Titillating Placenames

Ransom Riggs

The New York Times ran a delightful article today about dirty-sounding towns and streets in Britain. If our towns in America were as old as theirs, I'd venture to say that we'd have a lot more titillating placenames, too; with time comes the gradual change of vernacular, and 400-odd years ago, the "butt hole" after which Butt Hole Road was named was a place where people gathered water. (Now it's a place where people get their pictures taken ... mooning the camera.)

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. When forced to spell her address for outsiders, she uses misdirection, separating the tricky section into two blameless parts: "p-e-n" — pause — "i-s-t-o-n-e."

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I can't remember living anywhere that had a dirty placename -- there was a street in my hometown called "Stoner Road," but that hardly counts -- but we'd love to hear about any blush-inducing places you've lived!

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