Dark Age place-names,
Bearing no hyperbole,
They simply stated verbally
What ev’rybody thought the place was,
Giving not a thought to status.
And so we find throughout the nation
Sagebrush prison, Pighill station,
Goatranch airport, Crowfilledwood,
Watertown of the Sisterhood,
Snotti’s Homestead, Northern Trading,
Ladies’ Landing, Stags-are-Wading,
Cheesefarm Green and Hillhill Hill –
Names most Super-Mare and Brill.
But names can be the falsest friend:
Like Middlesex and Lickey End,
Or Swansea, Inkpen, Kentish Town,
The many heights of Lower Down,
Or Upper Slaughter, East Kilbride.
Or Leatherhead and Barkingside.
Nether Wallop, Ugley, Beer,
Towcester, Staines and Wigan Pier
But meanings can survive intact,
As more Bridgnorth than Pontefract:
With Sevenoaks, we safely stand,
And Newport, Battle, Westmorland.
There’s Mill Hill, Highgate, Firbank Fells,
The Mousehole Caves, and Bath, and Wells.
The Otter river is no riddle,
Unlike, say, the Ouse or Piddle.
And if I claimed I knew a place
Called Kismeke Wick or Running Chase,
Or Buttermouth, or Chattering,
Or Shepherds Peak and Hattersing,
Or Owland Buzzard, Wethergale,
Or Buxham Hills and Settingsale,
Or Swallow Spit, or Barnet Shears ?
Would you believe your English ears ?