around the world.
As for how it is pronounced, well like many place names in England it isn’t pronounced anything like it is written. It’s a derivation of an old English name ‘Weorgoran’ meaning people of the winding river and the Latin word ‘Ceaster’ meaning camp. Over the centuries ‘Weorgoran Ceaster’ was contracted to Worcester. So you have a word that is part Old English and part Latin written in Modern English characters. Then you tag the Anglo Saxon word Shire on the end and no wonder people have problems.
Worcester it pronounced Woo Stir. In fact it’s pronounced the same way as the fictional character Bertie Wooster pronounces his last name. Shire in this case is normally pronounced Shear as in chopping wool from a sheep.
Although most of the time Shire is dropped. It is perfectly acceptable to say it as Wooster Source. So next time just imagine Jeeves the butler making a Bloody Mary and using Lea and Perrins source that is pronounced the same way as his master’s last name, and you should be fine.