NAUGHTY NAMES.

I’ve been posting a lot of Deep Thoughts lately, so I’m glad to take the opportunity to turn to the lighter side of language with a NY Times article by Sarah Lyall called “No Snickering: That Road Sign Means Something Else,” about “embarrassing place names” in Britain: “These include Crotch Crescent, Oxford; Titty Ho, Northamptonshire; Wetwang, East Yorkshire; Slutshole Lane, Norfolk; and Thong, Kent.” An anecdote:

Mr. Bailey, who grew up on Tumbledown Dick Road in Oxfordshire, and Mr. Hurst got the idea for the books when they read about a couple who bought a house on Butt Hole Road, in South Yorkshire.
The name most likely has to do with the spot’s historic function as a source of water, a water butt being a container for collecting water. But it proved to be prohibitively hilarious.
“If they ordered a pizza, the pizza company wouldn’t deliver it, because they thought it was a made-up name,” Mr. Hurst said. “People would stand in front of the sign, pull down their trousers and take pictures of each other’s naked buttocks.”
The couple moved away.

(Thanks, Bonnie!)

Comments

  1. I went to a wedding near Ugley in Essex a while back, and the cab driver said that the local joke was that Ugley women marry Nasty men — Nasty being about 10 miles from Ugley.

  2. During my college student days in Hawai‘i, I lived for a semester or so in a rundown household on Poopoo Place in otherwise rather posh Lanikai on the windward side of O‘ahu. A visitor once asked me where to find a particular address on that street (pronounced as you might expect) and I managed not to snicker until he had departed. Nowadays, the street sign probably spells it Po‘opo‘o Place, the better to indicate its pronunciation in Hawaiian. (I apologize for the excessively scrupulous insertion of glottals in the more familiar names.)

  3. Isn’t the title of that story a bit off-colour itself? When I read it, I wondered if it should have said ‘sniggering’, as ‘snickering’ sounds like something potentially rude one does with a Snickers bar.

  4. marie-lucie says:

    Newfoundland is full of such names, that people are very proud of. Look at a map of Newfoundland.

  5. There used to be a standard joke in South Dakota about the answer to the question always asked of graduating seniors, “Which university will you be attending?” Pukwana, S.D. was also a popular location for seminars, as everyone wanted to be able to say they had gone there.

  6. komfo,amonan says:

    Does anyone know of such places outside of Anglophonia, places whose names are snickerworthy now in the local language but weren’t when they were named? I propose ‘tittyho‘ as a word for such toponyms.

  7. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks, Nijma, but you need a much more detailed map for the most interesting names, which tend to belong to tiny little places.

  8. This one isn’t exactly naughty, and not an actual placename, but certainly good for a double take, and I’m pretty sure the people that came up with it where very aware of that:
    There was (possibly still is) a night club catering to expatriate Israelis which called itself HaMakom–which is Hebrew for “The Place”. However, HaMakom is also a title for the Deity in traditional usage (usually rendered into English as “the All-Present” or “the Omnipresent”), a compression of “The Place of the Universe” ["He has no place but He is the Place of the Universe.]
    Hebrew being Hebrew, such things are probably unavoidable. The Israeli army used to have a tank which it called the “Merkavah”, or Chariot; perfectly reasonable in itself. However, the term Merkavah has over the centuries been linked to one particular Chariot, and the school of mysticism which was predominant in the early centuries of the Common Era–the one described in Ezekiel 1.

  9. “Whaka” in Maaori is a very common component of place-names and is effectively indistinguishable from a non-rhotic “fucker”, so pronouncing it correctly tends to bring on the snickers. Occasionally there’s an aptness to it, as in the fact that “whakapapa” means “family tree”. Of course, Maaori is fond of toponyms that don’t sound remotely risible until translated – I live near Dogshit river, and one of the remaining bastions of Maaori as FL is in the Burnt Penis national park. There is also at least one town called Big Penis.

