Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How towns are named

It is apparently an old English custom, when naming a new town, to make it very clear to everyone that it is, in fact, a town. Thus, many town names were given a suffix to announce that the new town was a town.

There was an Old English word burh, which meant "place." This became a popular suffix found today in a variety of forms: Edinburgh, Gainsborough, Middlesbrough and Canterbury.

This custom carried over to the New World. Within a short drive of where I live in Ohio, one can find Olivesburg, Rowsburg, New Pittsburg and Centerburg, among other burgs.

An even more popular suffix, at least in the United States, is ville. Near my home there is a Bellville, Pulaskiville, Chesterville, Jeromesville, Perrysville, Celeryville, Leesville, Lakeville, Hayesville, Widowville, Mohicanville, Nashville and Loudonville.

Other communities have a town or ton suffix. Of these I find Fredericktown, Ankenytown, Pagetown, Honeytown, Lexington and Ridgeton.

Other towns like to call themselves a city, whether or not they actually are one. But then, a lot of the villes are not large to be even called villages either. Settlements are named when they have but a handful of people, and their chosen names may reflect wishful thinking, as much as anything.

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