Sunday, 27 September 2009
A Study of Place Names
Not being a prolific or overly successful author of fictional offerings, I have always been keen to improve my skills in that respect. It pays to have many strings to a bow and, as one J K Rowling will agree, being in the right place at the right time with a good idea well written can earn a pretty penny (at the very least!) On the subject of Ms Rowling and her Harry Potter phenomenon, I discovered a couple of names which may (or may not) have inspired her writings whilst I was researching my forthcoming book on Devon Place Names. It seems there is a place in Devon by the name of Butterbeare - for those who have not read the books (can't recall hearing it mentioned in the films) butterbeer is the delicious drink the young wizards enjoy in the pubs of the local village of Hogsmead. As a place name it puts together Old English bearu meaning 'grove' with butter and thus suggests a 'place of sweetest pasture by the woodland grove'. Was the delicious grassland mentioned by the place name the inspiration for the exquisite delights of the drink butterbeer? Whilst butterbeer might not be so well known, the wizard game of quidditch most certainly will be (and is certainly featured in the films.) As with the other example this place name is not quite as that used in the Harry Potter stories, for this place name is Quoditch. Here the Old English or Saxon tongue spoke of cwead meaning 'dung, filth' and hiwisc which describes 'land to support a family'. Together they must describes 'the dirty (or well-manured) land'. There is no suggestion that either of these place names were the inspiration, yet it does show how quite unrelated subjects can give ideas to a writer. Indeed whilst writing more on the subject of place names for my next manuscript, a typographical error produced a better name for an alien race than I could ever have thought up! Not revealing what it is, I might just write that blockbuster myself!