For those who are fans of the Pogues, they will know the lyrics of this song are something like ‘ I met my love by the gas works wall, Dreamed a dream by the old canal, I kissed my girl by the factory wall, Dirty old town’ . Now I don’t think that town had a name but somehow I don’t think it was Bellavista, Beaumaris or anything remotely suggesting anything looking nice . Naming of towns isn’t driven by people ..having said that for new towns it perhaps is (we have a few of these new towns in the UK and these probably have had a committee or a focus group to name them).
Yes, unlike children whose parents spend many hours hours of researching popular names. Hopefully being sure that the trendy name you give your child is really what you intended and will survive the years without causing undue embarrassment in the playground or on the school bus. In our family at the time of great grandparents era we have at least one relative who was proudly named Fanny. Say no more..but trust me, it might be not so cool to be called that in North America, in the uk it really is decidedly awkward.
Its not just the names , another example is the regretful parent of David Ian McDonald when it came to initials being marked on schoolwear.
Generally speaking town names have just evolved from some simple geographic description or derivation from a Latin or Roman name from the past. This usually tends to work, but just occasionally you end up with some tidy and pleasant town or village having a name…well that makes it sound rather not so nice, or even having connotations of…well anything but the intended name.
In the UK we have numerous examples of these…I could probably name about 50 with ease…but in the interests of brevity, here is my top 5.
Snodland – as a child when being driven along the motorway and seeing the road sign, for this inoffensive Kent town , my childish brain and equally childish humour saw this as Snotland… causes much hilarity when you are aged 12!
Ramsbottom – include the name ‘bottom’ in any town name and immediately it opens itself up to some suggestion of toilet humour, add the word Ram and you have a sure fire winner. Ramsbotton does have a connection with Rams for sure being in North Pennine sheep country but that is where it ends . Not a bottom in sight and in facts it is a very friendly and bustling market town.
Seaton Sluice – the very name conjures up some kind of porcelain contraption with a not very pleasant function. Now I have never been to Seaton Sluice but I am told its actually a most appealing village on the Northumberland coast.
Grotton – the human brain seems to want to focus on the first four letters here and just think Grot! In reality Grotton is a very pleasant semi rural residential area to the east of Manchester bordering Saddleworth. Nothing grotty about Grotton.
Upperthong – yes, that is the name, not to be confused with nearby Netherthong. Not surprisingly Upperthong residents dread that moment when doing a telephone order for goods or services and being asked their address…. the responses they get back are inevitable and yes probably funny the first time, but I imagine it gets a bit tiresome after 10 years!