The name of the game

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION EUROPE - MARK MA­SON

Bri­tish pla­ce­names are so good you can read the map for en­ter­tain­ment rather than nav­i­ga­tion. Hard­ing­ton Man­dev­ille, Brad­ford Peverell, Carl­ton Scroop — they sound like char­ac­ters in a novel. In fact, PG Wode­house of­ten raided the at­las when writ­ing.

Lord Emsworth is named af­ter a town in Hampshire, while a vil­lage in the same county gave Regi­nald Ship­ton-Bellinger his sur­name. There’s plenty of silli­ness out there — Great Snor­ing in Nor­folk, Match­ing Tye in Es­sex, Fryup in York­shire. Some good old-fash­ioned smut, too: Lusty Glaze, Pant, Bell End and a couple of Twatts. Kent boasts a Thong and it’s only a mile or so from Shorne.

But enough of your snig­gers. Bri­tish pla­ce­names are ed­u­ca­tional, telling the his­tory of who was where, when.

Pen’ (as in Pen­zance) de­notes a Celtic set­tle­ment; it means “hill” (as does the Old English “dle’’ so Pendle Hill in Lan­cashire means “Hill Hill Hill”. Then the Ro­mans built their mil­i­tary camps or “cas­tra’’, so Bri­tain got Colch­ester, Le­ices­ter, Don­caster and the like.

Any name end­ing with “ton’’ or “ham’’ is prob­a­bly An­glo-Saxon — the for­mer meant “farm”, the lat­ter “home­stead”. There’s a Ham near Sand­wich in Kent, so a road sign point­ing to them both reads Ham Sand­wich, and is con­stantly be­ing nicked.

When the Vik­ings turned up, they used their own word for home­stead, “by”. Hence Whitby, Derby, Ashby and so on. Then Wil­liam the Con­queror gave land to his French mates, and Ashby got its de-laZouche, just as Leighton Buz­zard owes its name to Theobald de Busar rather than birds of prey.

A “ley’’ end­ing de­notes a meadow or clear­ing. The one set­tled by some­one called Wemba be­came Wem­b­ley, mean­ing foot­ball fans are right to chant it as three syl­la­bles.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.