Thursday, 20 August 2009

Cornish place-names

The other day I read "Tales from our Cornish island" which was Evelyn Atkins follow up to "We bought an island". Still quirky, perhaps suffering from being a sequel, but still something I found very enjoyable. But reading reminded me that I needed to blog about a recent acquisition.

I'm afraid I've revealed a bit of an obsession with Cornwall recently; I think it's so close to my heart because I spent so much time there while I was growing up. One of my favourite books is Vanishing Cornwall by Daphne Du Maurier, which I was hugely excited that Virago republished in hardback last year. I already had a paperback edition, but I had to have that one as well (which reminds me to tell you to look out for DDM week over on my other blog from 30th August - while I vanish to Cornwall, you can enjoy looking at pictures of all of Daphne Du Maurier's books published by Virago!)

My recent acquisition is a dictionary, and you don't see many posts about dictionaries (but then you don't see many posts about tide-timetables either...).
Believe it or not, this was one of the books that I insisted that my Dad brought on holiday with us every year when I was little. I asked if I could borrow it when my boyfriend and I went to Cornwall last year (I don't think I actually even looked at it in the end, but its presence was somehow comforting), but after we had a discussion on the way home the other weekend about the origin of the name "stowe" (as affixed to Davidstowe and Morwenstowe) (which incidentally merely means "place") I decided that a girl who likes Cornwall nearly as much as cardigans, needed her own copy (particularly one who is off on holiday there for a whole week in 8 days time)
I don't know very much about etymology at all, and what little I do know is in relation to Cornwall. From a very early age, I knew that we were approaching our destination, or at least in the county, by the presence of place-names beginning with "Tre" on the road-signs. I think this is perhaps the most prevelant prefix ever seen in England. Trebarwith, Treknow, Trekee (the satnav took us through this extremely obscure hamlet which I'd never even heard of), Trebah, Trebetherick, Tregadillet. "Tre" by the way, means farm or settlement, and the rest of the name is generally a personal name, and a quick google has revealed that the use of "tre" is also prevelant in Wales. I remember my Dad explaining that "Pol", as in Polzeath (where we often used to go) or Polperro, meant pool, and "Pen" as in Pendennis or Pentire means head.
Anyway, I am ridiculously happy to have this book to browse through. And if you're a Cornwall lover, and don't have this book, then you might be able to make do with this link here.


  1. Such a delightfully educational post Verity! Your parents must be tickled that your family jaunts to Cornwall have left such an impression...and obsession. You must be so excited for your upcoming trip.

  2. I'm glad you liked it - it was a bit off the wall, but it's something I'm enthusiastic about, which is what I feel blogging is about!

    Absolutely can't wait for my holiday - last day at work today!

    (Have just bought a book which I hope arrives in time which is Wilkie Collins (writer of Woman in White which we watched last weekend) journey around Cornwall in 1850!)

  3. Oh, that book can only be fantastic! Last week I bought The Meaning of Night and Glass of Time by Michael Cox, on the inside page of reviews someone wrote that he echoes Wilkie Collins. I really should read something by the man himself at some point! Crossing my fingers that your book arrives in time:)


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