  10. m-l is such a tease. She is so proper though, I doubt if we will ever be enlightened.

  11. The world class Petra monument in Jordan has the zibb pharon and zibb attuf (photo) (photo) (photos), the word zibb being politely described as a bedouin word for phallus.
    The Arabic language does not have the letter p. While conversing in the back of a taxi with another American, I once stopped the Arabic conversation in the front seat cold by using the phrase “zip squat” in English. Oopsie. I never did discover the Arabic word for “zipper”.

  12. dp: The imitative words snicker and snigger are synonyms, though perhaps snigger is less used in the U.S. in recent years, maybe due to what happens if you remove the initial s. The candy bar is named after a horse; I don’t know what the horse was named after.

  13. michael farris says:

    The candy bar [snickers] is named after a horse; I don’t know what the horse was named after”
    Something Dravidian, no doubt, perhaps ‘sneha’ = friend?

  14. Then of course there’s Gropecunt Lane. (Is that Dravidian too?)

  15. The name Newfoundland itself was put to good use by John Donne in his poem “To his mistress going to bed”.
    There’s always Condom, of course, in South West France, whose name sign regularly gets stolen by British vistors. Although the word condom exists in French, I don’t get the impression that it’s much used. The word that is used, préservatif, is a false friend that causes some ribaldry when used by foreigners under the impression that it means the same as the English word that it resembles.

  16. The best fun to be had with toponyms is Douglas Adams and John Lloyd’s The Meaning of Liff.

  17. At least it isn’t Svaginahorpe.
    ‘Member’ – There’s even a song, but Youtube doesn’t have it.
    ‘Colon’/’Intestine’ – Yes, you can combine the two.

  18. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Although the word condom exists in French, I don’t get the impression that it’s much used.
    It’s because they’re Catholics.

  19. I was brought up in Varkaus, a small town in Eastern Finland, the name of which means “Theft”.

  20. And while we are at it: in Varkaus there is a lake called Siitinselkä, siitin being the official word for “penis”. (The word “selkä” means actually “back”, but it is often used metaphorically for wide stretches of water, lakes, high seas and so on.) However, “siitin” is a recent, learned coinage, and hardly related to the placename.

  21. I read the linked article by the way, and I wonder what actually is wrong or funny about “Wetwang”. I seem to recall it from Tolkien (who, as is well known, made commendable use of lesser-known English place-names in his Middle-earth nomenclature), and I never associated it with anything else than the Icelandic word vettvangur (scene, milieu, forum).

  22. Damn it, marie-lucie! I read this post via Google Reader and gleefully clicked through so I could leave a comment about Newfoundland. But you beat me to it. I was so looking forward to being the one who showed them Canada’s very own Dildo. Oh, how they would love me!

  23. By the way, what’s wrong with “Pukwana”?

  24. There’s a spa town not far from here called Smrdáky = “stinky place”, based on the characteristic odour emanating from the town’s sulphur springs. According to Slovak Wikipedia, it was originally called “Nova Villa”, the current name is based on a nickname the neighors gave its inhabitants. Dunno if that’s true, but the current name can be dated back to at least 1715 (1715 tax roll). And FYI, 1768 Korabinsky’s topographical lexicon, p. 714 describes it as a Slovak village.

  25. There’s a spa town not far from here called Smrdáky = “stinky place”, based on the characteristic odour emanating from the town’s sulphur springs. According to Slovak Wikipedia, it was originally called “Nova Villa”, the current name is based on a nickname the neighbors gave its inhabitants. Dunno if that’s true, but the current name can be dated back to at least 1715 (1715 tax roll). And FYI, 1768 Korabinsky’s topographical lexicon, p. 714 describes it as a Slovak village.

