Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting WO to 80360, or email us
Comment: Wat's in a name - but why, exactly?
Britain has suffered from a longstanding lack of flair when it comes to naming places.
It is a shortcoming that can be traced back to our Anglo Saxon ancestors.
By dint of historical fate, the names they came up with for most of the settlements and various chunks of this isle have stuck.
Take Watford for instance. We don’t know exactly where the name comes from. The “ford” part is self explanatory. The town is in an area where back then people were able to ford the River Colne.
The “Wat” part is either from the Old English for wet, i.e. a Wet ford (as opposed to those ubiquitous dry ones). Another theory for the “Wat” prefix is that it is after a Saxon big cheese with a name like Wata who lived in the area.
Presumably the ford was in his land or some such.
Either way, the town’s appellation is hardly an ingenious concoction. Down the road, Rickmansworth is similarly afflicted by this Saxon propensity to name things after the blindingly obvious.
It’s name is thought to originate from the fact a Saxon magnate called Ryckmer had a “worth”, or farm, in the area.
To be fair to our forebears, they had rather more pressing concerns a millennia ago than coming up with creative monikers for their surroundings.
As well as their pretty bloody schedule of internecine warfare to keep up with they also had to fend off frequent Viking invasions.
This clearly put a squeeze on the time they could devote to sitting around ruminating on which lofty ideals to honour with their place names. And their unimaginative attempts have stuck.
Across the Atlantic, our American cousins exhibit what a difference a little forethought can make when christening various locations.
For example, the city Cincinnati takes its name (in a somewhat roundabout way) from the great Roman Republic politician Cincinnatus who was given sole control of the state in a military crisis.
Once the job was done, he gave up power to return to farming.
Early Americans saw parallels with Cincinnatus and George Washington, whose decision to stand down as president after his second term paved the way for orderly transfers of executive power. Hence the city’s name is redolent of the great ideal upon which elective democracy is founded – the willingness of individuals to relinquish power.
An act surely worthy of commemoration and veneration.
Yet back here in south west Hertfordshire, the naming game is not completely over.
In Leavesden, councillors have been scratching their heads over what to name the new roads in the aerodrome development.
Abbots Langley Parish Council has proposed to christen the roads after pilots who flew Mosquito planes from the aerodrome in the Second World War as well as stalwarts of the community such as former parish councillor Ivy Young, who passed away recently.
If enacted, this would be a nice touch for the area. It would be infusing the new parts of the village with elements of its history as well as remembering people and sacrifices which deserve recognition.
In a similar vein Watford Borough Council this week voted to look at the possibility of naming streets in the town after soldiers from the area who have fallen in recent conflicts, if it is something the families want.
It is a gesture that says the community will not forget the young men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
As well as remembering individuals and their deeds, naming roads in this way also says something about the principles we value as a community.