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What is the Correct Pronunciation of 'Berkshire?'

What is the Correct Pronunciation of 'Berkshire?'

by Chris Petry

I know what you’re thinking: you mean there’s more than one way to pronounce Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Stouffer Realty? Well, no, not really. The name is pronounced Berk-sherr Hathaway, not Berk-SHIRE. However, since the “shire” pronunciation is so ubiquitous, let’s take a few minutes to explain the proper pronunciation of the name and why it’s not pronounced that way.

As ambassadors of the brand, the sales agents and staff of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
Stouffer Realty try their absolute best to accurately inform the public of all aspects of the
company. After all, they represent a locally owned and operated business as well as an
internationally recognized franchise. So, while they too probably grew up rhyming shire with
wire or fire, we have to take into account that the name is far older than its local presence.

You might be aware that Fruit of the Loom is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. However,
textiles play a much earlier role in the formation of the current name than you think. The Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company was founded in Adams Massachusetts in 1889. They
merged with Oliver Chace’s Valley Falls Textile Manufacturing Company and rebranded as
Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates in 1929. In 1955 they merged with The Hathaway Manufacturing Company, becoming Berkshire Hathaway.

If you want to go even further back, we’ll need to skip across the pond to jolly old England. The
name Berkshire first appears in the 9 th century spelled Bearrocscir, the name of a particular type of forest inhabited by box trees. The root word is Bearroc, a Celtic word meaning “hilly.” Here’s where things get confusing. The historic English county that bears the name Berkshire is pronounced Bark-shur. Your dog was right all along.

When the name hops across the North Atlantic, Americans began pronouncing it phonetically,
which is to say how it’s spelled. This wouldn’t be the first time the recommended American
pronunciation varied from the original English one. After all, when’s the last time you wrapped
your food in al-ooh-men-ee-um foil?

The discrepancies are likely the result of a movement within American society in the late 18 th
and early 19th centuries to pronounce words and names as they appear in writing. It’s
speculated this was done to make English easier to learn for non-English speaking immigrants.
By the time the name is adopted by the textile company in 1889, Berk-sherr was cited as the
correct pronunciation stateside.

While one could argue for the merits of Berk-sherr or bark-shure, there’s no real historical basis
for berk-SHIRE. That seems to be mainly regional. As in the tristate area. Only 2.4% of
respondents on an online poll conducted by The Berkshire Eagle (published in Pittsfield,
Massachusetts) favored the Berk-SHIRE pronunciation.

Okay, so now that we’ve cleared that up…