Standing innocently at a 'bus stop in West Oxford the other day, I was approached by someone whom I knew, from the way he bore himself, to be a North American. (Why is it that, despite the infinite variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds from which, e pluribus unum, they all derive, so many Americans who visit Old Europe seem to have acquired the same style of body language?) In the confident and laudably audible tones with which some visiting members of the Imperial Race tend to address us, the gentleman enquired where "M'gdall'n" street was. I probably looked nonplussed for a moment or two, because he repeated, and with even more admirable clarity, "M'gdall'n". Then the penny dropped: I expect most readers know that in Oxford and, I wouldn't be in the least surprised, Cambridge, "Magdalen" (as in S Mary Magdalen) is pronounced "Maudlin". (Even among those English not given to such arcane eccentricities, I suspect Magdalen is commonly pronounced Magd'l'n.) "Ah", I said, deferential as ever towards the Fellow Americans of the Obama, "I think you may mean Maudlin Street. Now; if you go straight down there ...".
He was having none of this. With the patient tolerance of one accustomed to handling untermenschen, he interrupted me. "No; it is definitely M'gdall'n Street. Look, guy [I loath being addressed as Guy], if you don't know, I can ask someone else". And with the consummate courtesy of a Rumsfeldt, he turned round and shimmied off.
In retrospect, I wished I had simply directed him to hurry down the Botley Road.