Friday, January 30, 2009

Only in England

In my limited, but something more than non-existent, experience most countries have place names that are, well, just names. Anchorage. Bonn. Cincinnati. In the US, I can think of only one (although I am sure there are more) that achieves any sort of novelty: Dunmovin, CA.

Having lived in Oxfordshire, England for seven years during the 80's and early 90's, this story put WayBack Machine near its redline: English place names shocking.
CRAPSTONE, England — When ordering things by telephone, Stewart Pearce tends to take a proactive approach to the inevitable question “What is your address?”

He lays it out straight, so there is no room for unpleasant confusion. “I say, ‘It’s spelled “crap,” as in crap,’ ” said Mr. Pearce, 61, who has lived in Crapstone, a one-shop country village in Devon, for decades.

In the scale of embarrassing place names, Crapstone ranks pretty high. But Britain is full of them. Some are mostly amusing, like Ugley, Essex; East Breast, in western Scotland; North Piddle, in Worcestershire; and Spanker Lane, in Derbyshire.

Others evoke images that may conflict with residents’ efforts to appear dignified when, for example, applying for jobs.

These include Crotch Crescent, Oxford; Titty Ho, Northamptonshire; Wetwang, East Yorkshire; Slutshole Lane, Norfolk; and Thong, Kent. And, in a country that delights in lavatory humor, particularly if the word “bottom” is involved, there is Pratts Bottom, in Kent, doubly cursed because “prat” is slang for buffoon.

As for Penistone, a thriving South Yorkshire town, just stop that sophomoric snickering.
I once lived in Duns Tew, and always wondered what kind of thing a Tew could be that would allow it to come in the varieties of Great, Little, and Duns.

Many village names are picturesquely descriptive: Ascott-under-Wychwood (where I also lived), and Hinton-under-the-Hedges. Even the most cynical have a tough time dodging a wave of pastoral bliss when hearing them.

The article omitted a couple of my favorites. Whether for reasons of space or decency, though, it is hard to say.

For instance, Upper Dicker in East Sussex.

Or, my favorite for scaring the uninitiated, Horton-cum-Studley. Which is where, at the village manor-turned-restaurant, this picture was taken 19 years ago:
I have occasionally wondered about the etymology, only to conclude some questions are perhaps best not answered.

3 Comments:

Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, seems qualified to run in that company.

My favorite place name, all time, is Torpenhow Hill, which is somewhere in England.

It translates as Hillhillhill Hill, commemorating the peoples that lived there over a few millenia.

January 30, 2009 8:55 PM  
Blogger Menelaus said...

When I was a hippy student I discovered the Rollright Stones just down the road form the Tews. Had to do the obvious, of course.

And one day at the Cropredy Festival across the county I found a road called "Cup and Saucer". No "Road" or "Street" - just "Cup and Saucer".

January 31, 2009 11:42 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Yes, street names can also provide rich pickings. In York there's a "Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate".

I was googling for the exact spelling of this when I found this page: http://www.thecareerbreaksite.com/fun/funny-names-places/funny-british-street-names.php

February 02, 2009 1:55 AM  

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