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sábado, abril 21

Strange British place names

(A funny list read at Expats' Telegraph on February, 3rd)

You can't blame the residents of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in Wales for preferring to call their village Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, or Llanfairpwll. According to expert Adrian Room, this astonishing name (the longest in the UK, and one of the longest in the world) means something along the lines of "St Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the red cave" or "St Mary's by the white aspen over the whirlpool, and St Tysilio's Church by the red cave".


Fairly high on the list of embarrassing British place names is Crapstone in Devon. For a period it was the home of the young Christopher Hitchens, who wrote as an adult that he "yearned to move so that my school-mates would stop teasing me about it".


Indian Queens, a village in Cornwall, is believed to be named after an old inn which once stood in the area. Some locals like to say that the inn's name referred to Pocahontas, who is rumoured to have visited the area, and whose name has also been given to a street in the village.


Germansweek in Devon owes the first part of its name to the fact the church is dedicated to St Germanus, a fifth century missionary who once visited the south-west of England.


No-one knows how the northern village of Pity Me gained its name, though The Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names reckons it is a "a whimsical name bestowed in the 19th century on a place considered desolate, exposed or difficult to cultivate". Others say it could refer to a local legend about St Cuthbert, who cried "Pity me!" when monks accidentally dropped his coffin at the settlement on the way to Durham; or to a geographical feature, such as a lake.

Rather more cheerful-sounding than Pity Me is Giggleswick, a village in Yorkshire.That's actually a general consensus on the meaning behind this one: it probably means the "home or (dairy) farm of a man called Gikel or Gichel".

Another Yorkshire village, Crackpot might provoke a snigger, but the name actually long predates the use of the word to mean "crazy".

Also in Yorkshire is Blubberhouses, another village name which no-one quite knows the origin of. According to The Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names, however, it probably means "place at the houses by the bubbling spring".


The only English place name with an exclamation mark, Westward Ho! is a seaside village in Devon. The name derives from the 1855 novel of the same name by Charles Kingsley, which was set nearby, and was chosen to try and promote the area as a tourist destination.


There are various stories as to how Christmas Common in Oxfordshire got its name, but The Oxford Dictionary of Place Names says the most likely explanation is that it refers to a place where holly trees (traditionally associated with the festival) grow.


It's hard to think for more suitable names for a pair of sleepy rural villages than "Great Snoring" and "Little Snoring", which can be found in Norfolk. The word "Snoring" probably derives from a former inhabitant called Snear.


The Scottish village of Lost has such an attention-grabbing name that signs bearing its moniker are frequently stolen. At one point, the desperate council tried to change its name to Lost Farm, but the move was opposed by locals.


It may be more famous for scones and fudge, but Devon is also well-known for being the home of beer – well, a village called Beer at any rate. There's some division over where the name comes from, but it's probably linked to the Ango-Saxon beauru ("grove").

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