  26. Is Smerdyakov in Bros. Karamazov “Stinky”.

  27. Is Smerdyakov in Bros. Karamazov “Stinky”.

  28. by using the phrase “zip squat” in English
    I have never heard or seen the phrase before, but I suspect it refers to one of those awful exercise routines I refuse even to contemplate.
    I wonder what actually is wrong or funny about “Wetwang”. I seem to recall it from Tolkien
    Wang is one of the almost infinite number of slang words for the penis. I doubt Tolkien was acquainted with it, so if he used “Wetwang” he doubtless did so in complete innocence.
    By the way, what’s wrong with “Pukwana”?
    I second this question, unless it’s pronounced PUKE-wanna. It looks like it’s pronounced puck-WAN-na, which seems entirely unexceptionable.

  29. from the Wiki Dildo (Canadian town) talk page:
    “Why not mention that a dildo is a peg on a ship’s oar (hence the name of the town), *without* mentioning the sex toy (which also got its name from the oar part).”

  30. zip squat
    …sometimes added after the word “nothing” along with “nil” and “nada” to emphasize non-existence. Zip means “nothing”. Now that I think of it, I haven’t heard the phrase since the 80′s. Urban dictionary lists it as meaning #6:
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=zip
    Pukwana, S.D.
    The clue to Pukwana is the “university” there, pronounced “Puk U”–in spoken language startling close to “fuck you”. So the name of the town can be worked into conversation as a way of referencing a swear word without actually saying it.

  31. Ahhh – Silly Usanians and your incessant shortenings.
    Thanks.
    Huh. I thought “dildo” was of unknown origin. It does jive nicely with Dan Savage’s (readers’) neologism “pegging”, though.

  32. There’s a spa town not far from here called Smrdáky = “stinky place”, based on the characteristic odour emanating from the town’s sulphur springs.
    Which reminds me of the fact that there is a lake somewhere in Finland called Haiseva (“Stinking”) and next to it a much smaller one called Pieni Haiseva (“Little Stinking”).

  33. And there’s of course the Czech village Řitka which sounds almost like řiťka = diminutive of ass. According to the Czech wiki, the original name was “Řídká” = “thin, loose”, but the name was corrupted in German transcription.
    Another Czech place name that could fit into this category is Prčice. It is often used to make Czech swearwords and phrases containing the word “prdel” – ‘ass’ more socially acceptable (“do prdele!” – “do prčic”). An annual trek Praha-Prčice is organized by a bunch of jokers.

  34. mollymooly says:

    Ugley women marry Nasty men

    Similar but less funny Irish joke about the Prosperous man who married the Clane [=clean] woman. They’re 5 minutes apart.
    Possibly the rudest placename in Ireland is Cum Mayo. Really there’s a comma in there, but it’s ruder without.

  35. A possibly apocryphal headline from Illinois: “Oblong girl weds Normal boy”.

  36. How could I forget ‘Buttock’?

  37. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Wait. So if in Danish, I talk about ballene dine, I means your buttocks? That must get confusing.

  38. @Crow: The confusing bit bit would be that you’d be speaking norwegian. “Dine” goes in front of the noun on the other side of the Kattegat and unlike in norwegian, the -ne isn’t needed in this construction either.
    @all: Emberassing place names – there’s always Sexbierum in the Netherlands. “Sex” meaning sex and “bier” of course beer (Um doesn’t mean anything, but some sniggering will have been had by a 15-year old by the time you get that far). Btw, if you want either, you might want to go to any other place than this one as they’re a rather religious bunch.

  39. marie-lucie says:

    SN, I guess they would have to be conspicuously religious in order to offset the perception their neighbours might have of them based on the name of the place.
    This sort of thing doesn’t bother Newfoundlanders though.

  40. Prosperous, I see, is ”An Chorrchoill” in Irish, Clane is ”Claonadh”. Corrchoill is made of coill, “forest”, and corr, which can mean many things, for instance “rounded hill, hump”; “angle, edge, corner”. So, is it Hump Wood or Edgewood? Don’t know. Claonadh means inclination, tendency, leaning, even slant, bias and perversion, but I guess it is simply “slope” when speaking about terrain.

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