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Two sides to this street

It’s a disagreement of medieval proportions

Tammy Thorne, National Post Published: Saturday, March 01, 2008

There is a street that crosses Roncesvalles called Geoffrey.

When you read that sentence, how did you say it in your head? You thought “Jeff-ree,” right? Well, according to any self-respecting Roncesvalles regular you would be wrong. The street is pronounced “Joff-ree” by district denizens. Why? That’s just how it is said.

“It really depends on who you talk to,” says Mike Foderick, who just bought a house on Geoffrey and has lived in the area for 25 years. “If I’m talking to someone who has lived here their whole life I say, ‘Joff-ree.’ The real estate agent said, ‘Joff-ree.’ “

The Toronto Transit Commission, however, isn’t sure what to say. When the TTC rolled out its system-wide automated announcements, we first heard “Jeff-ree” on the 504 King car. But one recent snowy night rumbling down Roncesvalles, the voice announced: “Next stop: Joff-ree.”

Danny Nicholson of the TTC’s marketing and public affairs department says they received a complaint after “Jeff-ree” was used, so they changed it to Joff-ree. There were more complaints. They changed it again. As of this week, it’s back to Joff-ree. “It seems that people want it both ways,” says Nicholson.

The street is named after the son of Walter O’Hara, an Irishman who fought in the Peninsular War. However, Joff-ree is the traditional Welsh pronunciation, not Irish. Professor David Klausner of the U of T Centre for Medieval Studies and department of English says, “The earliest versions of the name I know are Anglo-Norman. It became a popular name thanks to Geoffrey, or Godfrey of Boulogne who was a great medieval historical hero. For present-day, anyone using Goffrey would probably spell it Godfrey. But I doubt anyone uses a hard g any more, so the two options would be Jeffrey or Joffrey and neither one is more right or wrong than the other.”

The TTC recently completed an informal survey of 100 people in the area: 70% said they preferred Jeffree, 20% said they preferred Joff-ree and 10% said they didn’t care.