What’s in a (Place) Name?

WetwangI love a place name. When I was younger I always wanted to live in Ashby de la Zouch. Not only because it sounded so exotic but because it was where Adrian Mole lived. I also liked the idea of Cardigan. A friend of ours comes from Wool which Cardigan really ought to be twinned with.

My favourite place that I have lived in, in terms of name alone, is Splott (Cardiff). I also liked how some of the residents referred to it as ‘Splo’ despite the fact that a double T allows for no such pronunciation. I regretfully never lived in St Mellons.

Paying attention to such things, I believe that Bradford has the greatest concentration of good place names of anywhere. Within its city limits you will find such gems as Shelf, Idle, Stone Chair, Tong and Hipperholme.

Being a Northerner I do have a soft spot for typically northern place names – Mytholmroyd, Wetwang and Heckmondwyke I find particularly pleasing. On closer inspection of a map I find other wonderful names I had never heard of but sound splendid – Dobcross and Dibble near Oldham, Pott Shrigley near Macclesfield and Scrooby and Gringley on the Hill near Doncaster.

Pronunciations of place names can be tricky: Dodworth in Barnsley is ‘dodderth’, Keighley is ‘keethley’ and Slaithwaite in Huddersfield can be pronounced 3 ways: ‘slaythwate’, ‘slathwate’ and (somehow) ‘slow[as in cow]it’. I once heard a train announcer declare the train was pulling into “the town with 3 names”.

Never judge a place by its name. Names that sound idyllic may turn out to be far from it. I once visited a client at Bluebell Close, Clover Nook (Derby) which sounded lovely and turned out to be a horrible big industrial estate. It is for this reason I will never visit Laughton en le Morthern (Rotherham), Crystal Peaks (also Rotherham) or Sturton le Steeple (Retford). I fear the disappointment too much.

I’m sure there are loads more good ones – I’d love to know your favourites…

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4 thoughts on “What’s in a (Place) Name?

  1. John Pickford NEVER needs to know that you wrote about Wool in your blog, its refreshing to see an article about place names that doesnt mention Blubberhouses once.

  2. Don’t forget Splott is also often referred to as Lower Roath.

    Remember you can’t enforce your pronunciation rules on us Welshys. Take Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch for instance, the closest way to pronounce it is thlann vyre pooth gwinn gith gogg-erra kweern drobbooth lann tuss-ill-yo goggo gauk. Isn’t English a silly language? xXx

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