My Inner Fifth Grader Says This is the Best NYT Article Ever

An article on easily misinterpreted place names in the UK:

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.

Like I said: Best. Article. EVAR.

Oh, stop looking at me like that. I’m the guy who did a chapter-long fart joke. This is right up my alley. That said, the New York Times is getting a little saucy in the digital era, it seems.

79 thoughts on “My Inner Fifth Grader Says This is the Best NYT Article Ever

  1. Residents of Scunthorpe regularly have problems with spam filters, etc.–so much that the general situation is named “The Scunthorpe Problem.” This first came to light in 1996 with AOL’s spam filters rejecting anything with “Scunthorpe” in it. Wikipedia gives several other examples, including Penistone (UK) and “specialist” (Cialis being a drug for erectile dysfuntion).

  2. The NYT should next choose to focus on somewhere a little closer to home…

    Look up an atlas of Newfoundland, Canada. Yep, the town’s name IS Dildo, and we’re just getting warmed up.

    ;)

  3. If the people of these towns need somewhere to visit to deal with their emotions, there’s always Embarrass, Minnesota!

    Warning, it’s COLD there! Even by Minnesota standards!

  4. I see that Jeanne beat me to it. I was going to suggest buying her a copy of Douglas Adams and John Lloyd’s The Meaning of Liff (or the expanded edition, The Deeper Meaning of Liff). Many inexpensive copies can be found at Abebooks, although most seem to be (surprise) in England.

    Come to think of it, I should show my copy to my daughter.

  5. Gasport, New York

    When we were kids and traveled through Gasport on occasion, if my grandfather was driving he’s happily sing out “Gasport…everybody toot!” Much to the chagrin of my mother and grandmother.

    Of course, he was the one that taught us the “Beans” song as well.

    Oh, and then ther is Kissimmee, Florida. “Ka-sem-ee” during the day and “Kiss-a-me” by night, according to the sweet little retired lady at the tourist information counter the first time we went there!!

  6. Off topic: The guestbook on the ‘Agent’ page didn’t work, so I thought I’d post my note here instead. Sorry for the hijack…

    Dear John Scalzi,
    ‘Agent TTS’ was my 4th Scalzi experience and it won’t be my last.
    Unfortunately, at the moment there are not many more Scalzi books to read and my stock will be depleted in a few days.
    Well, at least you’re younger than I am, so I have a good chance of enjoying your Art for the rest of my life…

    Laurent

    BTW, I live near ‘Jeuk’ in Belgium, which means ‘Itch’.
    “Itch (Latin: pruritus) An unpleasant sensation that evokes the desire or reflex to scratch.”
    That’s exactly where I live.

  7. @Eric@7…it’s actually a single Blue Ball, not multiple. Cue Jon Kruk/Lance Armstrong/etc jokes.

    And there are several other good town names in Central PA. Virginville, Lititz, Bird-In-Hand

  8. We used to get much merriment in regards to one of the local play areas, and adjoining street when I was in school.
    The green was called Adams Bottom, presumably because at some point it was Adams bottom field:)

    It’s a pity the guidelines now seem to be against any place names that could possibly be seen as rude, although in the long run it’s probably not going to stop rude/funny names getting in (especially as the meaning of words changes).
    I don’t think our local “Planets” estate even has a Uranus because of this:(

    On a semi related note, at least in regards to funny place names, I was in Benny Hill’s home town visiting a friend recently, and came across a Benny Hill Close, for some reason I kept half expecting to see someone being chased by a lot of pretty ladies in a humorous stop motion manner.

    Evelyn.
    I remember reading about the Scunthorpe problems, what was worse than the AOL filters stopping the emails, was (if my ageing memory serves) the filters used by the councils themselves stopping emails to/from the council.

  9. Pratts Bottom mentioned in the article is quite close to Badgers Mount.
    Upper Dicker in Sussex isn’t too far away either.

  10. The Slutshole, Norfolk is absolute perfection (assuming you know the normal pronunciation of Norfolk, here, try this: We don’t drink nor smoke Nor____).

  11. Cheating a bit, but I live near a village called COCKLAKE, which humorous young blades like to change by painting over the L on the sign.

    I would like to recommend The Meaning of Liff too and remind people that it is a dictionary. It’s not about rude words per se, but takes real placenames and offers made-up definitions for otherwise non-defined experiences. So for instance Budby is a nipple seen through flimsy or wet material, and Duntish is mentally incapacitated by a severe hangover.

    I also live near Wookey Hole, which is a village and a tourist attraction (caves) but not really spelt right for any humorous purpose.

  12. I was surprised to see that they left out Cockermouth, which is in Cumbria. Maybe they thought it was just too rude to mention.

    I know a nice little pub in Cockermouth — and I really do, but you try saying that with a straight face all the same!

  13. Jamie@20: Hey, don’t look at me, that’s google’s suggested route. A more leisurely way might include such streets as Clearview, Leacock, and Cherry, just glancing at the map.

