England is suffering through a record-setting heat spell. It’s been the driest July here in 247 years, and the papers are reporting that hundreds of people (mostly the elderly and the infirm) have died as a result of the heat — which has been in the mid to low 80s Fahrenheit. They’re simply not equipped for so much sun and such high temperatures here; many hotel rooms, flats, restaurants, and B&Bs aren’t air conditioned, and there are now reports that children are having to be hospitalized for sunburns. When we flew out of Phoenix to come here, the temperature there was something on the order of 114 degrees. It will be ironic if we end up dying from heat stroke here!
But, on another note:
I’ve been pondering English village names. North Piddle. Royal Wootton Bassett. Abbots Bromley. Crackpot. Upper Bleeding. Devil’s Lapful. Chipping Sodbury. Wickham Bishops. Chester-le-Street. Nether Wallop. And, just to make sure that everything is covered from A to, umm, Zed, there’s the market town of Ashby-de-la-Zouche.
As you drive around England, you begin to see how the place names reflect the various layers of settlement — e.g., Roman, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Dano-Norwegian, Norman, and so forth — that exist in virtually every town and in every shire. They invite you to a kind of linguistic archaeology. For instance, names ending in -chester, -caster, and -cester (e.g., Winchester, Dorchester, Lancaster, Gloucester, and Leicester, to say nothing of Chester itself), typically reflect the Latin castra, which indicates the presence of a historic Roman camp or fort.
I’ve thought that maybe there should be a contest to invent mythical but English-sounding place names. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really quite easy: Bishop’s Noodlebury, say, or Flipping Broadcaster, or . . . well, I just immediately thought of one that might be taken as a comment on recent academic politics at BYU, and of a variant of it that wouldn’t be entirely appropriate for a family blog, so I believe that I won’t mention either.
Anyway, perhaps the English Toponym Competition could be incorporated into the World Lutefisk Festival that my sons have always dreamed of starting up in Utah Valley (once the legal liabilities attendant upon consumption of improperly prepared lutefisk can be taken care of, or the relevant judges bribed).
Posted from Basingstoke, England