Humanities Maps Technology Words

AI generated place name pt 2: Wet and wild

(In which I investigate the etymology of place names generated by a neural net. Pt 1 here.)

Let’s talk bodies of water.

-mer, -mere, -mar, -mare

In British place names this can refer to lakes (Windermere), or the sea (Weston-super-mare) though not exclusively, a mere can also be a boundary as in Mersey or Marple (as a kid I could never work out why the 4 mile run around my town was know as the Mere when there wasn’t a lake for miles). Note: I’m going be a bit interchangeable about which one I use, if these were on a map it would probably be clearer which one it meant. Let’s see what we’ve got.

Mare-unby, this could work. -by is a fairly common ending meaning farm or settlement. Un is a bit trickier, it doesn’t crop up a huge amount in British place names as far as I know. The best I can find is Unsworth near Manchester which comes from a personal name (Hunds became Uns). Or it could be ‘un’ as in to oppose. So this could be the Lake by Un’s Farm, or maybe the Settlement opposite the Lake.

Mareby Cole. It’s our friend -by again, so Mareby could be the farm or settlement by the lake, sea or boundary. Cole could mean a lot of things but before we get into them I like that the net has generated this name extension. Settlement by the sea is so generic that the town would need a qualifier to distinguish it from the other towns by the sea. Back to Cole:

  • The River Cole, not far from me, comes from a word for Hazel, so this could be The Lake Town by the Hazel Trees.
  • Col is a Norman French word for hill so we could be talking – on the Hill
  • The least plausible (but my favourite!) comes from the Irish word cúil which means corner or nook, I like to picture the town nestling in a little bend in the coastline, but the mash up of Anglo-Saxon and Gaelic is probably a bit iffy.
  • It could be a personal name appended to the original town name when a family took ownership of the land (this fits the convention of Norman lords appending their names to town names e.g. Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Layer de la Haye, but Cole isn’t a particularly French name AFAIK; it’s German if anything)
  • Or it could literally come from coal, perhaps it’s a port that moved a lot of charcoal

Mareland is fairly clean (and no doubt famous for it’s quality kitchenware). Marenton could’ve once been Marine-town, or Ocean Town. Mares End, I like as an island or coast town: Sea’s End. Or it could be a farm at the top of a lake. Maresfoot on the other hand would be at the bottom of the lake (again, not in a Lancelot du Lac way).

Marcomb introduces another generic form in -comb. This is equivalent to Welsh cwm and means valley so Marcomb is Lake-Valley. Marcott is Sea Cottage.

Mar Hemby St Andentharo. Now we’re talking. We know what Mar is, what about Hemby. The Hem could be equivalent to -ham (a beast we’ll tackle in full another day) which means settlement, or homestead,  so Hemby could be Home Farm. So we have Home Farm by the Lake, St Andentharo. Who is St Andentharo? What language do we even start in? I think the best I can do is a South American saint I just invented named after a lighthouse atop an agricultural terrace (Anden-faro? Apologies to everyone who speaks Spanish), no doubt the patron saint of pre-Colombian soil aeration and flotsam.

Buttfield Marthor *chuckles*. Buttfield is actually a perfectly valid place name, a butt can be a strip of arable land that’s not quite a furlong, a plot of land that abuts another, or could refer to archery butts so Buttfield would be a little field or maybe archery field. As for Marthor, aside from being Thor’s mum’s name, this could be a contraction of Marthorp which refers to a secondary town, so this would be the Lake Town with or by the Small Field.

Boy howdy there are a lot of place names! Next up we might look at moors and marshes.

Humanities People

Mandatory Thursday

Just what the hell is a Maundy anyhow?

I must confess (ha) that my Catholic upbringing has let me down a bit here. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday I’ve got a handle on but Maundy Thursday (which always seemed the coolest of the three names) is a bit of a mystery.

As a kid I always pictured Maundy as a sort of tawny pink colour. It’s actually:

…from Old French mandé, from Latin mandatum “commandment” (see mandate); said to be so called in reference to the opening words of the church service for this day, Mandatum novum do vobis “A new commandment I give unto you” (John xiii:34)


On Maundy Thursday, priests, popes, cardinals and kings around the world will wash one another’s feet (this is the command referenced above).

In the UK, Queen Elizabeth won’t be washing any feet but will give out Maundy Money to some of her poorest pensioners in a ceremony with all the pageantry and period strangeness you’d expect from a tradition stretching back 800 or so years.

The ceremony features the Yeoman of the Guard, The Lord High Almoner (a role that apparently still exists) and six wandsmen. I have no idea what a wandsman is.

