Sunday, 4 October 2009

First Review

Always nice to have a review and, whilst not all cannot be exactly what we'd like to see (see what is said about Black Country Ghosts on, any criticism should not be taken to heart. Firstly see it for exactly what it is, most of the time it is simply a statement of personal preference. Next check and see if you feel the criticism makes a valid point, if you don't agree forget it, if you do then you have someone who has helped you improve - and for free!

As I have a full week or three coming up, I shall reproduce some reviews I've had recently, a couple of which I would be delighted to see on a t-shirt!

Oxfordshire Place Names by Anthony Poulton-Smith
Amberley Publishing
£12.99, paperback (156 pages)
ISBN 978-1-84868-171-2

Anthony Poulton-Smith wears his learning lightly, making it very easy to read vast swathes of this book. But since it's organised as an alphabetical list of towns and villages it's easy to refer to as well.

Each entry includes previous versions of the place name, and what it means. This frequently leads into anecdotes, trivia and insights, linking the past and present. In many cases the spelling and indeed derivations seem to have reached their present form by a route as wiggly and convoluted as you'd take to reach the village in question.

I'm intrigued it's all Old or Middle English origins around here - no Roman or Viking words feature at all. Rich and powerful land owners from before the Norman invasion have changed but lingered on, and we frequently don't even know we're commemorating them. For larger places Poulton-Smith even goes into the more recent individuals who've donated their names to streets, and become fossilised into their old stomping grounds - William Morris, for example, and various mayors: although they're more recent, Allder, Eldridge, Kysbie and Spenlove are probably as unfamiliar now to most Abingdon residents as Aebba herself.

I would recommend this book as an ideal present for the curious, an invaluable aid for pub quiz and trivia-lovers and a stylish addition to any bookcase or glove compartment.

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