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You say Le-strayed, I say Le-strared

One of those relatively trivial things that has been known to have Sherlockians staring angrily at one another is the pronunciation of Lestrade.

Now you would think that the last word on the subject would be that of the author. We have it on impeccable authority from Arthur Conan Doyle's youngest daughter (the late Dame Jean) that he pronounced it Le-strayed.

Le-strayed and Le-strared aka Colin Jeavons and Dennis Hoey

Now you would think this would settle the debate. Far from it. I personally acknowledge that Le-strayed is correct but I admit to preferring Le-strared. In this I am not alone. For me, I just think that the latter pronunciation sounds more businesslike, more like a policeman.

Sir Arthur's sons Dennis and Adrian were alive in the 1940s and handled the negotiations with Universal for the Rathbone films. One presumes that they also knew how their father pronounced the name yet either they recalled it differently from their sister or they simply didn't consider it important enough to worry about with the result that the studio went its own way. Curiously the name was pronounced differently again by Arthur Wontner in his films of the early 1930s. It was closer to Le-strayed but he spoke it slightly more abruptly as if he were saying Le-stred.

Leaving pronunciation aside, the name is interesting. A glance at Ancestry.co.uk suggests that the name Lestrade did not really feature in the UK before 1900. All mention of the name in the 1800s appears to be in the United States and France - with most in the former. Once the name does start to appear in the UK it seems to be concentrated around London - which would perhaps make sense for a Scotland Yard detective.

One is compelled to wonder where Conan Doyle first came across the name. I wonder if the answer is already in a book somewhere?


Eliminate the Impossible is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.


For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .

1 comment:

  1. "Le-strared"? What a curious spelling of the other pronunciation.

    I've always thought of it as "Le-strayed" versus "Le-straad".

    Then again, I have that terrible Scottish habit of pronouncing "r"s where they're written and not putting them in where they're not ;)

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