"burg" - do you use it?

SuprunP

Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
‘Terrible, ain’t it, bein’ cooped up in a one–horse burg like this?’ answered Miss Thompson.
(W.S. Maugham; Rain)

- US informal a town or city
Collins English Dictionary

Do you use this word?

Thanks.
 
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I don't use it, but I am not American, so I don't think I count. I have certainly seen it used in American novels.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Do you use this word?
    Yes, indeed. "Burg" is a loan word from the German and many American towns (and cities) have "burg" as part of the name.

    Since German-speaking people were a large part of the early immigration to the United States, it follows that they brought many names of towns with them.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Miss Thomson is American. She's using the word 'burg' instead of saying 'town'. I imagine she's pronouncing it 'berg' because Americans frquently mispronounce burgh NB spelling) in British place names like berg when it should be pronounced like borough, burruh (and not burrow either)
    It's from old English or is it from old Norse, and is very common in British place names- Berwick, Bamburgh, Edinburgh or just Burgh.

    Burgh isn't used these days in modern BE instead of 'town', although the the word 'borough' is very common indeed for an administrative area.

    Hermione
     
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    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I haven't heard this word in ages. It was only used colloquially, never in formal conversation nor writing. I always thought it was a bit deprecatory. "One-horse burg" = small, insignificant, unexciting town.
     
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    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    My experience is the same as Cyberpedant's. It's an American colloquialism and rather old-fashioned. It was first used in this sense in the late 19th century and persisted into the first part of the 20th. I think I may have heard it in old movies.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Miss Thomson is American. She's using the word 'burg' instead of saying 'town'. I imagine she's pronouncing it 'berg' because Americans frquently mispronounce burgh NB spelling) in British place names like berg when it should be pronounced like borough, burruh (and not burrow either)
    It's from old English or is it from old Norse, and is very common in British place names- Berwick, Bamburgh, Edinburgh or just Burgh.
    According to the OED, the pronunciation of burg, even in British English, is "/bʊrg/ , /bʊəg/ , also /bɜːg/."

    From its first definition in that dictionary:

    Occasionally applied by historians to a fortress (borough n. 1) or a walled town (borough n. 2) of early and mediæval times, so as to exclude the later notions connected with burgh, borough.
    The first American use of the word (in the sense of "town") came about 90 years after the first British use in the above sense.

    I myself don't use the term for "town," but am very familiar with it from books, TV, and film.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    According to the OED, the pronunciation of burg, even in British English, is "/bʊrg/ , /bʊəg/ , also /bɜːg/."
    Yes, if we are using the word in a historical context. But in the familiar composite names such as Edinburgh and Bamburgh it is not pronounced -berg. I don't know about all town names especially when it stands alone - it all depends on how the locals pronounce it. I don't know when the last use of burg/burgh in the UK was. I have only seen it in a historical writing contexts when I'd expect it to be written burg in Italics or even with " -".

    The question was if we use it and the answer is no. I suspect that there might be more places with a burg inthe name in the USA than in the UK, where it seems to have developed into burgh. It's quite a long time since there was an influx of Germanic language speakers into Britain.

    Hermione
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Yes, if we are using the word in a historical context. But in the familiar composite names such as Edinburgh and Bamburgh it is not pronounced -berg. I don't know about all town names especially when it stands alone - it all depends on how the locals pronounce it. I don't know when the last use of burg/burgh in the UK was. I have only seen it in a historical writing contexts when I'd expect it to be written burg in Italics or even with " -".

    The question was if we use it and the answer is no. I suspect that there might be more places with a burg inthe name in the USA than in the UK, where it seems to have developed into burgh. It's quite a long time since there was an influx of Germanic language speakers into Britain.

    Hermione
    Pittsburgh is an interesting example (if you will permit the h) - named in honour of William Pitt and originally pronounced like the burgh in Edinburgh. That didn't last long, though :D
     

    frenchifried

    Senior Member
    English - UK/US
    I agree with cyberpedant and Parla. It is perhaps a little pejorative (sometimes affectionately so) and Somerset Maugham, who was British, uses it in just this sense. But I have heard it used in Brit.English, and I have certainly heard it used colloquially, in US and Canadian English. It's a good word. What's wrong with it?
     

    morzh

    Banned
    USA
    Russian
    In my part of the state probably half the towns' names end with "burg".
    Keansburg. Gettisburg. Hamburg.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Yes, if we are using the word in a historical context. But in the familiar composite names such as Edinburgh and Bamburgh it is not pronounced -berg. I don't know about all town names especially when it stands alone - it all depends on how the locals pronounce it. I don't know when the last use of burg/burgh in the UK was. I have only seen it in a historical writing contexts when I'd expect it to be written burg in Italics or even with " -".

    The question was if we use it and the answer is no. I suspect that there might be more places with a burg inthe name in the USA than in the UK, where it seems to have developed into burgh. It's quite a long time since there was an influx of Germanic language speakers into Britain.
    Scottish place names are a special story because burgh and borough merged relatively early (or maybe they never really split; I don't know; in ME they were just variants of the same word) and the spelling is like burgh and pronunciation like borough.

    In England, burgh is attested as a synonym of borough at least until the 19th century. Both words developed from OE burh. The pronunciation of burgh in the late 18th/early 19th century, when most of the traditional American place names ending in -burgh were coined was like berg in England as well (rhotic, of course). Pronouncing dictionaries of those days transcribe burgh as burg, similar to bird as burd or birth as burth.

    I agree with sdgraham (#4) that the spelling variant burg (without an h) is probably encountered so frequently in AE because of influence by place names of German origin.

    Place names in England derived from the OE burh usually end in -bury and not in -burgh in modern English because they are derived from the OE dative declension byriġ.
     
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    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    In Janet Evanovich's books about Stephanie Plum "the Burg" is used about the neighborhood where Stephanie grew up (Chambersburg, New Jersey, a part of Trenton now).
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    In Janet Evanovich's books about Stephanie Plum "the Burg" is used about the neighborhood where Stephanie grew up (Chambersburg, New Jersey, a part of Trenton now).
    Ah. Indeed. That is it, that is where I repeatedly read this! Love those books! I bet they are quite good for learning English, they certainly make me laugh.
     
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