place-names


place-names
   To find the true origin and meaning of place-names requires access to early documents and familiarity with Old and Middle English dialects, but lack of these resources never stopped people devising explanations by relating names to real or imagined history, legend, or fanciful wordplay. There are hundreds such in every county, not only for towns and villages but for fields, woods, rocks, lakes, etc. Some draw on established story-patterns; others are mere puns and jokes.
   Village rivalry has led to many place-name rhymes which recur in various parts of England with differing but appropriate names. Thus:
   for riches, for poor,
   for a pretty girl, and for a whore.
   Taunts rhyming 'people' and 'steeple' are widespread, for example:
   Dirty Tredington, wooden steeple, Funny parson, wicked people.
   (Gloucestershire)
   Berwick is a dirty town, A church without a steeple,
   A dunghill before every door, And very deceitful people.
   (Northumberland)
   So are lists with insulting epithets:
   Beggarly Bisley, strutting Stroud, Mincing Hampton, Painswick proud.
(Gloucestershire)
   ■ Mary Williams, Folklore 74 (1963), 361-76; W. F. H. Nicolaisen, Folklore 87 (1976), 146-59. The latter uses Scottish examples, but sets out principles equally applicable to English material.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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