29 February 2012


Don't you think that place names are fascinating? Sometimes the reasons for a particular place or street name are very clear and well-documented. Sheffield for example is a field by the River Sheaf and England is the land of the Angles - Germanic invaders who arrived on these shores in the post Roman period. Before they came there were various tribal areas including Mercia and Norhumbria but the word "England" did not exist.

When we were on holiday in New Zealand we visited several places that drew their names from the English aristocracy - for example Auckland after Lord Auckland the patron and former commander of  William Hobson who was the governor of the country between 1840 and 1842. In fact our hotel in the city was on Hobson Street. Maori names tend to be descriptive. For example Whakarewarewa means "gathering place for the war parties of Wahiao". 

I'm getting too serious. This was meant to be a light-hearted post. I wonder how these genuine English place names were conceived -  Shitterton in Dorset, Cockup in Cumbria, Twatt in the Orkney Isles and Titty Hill in Sussex? Other countries can also claim memorable place names such as Muff in Ireland, Bald Knob in Arkansas USA and Cockburn in Western Australia.

And what about these genuine English street street names: Butt Hole Road, Bladder Lane, Titty-Ho, Fanny Hands Lane, Crotch Crescent, Squeeze Guts Alley and Shaggy Calf Lane?

Of course we can laugh at these bizarre names now but in the mists of time there were reasons for them. They were not affected modern choices made in committee rooms by politically correct planners but had logical roots in our earthy history. Modern street naming tends to be blander, safer as in Acacia Avenue or where one of my brothers used to live - Sweet Briar Close. How lovely! Would you rather live at that address or on Pope's Head Alley or perhaps Bummers Hill?
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  1. Sheffield's nearest thing to God, Richard Hawley, has an LP called Truelove's Gutter - apparently named after a real place in Sheffield with an interesting story.

  2. I don't know if we'll ever know the origins of some place names. I grew up in Dukinfield and was told that it came from Daken Feld of Field of the Raven. The more prosaic explanation is that it has the origins you'd expect, ie ducks in a field!

    Your post reminds me of an old rag mag joke about people miming place names. I can't recall the punchline, but I know it involved Cockermouth.

  3. I love all those quirky names - the funny ones as well as the picturesque ones though I don'tknow whether I'd like to live at an address like we saw in one English village - Back Passage!! Of course it was the street running across the hill not far from the High Street and the market and may have been just descriptive?!
    Aussie names tend to be like those in NZ - they either have their roots in foreign countries reflecting our roots ( Brisbane after Gov Brisbane ) or they are from Aboriginal languages(Indooroopilly )

  4. PS. You never did mention what camera you ended up buying and if you are happy with it.

  5. I always like the street in York
    "whip ma whop ma gate"

  6. I've walked through squeezybellyalley....

  7. BRIAN Apparently the gutter in question led to the River Don and it was where a certain businessman called Mr Truelove would push his rubbish.
    SHOOTING PARROTS According to Nelly Openshaw and Devine Kelly who can be found most evenings loitering close to Edgeley Park, Stockport you sir are fond of Cockermouth.
    HELEN No new camera yet. I want the Nikon d3100 but owing to floods last year in Thailand this particular model is pretty much unavailable in GB just now.
    EARL GRAY I bet you thought that York street name was in instruction!
    LIBBY I thought Squeeze Belly Alley was how prudish young mums referred to the anus!

  8. I always intended to visit certain English places because of their names, but usually found even more delightful places en route and got sidetracked...
    It's looking increasingly like from mid April next year I'll be able to get side-tracked again in the top half of the world. Can hardly wait.

  9. We have Pig Turd Alley in nearby Sutter Creek, CA. I much prefer it to the "modern" developments and their streets, which always require the name of a tree, a geographic landmark, an animal, or something similar, even though all these things were wiped out by the development. The very latest thing though, is to name a development after the farmer or rancher who sold out. So we have Brookfield Ranch, etc. That name looks stupid on the entrance to an area where houses are so close together people can't even keep track of their own cockroaches.

  10. KATHERINE Looking forward to seeing you in England already. I will locate a nice bridle path for us to walk down.
    JAN BLAWAT Pleased to deduce that you CAN keep track of your cockroaches. Come to think of it, Cockroach Close would be a great name for a street on a new housing development. Those houses would surely sell like hot cakes. Was Pig Turd the name of a famous cowboy or something? Perhaps he was once the mayor of Sutter Creek.

  11. Suffice it to say one shudders to think....

  12. My bad...Pig Turd Alley is in Amador City, not Sutter Creek. I think people pay extra for houses on that street just to have a distinctive address. We don't have cockroaches in Sloughhouse. The first one I ever saw in person? I was 50 years old and it was at a restaurant. running across the table. But I do have a container of mealworms growing on top of my refrigerator? Does that qualify me as a country hick?


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