These are truly the salad days for fleet-footed full backs in the upper echelons of English football, with pressing upon pressing the current tactical vogue. After gaining promotion with Burnley in 2013/14, Kieran Trippier confirmed his Cafu capabilities despite his side’s eventual relegation. A move to Tottenham was inevitable, given their current tactical and personnel preferences.
Bury-born Trippier is a curious case in that his is not a complicated surname of exotic origin. Yet there is something of the spelling which doesn’t inspire absolute confidence in pundits and commentators. Specifically, it is that -ie suffix which seems initially straightforward but, on repeated readings and pronunciations, presents us with a linguistic challenge.
Before going any further, it must be confirmed that this is an English surname, a derivation of ‘triphydre’ or ‘trip herd’ which refers to the occupation of goat herding, examples of which can be traced back to the early 14th century, almost exclusively around the Lancashire county boundaries where Trippier and his family are from.
Given the phonological trait of the Greater Manchester accent to place emphasis on words ending in -er (think even about the pronunciation of the city itself), it seems fairly obvious that Trippier would follow suit, and surely does. However, recent commentary from John Motson where he insisted on pronouncing the surname’s suffix with a French-inflected -ay sound has cast doubt in my mind.
This name, while certainly English in derivation and regional to a fault, nevertheless carries an orthographical characteristic commonly seen in French occupational terms like ‘chocolatier’.
The change from ‘trip herd’ to ‘trippier’ is a product of the influence French played on English in the 150 or so years following the Norman Conquest in 1066. As French would have become the lingua franca among seats of power, so the recording of words such as occupational titles would have become standardised in a bastardised form of Anglo-French.
Rangers right-back James Tavernier is another example of the French influence on English – as a variation on the pure English ‘taverner’, the French -ie suffix changes the pronunciation from ‘err’ to ‘ay’. In this example, Tavernier takes the French pronunciation so why not pronounce Trippier in the same way? Clearly there is no consistency, hence why perhaps we seek consistency that is present in the form of French professionals that have come before, from well known figures such as Gerard Houillier to forgotten talents like William Prunier. In any case, there must have been precedent for Trippier to be pronounced according to its inherited French masculine noun ending. Perhaps John Motson has it right after all, as is occasionally the case (though typically in regard to statistics, not pronunciation).