Rude Britain

Posting on National Ice Cream Month and Day led me to a feature on the Mental Floss site on “10 Monty Pythonesque British Place Names” (by Virginia C. McGuire). It turns out that lists of rude British place names constitute a small genre of their own.

From Mental Floss:

Monty Python, the British comedy troupe famous for their ability to poke fun at their fellow Brits, could have had a field day with these real British place names.

1. CROTCH CRESCENT: This street name in Oxford sounds like some kind of fashion faux pas.

2. COCKNMOUTH CLOSE: I don’t think there’s a G-rated way to pronounce this street in Surrey.

3. SPANKER AVENUE: It would be hard to keep a straight face while giving directions to this street in Derbyshire.

4. TITTY HO: There’s nothing more hilarious than the double whammy of suggestive place names. This section of Wellingborough is almost as good as South America’s Lake Titicaca.

5. FANNY AVENUE: This street name in Derbyshire is certainly cheeky.

6. TWATT: There are two Scottish towns called Twatt, one in the Shetland Islands and one in the Orkney Islands.

7. LICKFOLD: This is in West Sussex. It’s embarrassing to even type it.

8. TICKLE COCK BRIDGE: When this pedestrian underpass in Castleford was rebuilt in 2008, there was an attempt to rename it “Tittle Cott Bridge,” but there was an outcry from locals and the original name was restored.

9. BUTT HOLE ROAD: We hope they never rename this street in Yorkshire.

10. SHITTERTON: This little town in Dorset is more than 1000 years old.

Most of these have known histories, and some are innocent. Twatt (#6), for instance,

originates from the Old Norse þveit, meaning ‘small parcel of land’. The Norse word commonly produces in England the place name element Thwaite. (link)

Others are not. Of Shitterton (#10), Wikipedia says primly:

It has attracted worldwide attention for its name, which dates back at least a thousand years and means “farmstead on the stream used as an open sewer”.

— which makes it clear that the initial element in the name is in fact shit.

Back on 1/23/09, Sarah Lyall took up rude British place names in the New York Times, in a feature “No Snickering: That Road Sign Means Something Else”. From Lyall’s piece:

In the scale of embarrassing place names, Crapstone ranks pretty high. But Britain is full of them. Some are mostly amusing, like Ugley, Essex; East Breast, in western Scotland; North Piddle, in Worcestershire; and Spanker Lane, in Derbyshire.

Others evoke images that may conflict with residents’ efforts to appear dignified when, for example, applying for jobs.

These include Crotch Crescent, Oxford; Titty Ho, Northamptonshire; Wetwang, East Yorkshire; Slutshole Lane, Norfolk; and Thong, Kent. And, in a country that delights in lavatory humor, particularly if the word “bottom” is involved, there is Pratts Bottom, in Kent, doubly cursed because “prat” is slang for buffoon.

As for Penistone, a thriving South Yorkshire town, just stop that sophomoric snickering.

“It’s pronounced ‘PENNIS-tun,’ ” Fiona Moran, manager of the Old Vicarage Hotel in Penistone, said over the telephone, rather sharply.

… “Sniggering at double entendres is a loved and time-honored tradition in this country,” Carol Midgley wrote in The Times of London. Ed Hurst, a co-author, with Rob Bailey, of “Rude Britain” and “Rude UK,” which list arguably offensive place names — some so arguably offensive that, unfortunately, they cannot be printed here — said that many such communities were established hundreds of years ago and that their names were not rude at the time.

Ah, the modest Gray Lady.

3 Responses to “Rude Britain”

  1. waltslocombe Says:

    There is, in Maine, near where I go in the summer, a genuine, not a joke, place called cowsh*t corners.” So it is not just in Britain that such names exist.

  2. chrishansenhome Says:

    Just on “Fanny Avenue”. Your comment suggests the US sense of “fanny” as “buttocks”. Here in the UK, “fanny” is actually a bit ruder as it means “c**t” with just a bit less force associated with it. My impression is that it’s slightly out-of-date, as “c**t” gets used quite a bit as a pejorative word for someone (male or female) you dislike intensely. I’m sure you’re aware of that, of course. The UK equivalent of US “fanny” is “bum”. Sorry about the asterisks but the unexpurgated word wouldn’t post.

    The name of a street on the other side of the Elephant from me is “Newington Butts”, which might be somewhat chuckle-inducing in the US. Here anyplace called “Butts” denotes a place where the king’s archers practised in between battles.

  3. Dialect notes for geeks | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] seems to be Mental Floss week on AZBlog: on the 28th, “Rude Britain” and “Ice cream […]

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