  14. My wife was very amused by the name of the singer/songwriter of the late-80s alt semi-hit, “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” even though I told her it was pronounced “Coeburn”.

  15. Oh, come on – they *completely* avoided mentioning “Cockfosters”! One of the greatest place-names in the UK! See, when you get on the Tube you see the scrolling marquis saying “This train is for Cockfosters”. In North America, that would probably be interpreted as some sort of commentary on the type of person riding in the car. But in London, it’s just handy directions!

    Gotta love those brits.

  16. Looking on the map, Wetwang rang a Tolkien-nerd bell.

    It turns out that the swamp (from the movies where Frodo, Sam and Gollum duck from the flying Ringwraith) is also known as “the Wetwang.”

    What about “Climax, MI” or “Big Bone Lick” and “French Lick” IN?

  17. I can’t believe nobody has mentioned Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island”, which has a most amusing discussion of British place names. And by “most amusing”, I mean “causing one to giggle helplessly and get strange looks from one’s fellow bus-riders”.

  18. Those interested in cockfixes will like to know that British pub names include the Cock Inn, the Cock Pit, the Fighting Cock and the Cock & Bottle. The first three relate to cockfighting, the last refers to a container for beer, like a keg I guess, and means both draught and bottled beers are available.

  19. I like Pratts Bottom but only because it reminds me of ER. There’s also Butts Wynd in St. Andrews, Scotland.

  20. I’ve always thought that the Slaughters were in a world of trouble with getting tourist attention. Upper and Lower Slaughter are gorgeous, and it’s wonderful walking country, really beautiful, but would you want to walk there…?

  21. The glorious Somerset Collection shopping mall in Michigan is reached by taking the Big Beaver exit number 69 off I75.

    The other day you asked what movies had lose-control-of-body-functions funny scenes and I have been kicking myself that I forgot to mention Jeff Daniels in Escanaba in da Moonlight. Now you have given me a follow up opportunity. I tend to be prim, saved only by my teenaged children, but this film had an unending fart scene that had me clinging to the arms of the theater seat, barely able to keep from sliding to the floor and curl up with laughter. (I recently read your chapter long fart scene and I had tears in my eyes I was laughing so hard! Maybe I’m not as prim as I aspire to be.)

  22. I’ve always been partial to Atholl, Massachusetts (http://athol-ma.gov/) and the associated joke about former governor Endicott Peabody. Supposedly there were three towns in Massachusetts named after him: Peabody, Marblehead, and Atholl.

  23. The Orkney Isles have a charming little town called Twatt

    I’ve actually been there, and, unfortunately, it’s pronounced to rhyme with “what”, not to rhyme with “hat”.

  24. And on Fark today was this headline: The residents of Penistone, South Yorkshire would like you to stop mispronouncing the name of their town

  25. Is this the geographic equivalent of looking up dirty words in the dictionary?

    I will admit to living within driving distance of the aforementioned Big Bone Lick (in Kentucky), which is, not coincidentally, relatively close to Mammoth Cave.

    Coincidence?

    I think not.

  26. Alison,

    I love Bill Bryson’s work on Britain and Europe. Unfortunately, I’m not so enthused about his writings since returning to the US (the “Thunderbolt Kid” in particular was a bit of a disappointment). In some ways I think Bryson might thrive better on being a fish out of water…

  27. They’re not saucy enough to mention Shitterton.

    “This isn’t the only place in Britain proudly to wear the Shit– prefix – an unholy trinity is formed with Shittlehope and Shitlington Crags, both in the North-east of England – but Shitterton is the only one of the three actually to be named after excrement.”

  28. Aside from the previous Big Bone Lick in Northern Kentucky, near the Licking River across from Cincinnati is the Beaver Lick Baptist Church and the Licking Valley Girl Scout Troop. Saw an official t-shirt for the latter in a Cincy thrift store once but didn’t get to it in time.

  29. Jackstraw – Bill Bryson is back in Blighty, lives in Norfolk (already mentioned in this thread), has an honorary OBE, is Chancellor of Durham University (succeeding Peter Ustinov) and President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England… so in a way I suppose he isn’t a fish out of water over here any more, he is part of the establishment.

  30. Oh, Oregon. There is a Boring, Oregon between Portland and Mt. Hood. It is, in fact, small rural and not much interesting happens there.

    Ok, now to get saucier: Oregon is the beaver state. Lesbians love chanting about this in the Portland pride parade (“two.. four.. six.. eight.. Oregon’s the beaver state!”).

    Sequim, Washington (that’s pronounced “skwim”) has the intersection of Woodcock Rd and Kitchen Dick Rd.

    Finally, ajay, the “rhymes with ‘what'” pronunciation is the problem pronunciation. See definition of “what” and the definition of “twat”. Pay careful attention to the pronunciation guides. (They also have audio files, so you can enjoy downloading a dude saying ‘twat’ off of Merriam-Webster.)

  31. Wales! What’ll those crazy Brits come up with next time!?

    Judging by the names up here on the Cumberland Plateau, things were unpleasant back in the day: Greasy Creek, Muddy Pond, Calfkiller, Defeated, Dismal and, my favorite, Nameless.

