I’m over halfway through Daniel Martin (see this post), and having gotten to the chapter “Westward,” where the protagonist drives to a place called “Grimstone Down,” I of course had to haul out my Ordnance Survey Motoring Atlas of Great Britain, and was once again struck by the amazing concentration of tasty, crunchy, unpredictable place names on the map of England—no wonder the English have such a knack for using language! In the bit of Dorset where the Downs are located, glancing around I find Toller Fratrum and Toller Porcorum, Chilfrome and Cattistock, Wynford Eagle and Maiden Newton and Compton Valence, Up Sydling and Sydling St Nicholas, Cerne Abbas and Nether Cerne, Minterne Magna and Alton Pancras, Plush and Duntish and Mappowder, Piddletrenthide and Piddlehinton, Puddletown and Tolpuddle and Afpuddle and Briantspuddle… you actually have to hunt to find a relatively boring name like West Stafford or Crossways. And down by the coast there’s Eype and Burton Bradstock and Swyre and West Bexington and Langton Herring… I’d better stop before I bump against Durdle Door and fall into Lulworth Cove!
By the way, this weekend another batch of incredibly generous birthday gifts was delivered, and I have to mention The World’s Writing Systems by Peter T. Daniels (thanks, Bill!), Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life by Lev Loseff, Fifty-Nine in ’84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had by Edward Achorn (Radbourn is my favorite 19th-century baseball player; I’m sorry he’s no longer credited with sixty wins for that season, as he was in my youth), and The Kat Who Walked In Beauty: The Panoramic Dailies of 1920 by George Herriman (see my appreciation of Herriman’s genius here, and a quote here; thanks, Sven & Leslie!).
In one of the early (1911) strips, when Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse were just detaching themselves from The Dingbat Family (in much the same way as The Simpsons were liberated from The Tracey Ullman Show), Ignatz, who awoke “to find himself possessed of an unclear eye and an unbright mind, a fact, most distressing to him,” makes the following appeal: “‘Kat,’ lead me to a large kool goblet of Akwah Kroton, with ice afloat on its crystal surface.” I presume “Akwah Kroton” alludes to the Croton Reservoir, from which New York City drew its drinking water for most of the 19th century (the New York Public Library and Bryant Park now occupy the location), and refers to tap water, an early equivalent of more recent terms like “Eau de Koch” or “Bloomberg’s Best.”