You say ‘Harrowgate’, I say ‘Harrogut’, lets call the whole thing off: Debate over how to pronounce Harrogate goes viral

Montpellier Hill in Harrogate. (1407151AM2)
Montpellier Hill in Harrogate. (1407151AM2)

A debate over how to correctly pronounce Harrogate has gone viral, reaching more than 18,000 people on the Harrogate Advertiser’s Facebook page and attracting more than 200 comments and 80 ‘likes’.

What started as a light-hearted argument in the newsroom, soon turned into a heated debate on social media as residents argued their case over whether it is pronounced ‘Harrowgate’ or ‘Harrogut’.

A 24-hour Twitter poll attracted 108 votes and it was neck-and-neck, with ‘Harrogut’ just edging out in front with 53 per cent of the votes.

@hkseal tweeted: “This will be interesting - our family, all born and bred in Harrogate, are probably split 50/50 on this.”

On Facebook opinion was also divided and it was impossible to pick a clear favourite.

It soon became clear how strongly people felt about the name of their town, with comments ranging from the vociferous to the humorous.

Karen Smith said: “Harrogut when you are here but Harrogate when you go outside of Harrogate in order to sound posh and impress people.”

And Trevor Broadbank agreed: “When in Harrogate it’s “harruh-gutt”, or perhaps “arrur-get”; whilst speaking in other towns however it is “harrow-gate”, to let them know we are next level.”

While Darren Higham took a more serious approach, commenting: “It’s always been Harrogut in the 32 years I’ve been here, in my experience. I have nothing further to add to this conversation.”

And Joe Wallace posted: “Pronunciation is open to interpretation. Worry over bigger things than how you say something.”

Some had really thought it through, with Jacob Thrall saying: “The whole “it’s spelled ‘gate’ so that’s how it’s pronounced” thing is pretty daft. That’s not how language works and really, everyone knows it. Knaresborough, for example, is not “K-nah-ress-bow-row-ug-huh”, is it?! Depending on context, every vowel can be said without stress and become, effectively, “uh”. Spelling tells us about the origins and history of words, not how exactly to pronounce them.

“Folk from Harrogate tend to say “Harrigut” - or rather “Harrig’t”, with no obvious shape to the vowel - most of the time...except for when they stop to think about it (whenever this debate comes up!), then some say Harragait. Nobody ever really says “Harrowgait”, with equal stress on each syllable.”

And there was even a history lesson on the origin of the town’s name: “The Viking place name for Harrogate is: ‘Place at the road to the cairn’ (heap of stones). The Viking name for street is Gata which over the years has been spelled Gate but it doesn’t ryme with ‘ate’ So Kirkgate = Church Street and is not Church ‘gate’. IMHO it’s pronounced Harra-ge(r)t. For instance in Leeds the road to Harrogate is the Harra-ge(r)t Road. Perhaps it’s newcomers who want to ‘posh it up’ a bit and as they don’t like the historical local pronunciation in the Yorkshire/Viking dialect. Just saying!”, wrote Leslie Appleyard.

Some have just given up entirely: “Say Harrow-gate you get a ooooooo you must be posh. You say it missing the H or replacing the O with an I or replacing the A with a U you get accused of thinking your solid, you can’t win. Thinking about it though I tend to say Harri-gate,” said Josh Peel.

Ultimately it appears that there is no definitive answer, but if the debate has highlighted anything, it is that residents are proud of their town - no matter how it’s pronounced.