Specially minted coins are paraded in on 400 year old platters; the Maundy pennies are presented in a white leather pouch with green string, regular coinage (in lieu of clothing and gifts) in a red leather pouch with white string.

Over time the clothing and gifts have been phased out in favour of money. The practice of giving clothing to women was stopped in 1724 after the event turned into a swap shop as recipients tried on each other’s clothes for size.

The ceremony also features four ‘Maundy Children’, historically these were four old men paid to dress up in linen scarves (nowadays four actual children are used).

In the past there were also mathematical considerations, the number of recipients (and coins given) was equal to the monarch’s age in years, and recipients were for life. Upon Queen Victoria’s accession the number of eligible recipients dropped from 71 to 18. Recipients are no longer for life but selected each year.

Art Humanities People

UK Holocaust Memorial

Anish Kapoor’s proposal for the UK Holocaust Memorial.

Animals Humanities Me Photography

My Summer Holiday

I’ve ended up doing a lot of holidaying alone this Summer which has been ok. It would’ve been nice to share some of the days out with other people but equally it meant in the evening I could tuck into some reading!

While I was away I read Half a King and Half the World by Joe Abercrombie. I didn’t realise they were supposed to be YA (not that I especially care now I realise!), the only real difference is that they are noticably less brutal than the First Law trilogy. Anyway, I really enjoyed them, the elf ruins and magic are very clever, I’m looking forward to reading the last one.

I also read Rat Queens vol 3, it’s still fantastic, if you like fantasy (and especially if you like D&D) you should be reading RQ but even if you’re not a huge fantasy fan it’s just damn good. That said it looks like there are all manner of shenanigans going on at the minute and it’s currently on hiatus.

Elsewhere on the comics front I read East of West vol 4 (still love it), Manhattan Projects vol 2 (I struggled with the first volume and did less well with this, I don’t think it’s the comic for me), finally read Black Science vol 1 (it’s soooo pretty! And I enjoyed it, though I don’t feel compelled to grab the next volume).

Right now I’m reading A Darker Shade of Magic on my Kindle, about a third of the way through, and enjoying it quite a bit.

As for my actual holidays I went camping in Pembrokeshire for 3 nights and have variously spent my days looking at old castles, old country houses, old gardens, and old burial chambers.

Pembrokeshire is stunningly beautiful and I highly recommend Dewslake Farm Campsite near Lamphey.

Some Bees I met at Canons Ashby


Carew Castle


Pentre Ifan


One of the oldest and best preserved man made structures in the UK (well, the world too I guess). 5,500 years old. It’s apparently part of a burial chamber, though oddly no bodies have ever been found.

St Govan’s Chapel


This is the view facing out from the chapel in the cliffside.

King’s Quoit


Not a bad view for grave.

Manorbier Castle


The castle is beautiful but it’s more of a lovely wedding venue than a great visitor experience. This photo was pretty cool though.

Lamphey Bishop’s Palace


I had the run of this place for a good hour or so one morning. If you like a ruin it’s worth a visit.

A lunchtime companion

Design Humanities People

Remove all French words from British passports

This… This is a joke… right?

Whether ‘Dieu et mon droit’ and ‘Honi qui mal y pense’ have existed as mottos in England for ages is irrelevant. French is an EU language and has no place on a UK passport.

Hmm. Where to start.


Well, passport is a French word so we’ll probably have to get rid of that too.

‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’ is the motto of the Order of the Garter. A 700 year old order that represent the third highest honour the UK can bestow upon an individual and is dedicated to St George, the patron saint of England. Then again he was Syrian and I guess even if we gave the French a pass we wouldn’t want anything to do with Syrians on there either so the motto is definitely gone.

I’m pretty sure Lions aren’t native to the UK so they’ll have to go too. The Unicorn will need to fuck off back to Narnia. I guess we can keep the harp though, we have harps, right? And the crown. We definitely have a crown. Although the fleur-de-lis will have to go. And the crosses pattée. Some of those jewels look a bit foreign to me too.

Thinking about it English will probably remain an EU language in which case we can’t have the words “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” on there either. Dirty EU languages.

So I *think* the new British passport is a shield with a harp in the lower left quarter, with a jewel-less crown on top and no words. Oh, and a blue background. Don’t forget the blue background.

Humanities Natural Science


I picked up Sapiens for my Kindle last week. It inspired much of the video above and I’m exicted to read it, I recall some mixed reviews when it came out, I think the criticisms were of balance but I’m sure it’ll be an interesting read nonetheless.