  32. Everytime someone mentions Cockfosters I always think of the old Paul Hogan Fosters advert:

    Tourist: Do you know the way to Cockfosters?
    Paul Hogan: Sure, serve it warm.

    I was born in Scunthope. Since I don’t tend to post anywhere about it except when Scunthorpe has already been mentioned, I’ve never come across the problem.

  33. In spite of all the beautifully dirty place names in Britain, my favorite is still Pendle Hill. ‘Pen’ is the Cumbric word for ‘hill’. The ‘dle’ syllable derives from the Old English ‘hyll’, whose modern English equivalent was appended again a few hundred years later.

  34. If East Breast is on the west coast of Scotland, does that mean we’re only seeing a profile of the true Scotland? Is there a hidden West Breast under the North Atlantic?

  35. I actually live near Pratts Bottom. Last year they had a pic of a girl winning the local beauty contest there, and by a fluke of poor framing, she stood in front of a sign that appeared to declare her as the “Queen of Pratts”.

    I’m actually surprised they don’t list Steeplebumstead in that article, or Britain’s number one town on the list of grafitti’ed road signs, Uckfield.

  36. Well, while the word crap has had its scatological meaning well before there was a Mr Crapper, it obviously didn’t mean much to folks in England else why would a respectable business man in the 1880s print it on his products?

    The town probably gets its name from when it meant this:

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=crap

  37. @ James Swallow – I went to a boys’ school in York, and our sister-school for girls was called The Mount*. Girls would be encouraged to be photographed next to the sign (and similar happens with Mount Pleasant signs).

    @ Jeff – there is said (even by Stephen Fry on QI on the BBC) to be a Torpenhow Hill in the UK, which is supposed to be hill hill hill hill; it is also said that this is not true – although there is a Torpenhow village and a small hill next to it.

    *Judi “M” Dench went to The Mount, as did another Dame: Jocelyn Bell, discoverer of the pulsar.

  38. I’m a former resident of Peculiar, MO, who enjoyed eating at the barbecue joint in Tightwad, MO, and currently drives through Greasy Corner, AR on a regularly basis.

    Unfortunately, I’m in the wrong part of the state to go to Toad Suck Daze in Toad Suck AR.

    I love weird place names.

  39. Hawkser-cum-Stainsacre, on the Yorkshire Moors. A friend suggested a good tshirt would be “My friends went to Hawkser-cum-Stainsacre, and all I got was this tshirt… thank god”.

  40. In Scandinavia, we have these village/city/place names which sound funnier in English:

    – Hell, in Norway.
    (They must’ve gotten pretty sick of all the Satanists who come and ask for directions to Lucifer.)

    – Äs, in Sweden. Pronounced exactly like “Ass.”

  41. Don’t forget the village of Cocking.

    It has a village notice bard with ‘Cocking Vilage Notice Board’ on it and a sign for ‘Old Cocking Church’. Cooking Church is an 11th Cent. church which until 2007 was known as ‘Cocking Church’.

    The Cocking History Column was unveiled on 15th April 2005.

    You can get A Short History of Cocking by the Cocking History Group is available here: http://www.lhi.org.uk/docs/A_short_history_of_cocking.pdf

    http://www.gravelroots.net/cocking/cocking.html
    http://cocking.org/

  42. Where I grew up in southern California, the next town over is Moorpark. I leave it to you to figure out what that spells backwards…which has been a point of hilarity in the area for several generations.

  43. There’s also the town of Ramsbottom in Lancashire.

    Upper Ramsbottom is a lovely place. Though a little windy.

  44. In the midst of all this hilarity I had a terrible thought: What if the aliens come and they really, really do have silly names?

    “Greetings Earthling. I am Faart, ambassador of the Bottooms from the planet X-Krementor.”

    (Cue laughter, declarations of war.)
    :-S

  45. Finland has plenty of dirty place names. The leading theory is apparently that people made them up when a Swedish or Russian (depending on who was occupying us at the time) cartographer came around asking for names and as they didn’t actually speak any Finnish, they didn’t realize they were being made fun of. And the names stuck.

  46. I also live rather near Pratts Bottom, but I think the best place (unlisted) is the Cornish town of Brown Willy. Of course, Brown Willy and Pratts Bottom are nowhere near each other (we have far too many Daily Mail readers to be that progressive a nation in terms of same-sex or inter-racial relationships, presuming that Pratt is male) but that’s beside the point.

    I remember finding a handbag on a hill called Rhinos Bottom in the lake district, once, and having to tell the police as I handed it in that I’d found it up… well, you can figure it out.

    Golly gosh, I do hope I haven’t said anything untoward! Jam and toast and a nice cup of tea for me now…

  47. Once upon in the City of London there was a street, actually two at different times, arrestingly named Gropecunt Lane. Sadly, more prudish heads have prevailed then and the street was renamed. This was once quite a common name in England for streets where you could find prostitutes.

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