Nothing wrong with snoozing in Snoring
One of the first things a visitor to Thailand is asked is probably what town they come from back home. My response of Reading invariably brings blank looks, so I usually add "just west of London" which admittedly doesn't make things any clearer. It would be nice if I came from a place that sounded a trifle more intriguing, such as the wonderful Nempnett Thrubwell in Somerset or Booby Dingle in Herefordshire.
My fondest names come from Norfolk, particularly the villages of Great Snoring and Little Snoring. One would think Thai officials transferred to inactive posts would find themselves quite at home in such a somnolent environment.
It was a very different matter in World War II however, when RAF Little Snoring, a most unwarlike name, became home to squadrons of bombers. In just two years of operation, from 1943-45, a dozen giant Lancaster bombers and 43 Mosquitos based at Little Snoring were lost while on missions. The village sign for Little Snoring depicts a Mosquito fighter-bomber flying above the airfield.
Close to these "Snoring" villages there is another place called Seething which prompted the local newspaper to come up with the splendid headline a few years ago "Little Snoring man marries Seething woman".
Birth of a sandwich
What brought on these idle thoughts about place names was last week's item concerning the juxtaposition of the names Ham and Sandwich on the Kent coast which prompted a number of comments. One reader suggested Ham and Sandwich should be twinned with the village of Toast in North Carolina, which is not a bad idea.
If you are wondering whether the town of Sandwich has anything to do with the popular food snack, the answer is "sort of". It is believed to have derived from the influential 18th century British statesman and 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montague. A rather unsavoury fellow, he was very fond of gambling, particularly playing cards. When he became hungry, not wanting to disrupt his card game by going to dinner, the Earl would order his valet to bring him beef in two slices of bread and eat at the card table. After a while his playing partners thought this was rather a good idea and began asking for "the same as Sandwich" during their sessions and thus the common "sandwich" was born.
There are certain village names that exemplify Britishness such as Bishop's Itchington in Warwickshire, although it admittedly could be mistaken for a skin complaint. Then there is the Oxfordshire village of Kingston Bagpuize which brings to mind kilted pipe bands.
Another wonderful name is the Yorkshire village of Wigtwizzle, which sounds like a character from a Charles Dickens novel. Yorkshire is replete with such whimsical names as Blubberhouses, Ugglebarnby and Crackpot. Just imagine explaining to people that you come from Crackpot. Mind you, it wouldn't be a bad conversation opener at a dinner party.
One place that has experienced its fair share of publicity is the Essex village of Ugley. Thousands of tourists line up every year to be photographed next to the sign of the Ugley Women's Institute.
Having an unusual place name can create a few problems. A Scottish hamlet near Aberdeen called Lost has long been popular with tourists because of its quaint name. However, the road signs were regularly being pilfered by visitors and many deliveries of goods never made it as the drivers could not find the place. Lost was well and truly lost.
Fed up with people looking for Lost, the local council in 2004 attempted to change the name to Lost Farm, which they felt would be less appealing to sign collectors. However, residents opposed this move as they liked living in Lost, not Lost Farm.
Eventually the council gave in but had to make special signs welded onto a pole and then embedded in concrete to thwart the sign stealers. Sadly there doesn't appear to be a place called Found that Lost can twin with.
A river runs through it
In Dorset there is a river that has a lot to answer for. In the 19th century along the banks of the River Piddle there emerged the villages of Tolpiddle, Alfpiddle and Piddletown. But in 1838 the inhabitants had got fed up with juvenile jokes at their expense and forced a name change of the settlements from Piddle to Puddle and so Tolpuddle, Alfpuddle and Puddletown were born. School history lessons would have definitely been a little more entertaining if we had learned about the role of the "Tolpiddle Martyrs", pioneers of the trade union movement.
As a teenager I had a newspaper round in an area known as Bugs Bottom and there were plenty of unidentifiable flying creatures buzzing around in the early morning. But there are many more exciting Bottoms which might prompt childish giggles. Yorkshire is really the place to go with Slack Bottom and the nearby villages of Slap Bottom and Margaret's Bottom. Then there is the Dorset village splendidly named Scratchy Bottom.
The curious names are never-ending. In Devon we have the village of Splatt, not to be confused with the Welsh hamlet of Splott. Surely they must be related?
Finally, a friend suggested a village in Gloucestershire would be an ideal place for Crutch to retire -- Old Sodbury.
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Bangkok Post columnist
A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.
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