Sandi Toksvig's mispronounces River Deben on Extraordinary Escapes

Sandi Toksvig and Alison Steadman take a trip to Moat Cottage on the Wilderness Reserve in Suffolk a

Sandi Toksvig called the River Deben 'the Deb-On' on her new Channel 4 travel show this week and there have been calls for TV companies to check facts before broadcast - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown 2020

When is the River Deben known as the Deb-on? When it is featured on Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig, a Channel 4 travel show supposedly celebrating everything that is wonderful about Suffolk.

Charlie Haylock, the Suffolk dialect coach who worked with Ralph Fiennes on the Netflix feature film The Dig, helping him perfect his Suffolk accent to play archaeologist Basil Brown, said that the mispronunciation of Suffolk names happens far too often on television broadcasts.

“All it takes is a little research,” said Charlie. “If you are going somewhere you don’t know, particularly when making a travel programme, you would think that you would make the effort to find out what the places are called?

Suffolk dialect expert Charlie Haylock. A report about Suffolk dialect attracted a lot of interest o

Suffolk dialect expert Charlie Haylock was unimpressed by Sandi Toksvig's mispronunciation of The River Deben on her new Channel 4 travel show - Credit: Friends of Thurston Library

“If I was Sandi Toksvig I would have a go at the researchers because quite frankly their lack of attention to detail has left her looking rather stupid – particularly when she presents a show like QI which is all about getting facts right.”

The new Channel 4 show featured Sandi Toksvig and friend Alison Steadman travelling to some beautiful, half-forgotten corners of Suffolk looking for engaging staycation spots. They found themselves a Martello Tower which has been transformed into a cosy home, a moated manor house that described itself as a cottage and an 11th century gatehouse guarding the entrance to Butley Priory.

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Charlie has a theory how the pronunciation faux pas occurred. “I know what happened. They were taking about Debenham and they said that the source of the river was located at Debenham, so they automatically assumed that the river was called The Deb-on.

“Who knows what they would have said if they got to visit Grundisburgh or went into Norfolk and wanted to visit Happisburgh? I know that language evolves and names change over time.

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"Once upon a time Kesgrave was known as Kesgruf and was spelt with an f but it changed over time. Blythburgh was originally had a soft ‘th’ and Nowton just outside Bury St Edmunds was until recently No-ton. But, the pronunciation has changed over time. What they did on Extraordinary Escapes… was simply to get it wrong.

“Next time show us a little respect and find out what these marvellous places are called. Sutton Hoo sits on the banks of the River Deben, so it’s very important to get it right.”

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