WHAT'S IN A CORNISH NAME?
Simon Tregoning ponders the true, false and comic meanings of some of Cornwall’s most alluring place names
Simon Tregoning ponders the true, false and comic meanings of some of Cornwall’s most alluring place names...
When I returned to Cornwall in my mid-twenties, I did the usual thing of informing my friends of my new address. It caused some tittering in the civilised reaches of South West London when they discovered that the hamlet we lived in was called Touch Me Pipes. Then, to compound the view that we had well and truly fallen off the edge of the known world, we moved to Praze-an-Beeble….
To this day, our Cornish place names are a source of pride and entertainment. On my travels I come across a remarkable array of weird and wonderful places – even our local industrial estate in Helston is called Water-ma-trout. Before going any further, however, I must first pay tribute to Douglas Adams who, as well as writing the Hitchhiker series, wrote a book called The Meaning of Liff in which he had the genius idea of applying whole new meanings to place names. Applying Adams’ idea here in Cornwall makes every trip a pleasure rather than a chore. Here are a few that my wife, daughter and I spent a Saturday evening tittering over.
Gweek – the cry of a prepubescent crow.
Ventongimps – a Cornish cream for the prevention of teenage acne.
Mevagissey – an invitation from a pucker-lipped, drunken Cornishman to a fair maiden as he meanders past on his way home from the pub.
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towednack – that last bit of sand which stubbornly sticks between your toes before putting your socks back on.
Zelah – a visitor on a clifftop walk who succeeds in being over-dressed but under shod.
Grumbla – an embarrassing pre-pasty plea from the depths of your stomach.
Barripper – an equally embarrassing post-pasty emission.
Greensplat – the droppings of a vegan cow.
bissoe – the ex-hedge rock in the middle of the road which is one of the few things to cause a Cornish driver to depart from their usual track of six inches from the hedge.
Lerryn – the drifts of hay left high in roadside trees by a passing bale truck.
Mulfra – the last of the soup in a tin which just cannot be persuaded into the saucepan.
A bit like beauty, humour is in the eye of the beholder, so I will stop there. But we have hardly touched the sides of this game. Play for yourself, the potential is enormous. What would you do with Withielgoose or Goongumpus or Perranzabuloe? w