July 7, 2020 3:12 PM   Subscribe

How place names reveal the history of the UK.
posted by Chrysostom (14 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
You see similar dynamics all over - for example, there are a number of Hudson Valley towns and regions with the -kill suffix, a remnant of the region's history as a Dutch settlement with the suffix meaning "stream".
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:08 PM on July 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Down here in Cornwall it's all Tre-, Pol- & Pen- prefixes on surnames.
posted by biffa at 4:24 PM on July 7, 2020

And indeed place names, since the name often goes with the location. As with Tresanton, Polperro and Penzance.
posted by biffa at 4:25 PM on July 7, 2020

At the bottom of the page, this link to the BBC goes into more detail.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:36 PM on July 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

I know I’ve seen an argument that a few rivermouth islands in Britain still have Phoenician place names.
posted by clew at 5:22 PM on July 7, 2020

Growing up in Thirlby we knew it was named "Thirl's place", and the neighbouring village was "Bolt's home". Past as present.
posted by anadem at 10:40 PM on July 7, 2020

Wembley (home of England's national stadium) is "Wemba's field" - "Wemba" being an old Norse name which means "Fatso".
posted by Cardinal Fang at 10:55 PM on July 7, 2020

In the vein of Terry Pratchett's Your Finger You Fool narrative, I've always liked the idea that a lot of British place names come from the original Ordnance Survey - someone is going about their daily business when an overdressed fool on an overfed horse turns up and demands that they identify local landmarks, in the name of the King. The answers they get might well be insulting or sarcastic. I like to think the canonical example is Liphook in Hampshire, where the best the surveyor could do was to describe the sneer they got in response.
posted by merlynkline at 1:00 AM on July 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

That also leads to redundant place names, usually where a local name gets a bit of visitor language name stuck on to it. See the Wikipedia list.
posted by biffa at 3:20 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'd be interested to see a much-expanded version of that article with many more examples - I do like the illustrative maps, although I wonder about the 'cwm' one: does it not include coombe (the Anglicized equivalent, as mentioned in the text)? Surely there are several coombe/combe/comb place-names in Somerset, Dorset & Devon etc., but one wouldn't think so based on that map.
posted by misteraitch at 3:27 AM on July 8, 2020

That also leads to redundant place names

Democratic is from Greek demos + kratos = power (= government) of the people.
Republic is from Latin respublica = affair(s) (= government) of the people.

So the 'Democratic People's Republic of Korea' is a triple tautology - it's the People's People's People's Government.

The bigger the lie, the louder the noise.

(A couple of Western leaders have also been embracing this principle recently, though that's for a number of already existing threads.)
posted by Cardinal Fang at 4:19 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Combe Valley Countryside Park really ought to appear in the list of tautological placenames.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 4:22 AM on July 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

One of my favourite books is The Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names - and I'd love to have equivalents for other countries. Place names are both fascinating as a record of the history of an area, and also incredibly evocative, in part because of that link.
posted by YoungStencil at 10:59 AM on July 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

More on her Instagram.
posted by MattWPBS at 8:00 AM on July 13, 2020

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