Lyon or Lyons?
By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
In my post last week about George Sand I spelt the Balearic island under discussion “Majorca”, because that’s English style, but personally I prefer “Mallorca” – and indeed the Rough Guide spells it thus.
The spelling of place names is, I confess, something of a personal obsession, even if I tend to go with the flow. I’m not one of those people who refer to Firenze and Napoli (except in reference to the football team from that city), but I make an exception for Mallorca: the “j” sounds potentially ugly to me, while the double “l”, Spanish style, is unambiguous.
Does anyone still talk of Leghorn when mentioning the Italian port of Livorno? Admittedly it probably doesn’t get much discussed now, except in a Byron/Shelley context. And while we’re on the subject of Continental towns and cities, is there any sense in persisting with the redundant “s” on Lyon and Marseille – unless, that is, one wants to pronounce that s? Otherwise, what useful purpose is it serving? (The TLS had a contributor who used to pronounce Lyon like the plural of a pride of big cats, but I think that was an affectation.)
When it comes to Greece’s second city, I am immovable: not Salonica, or those halfway houses Thessalonica or Salonika, but Thessaloníki – not forgetting that stress on the fourth syllable.