Friday, 11 March 2016

steeple bumpstead and chignal smeally

The always marvellous Nag on the Lake poses the question why many British toponyms are so odd, eliciting sniggering or a blush but also some really fascinating history of occupation, migration and conquest.
A Sunday drive through the Midlands connecting Wednesbury, Newton Burgoland and Ashby-de-la-Zouch also conveys one through ages from the Celts, the Romans, the arrival of the Scandinavians, through to Norman times. Despite all the diverse influences and upheavals, these place names are retain a certain Englishness whether or not original rooted in that language, which is just as adaptive and with the same pedigree. Many others, of course, are later Anglicisations of places on the peripheries of the isle. I recall when we were travelling in County Cork passing through a fine and picturesque village called in Irish Béal Átha Leice (meaning the flat stone at the mouth of the bay) which was unfortunately transliterated as Ballylickey on the road signs. There is also a fun, interactive map that gives select etymologies of England’s town and villages.