February 3, 2009

Unfortunate Names

I know a thing or two about unfortunate names. Sure, you find “Bart King” to be impressive, regal even. But that moniker has caused some difficulties, especially during my school years. Particularly cruel was one class when the instructor himself began chanting, “Gene, Gene, made a machine! Joe, Joe, made it go!(I'm guessing you know the rest?)

But hey, no one ever said getting a master’s degree would be easy.

Writing for the New York Times, Sarah Lyall filed a story from Crapstone, England on this very topic. Britain has an absurdly high ratio of place names that are likely to cause a smirk and a snicker. While bandying jokes about Ugley (in Essex) or North Piddle (Worcestshire) is all well and good at a pub, try markng down “Thong” as your residence on a job application.

Let’s say you teach middle school. A kid asks where you’re from. “Pratt’s Bottom” you reply. And then you’d have to pack up your belongings and quit from the subsequent derision, because a “prat” is a nimrod. And a “bottom” is… yeah. The American equivalent would be saying you’re from “Nerd’s Butt,” I suppose.

As to the photo to the right, a “water butt” is a receptacle for collecting water. And a “hole” is where the water collects. See? It makes perfect sense. But nonetheless, the sign is a popular place for tourists to moon for a photo op. Those idiots!

While periodic attempts are made to rename these puerile places, I enjoyed Carol Midgley’s defense of them: “Sniggering at double entendres is a loved and time-honored tradition in this country.” Ours too! “Gene, Gene, made a machine, Joe, Joe, made it go…"

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