Sunday, 16 May 2010

Oxfordshire Place Names

With a talk coming up in Oxfordshire this week, I thought I'd include a snippet from Oxfordshire Place Names which was published last year. If anyone reading this will be present at the talk I would be delighted to meet you.

Records of this name are found as Cyngestun in 976, Chingestune in 1086, and Kingeston Bagepuz in 1284. The basic name is found throughout England and is derived from the Old English cyning-tun or 'the king's manor or estate'. Here the addition is manorial, referring to the de Bagpuize family who held this place at the time of the Domesday survey in 1086.
Locals enjoying a glass in the Hinds Head are probably unaware this place is one of only two named such in the country. The male red deer, the stag or hart, has a number of pubs named after it but the hind, without the crown of antlers, is nevertheless a superb specimen and a fine choice for a name and an excellent image for the sign.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

A New Book and it's South Devon Place Names

With the publication of South Devon Place Names this week I now have 21 books on the shelves of 'all good bookstores' as the saying goes. The county of Devon is my favourite part of this country and a place I always wanted to write about. However it is such a large county with a multitude of places that it was impossible to do justice to the place in one book, hence it was split. The decision of where to draw the dividing line was not an easy one for the shape of and population densities of the county are concentrated in the south. Thus the line was drawn at something of an angle and based loosely on the administrative districts known as hundreds.

When selecting a sample I decided to look at one of the principal population centres and one of the most famous places in the county which will prove of interest on both sides of the Atlantic.

Plymouth Sound is the natural harbour which would have provided a safe location for the Pilgrim Fathers. The term 'Sound' comes from the Old English term sund which literally means 'swimming', not that it describes someone or something swimming but should be understood as meaning 'a passage by water'. This is clearly following the name of the city and gives us quite a trail to follow in order to define this name.
Plymouth stands 'at the mouth of the River Plym', as the name implies, so we need to find the meaning of the river name. However this is not the original river name but has been derived from one of two places on its banks - Plympton or Plymstock - this is a process known as 'back formation'. From here we go to Plymstock, which tells us it was 'the outlying farmstead associated with Plympton', which in turn describes 'the farmstead where plum trees grow'.

I can only hope those who read a copy derive as much pleasure from it as I did in researching, photographing and writing it. Should anyone require a copy I would be delighted to supply same (signed if desired) at significantly less than the retail price.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The excellent English language

Any writer has to have a love for language, personally I find individual words quite fascinating. Possibly more so alone than as a part of a sentence. English contains more words than any other language, is spoken by more than any (albeit not always as a first language) and is open to more errors than most.

Whilst looking for the more unusual words I ran across this little gem which does more to point out how wonderfully weird our language is.

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!