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Surname Pronunciation



A small sample taken from Family Members using Facebook (2009). I asked them how our surname was pronounced locally to them within the Family using “sounds like” words for the two syllables of KEAR-VELL.


Thanks to all of you who took the trouble to reply to my query regarding your local pronunciation of our unique surname. Your answers did not reveal a definitive way that the surname is pronounced but, rather, confirmed that our surname pronunciation is a “right mix-up!”

Let's look at your responses by geographical location:-

South Australia

Hamish (Adelaide) – most family members use “CUR-BULL”.

Deborah (Adelaide) - “CUR-BULL” or “HEAR-BELL”.

Brenton (Adelaide) – says the family have always argued over how the surname should be pronounced. Some say “HEAR-BELL”, others “CUR-BULL” and others “CUR-BELL”. The consensus seems to be “CUR-BULL”, but Brenton himself uses “CUR-BELL”.

New Zealand

Steve (Morrinsville, North Island) comments how everybody hears different things from the same pronunciation. Phone messages, where nobody asks how the name is spelt, are good indicators and we end up with examples such as “CUR-VAL”, CUR-VILLE”, “CAR-VEL”. Locally he believes people pronounce the “EAR” part as in learn, pearl or earn. The “VELL” almost like there is no vowel and it sounds like shovel or like it could be spelt “VLE”. With softening of the vowels “VELL” could well sound like the “VULL”.


Susan (Blackburn, N.W. England)

Selena (Leeds, N.E. England)

Sarah (High Wycombe, Home Counties)

All of you reported that you use “HEAR-BELL” pronunciation. Amusingly, Selena says she corrects other people who say “CUR-BULL” or “KARE-VILL” - maybe they are correct....who knows? Sarah mentions that the only one in her branch of the family to use “CUR- VULL” is her Grandad!

Paul (Norwich, East Anglia) says he had always used the pronunciation “HEAR-BELL”, just as his mother did. Then when he was about 20 years old his dad's eldest brother asked him to collect his Sunday newspapers – for “Mr CUR-BULL”. His aunt also used the same pronunciation. Paul felt his dad had allowed him to mispronounce the name, without correcting him. A pronunciation that had clearly been handed down via his grandfather.


It is interesting that Paul mentions his mother's pronunciation being the softer sounding “HEAR-BELL”. This is not the first example I have come across where a female marrying into the family has changed the pronunciation.


Paul also mentions an interesting study by the renowned correspondent, Alistair Cook, where he looked at the records of many early USA town meetings and reckoned that the present-day American 'English' language was truer to what was spoken at the time of the founding of the colonies, than we now speak in England. By inference Paul believes that the family who emigrated 'Down Under' would have made sure they kept their surname as it was when they left the 'Old Country'.


The earliest family emigrant to Australia was Edward, a man born, bred and raised in Sussex, England. If you listen to the Sussex historical audio recordings (via the Links page of the Family Website) it is possible to believe that “CUR-BULL” would have been the likely local Sussex pronunciation.


Can we draw any conclusions from all these comments? Well, perhaps the younger members of our family seem more likely to use “HEAR-BELL”, whereas our grandparents (and before?) seem to have used “CUR-VULL”.


Final comment, just to turn the pronouncement debate on its head. On the family website is another audio recording (by Flora who served during WW2 in the Australian Land Army). I fully expected her name to be pronounced “CUR-VULL” but she was introduced by the reporter as “HEAR-BELL”!


What's our surname pronounced like in your branch of the Family?


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