The Other I

April 26, 2013

Misinterpreting the obvious

Filed under: Just Stuff,The English — theotheri @ 8:01 pm

One of the things I find fascinating about living in Britain is the names of places.  It’s hardly unique that the names are often a short-hand for their location.  But what I find so endlessly surprising is that the short-hand so often goes back not just hundreds but thousands of years.

“Roman Hill” obviously got its name over a thousand years ago.  “Cathedral Close” is close to the cathedral,”Stocks Lane” suggests the ancient location of the stocks used to humiliate and punish recalcitrants.   The meanings of  “Boot Street,” “Cheese Place,” or “Westgate” might be obvious, but “Ludgate” is a little more elusive if one doesn’t know that Lud was an ancient Welsh god.

I assumed that our organic farm shop located on Bury Lane was among the obvious, and I asked our fish monger yesterday where the cemetery was – or at least had been.  He said that his knowledge went back no further than its long history as a fruit farm.

So I went to Wikipedia and discovered that “Bury” is an old English word for castle or stronghold, and is a precursor of the word borough.  Instead of looking for a cemetery, I should be looking for the castle.

So I think I must admit that my obvious interpretation of “Bury” was — ahem, are you ready for this? — dead wrong.



  1. Love your observation—you always keep me from taking myself too seriously! Many thanks, Caite


    Comment by caite — April 27, 2013 @ 6:54 pm | Reply

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