Another rave about the joys of words by Sandra Horn
I don’t know if there’s a word for the condition of being just a teeny bit obsessed with place names, but if there is, I’ve got it. It might have started somewhere around Oxford, when I first saw the sign reading Milton Chilton Didcot Wantage. Lovely, yumpty-tumpty rhythm. It makes me smile and shout it out every time we drive past it. In case you’re wondering, I have not been ejected from the car. Yet.
In contrast, in Laurie Lee country, there’s a sign at the end of a gloomy lane through overhanging trees which reads Cold Slad Only. It’s enough to strike chill into the stoutest heart. Who’d ever want to go there?
Up towards Basingstoke from here there is Nately Scours. It’s what a very rafeened lady might whisper to her doctor about an embarrassing nocturnal problem.
Somerset is a particularly rich source of these delights: Bishop’s Hull Within, Bishop’s Hull Without (what?); Nempnett Thrubwell (can one thrub badly?); Wumbrock (badgers?); Hammoon (wolves?); Ryme Intrinsica ( anglo-saxon verse form?); Withiel Florey (I don’t know. Have you seen ‘im?); Catcott Burtle (as opposed to ‘your tongue’?); Huish Champflower (ideas on a postcard, please). I could go on. And on. Idle thoughts of an idle mind.
It doesn’t stop there, though. There are road signs too. I can’t help it! I wish I lived in Plumyfeather or Shovelstrode or Land of Green Ginger. Maybe not Slugwash Lane, Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate, Squeeze Guts Alley, Minge Lane or Slappers Hill, though. As for No Name Street, how would the postman ever find it?
I thought I’d begun to get it under control a few months ago, but then – disaster! A shiny new book of road maps arrived because Niall has been in the AA since 1066 or something. There’s an index in the back... I should never have started reading it, but the spirit is weak. However, I didn’t just list all the intriguing or funny place names. Oh no. Being a creative type, I added some more mundane ones, organised them into verses and set them to music. It’s a WiP, but here’s the first part. It goes to the tune of Ravel’s Bolero, in case you didn’t get it straight away. Do try it!
Poole, Kelmscott, Bagshott, Theydon Bois, Cooper’s Green
Rowley, Weyhill, Jesmond Dean,
Ware, Milton, Chilton, Carbis Bay
Drum, Dippie, Duddon, Byker, Hay, Wray, Sway,
Calf of Man, Brough, Grimpo,
Wylie, Tiree, Sutton, Westward Ho! Clink, Whelpo, Wigwig, Wyke, Wick, Piddinghoe,
Low Biggins, Solva, Hull, Dicker, Trull
Prickwillow, Boghead, Pull, Wincle, Mull
Mavis Grind, Plush, Pegwell, Papworth, Parr, Cleator Moor,
Allaleigh, Stepaside, Send, Durdle Door.
Crewe, Box, Hassocks, Trossachs, Tresco, Splott, Herstmonceux,
Davidson’s Mains, Alloa, Ware, Solva, Sullom Voe,
Church Norton, Byker, Wetwang, Stiffkey, Virginstow,
That’s as far as it goes because I’m stuck on the rhythm leading to Dibden Purlieu. I’m not giving up, though.
PS as many of these have been collected as we whizz by in the car, I have no pictures of road or street signs with which to embellish this blog, I’m resorting to using book covers. Sorry.