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Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

on 3 March 2016
A standard text, essential for the fourth grade examination in the Cornish Language.
It is almost inevitable that differences of opinion can arise in place-name studies, and Padel is not immune from that. The absence of one or two places in which one is interested is always annoying - but again is inevitable.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 May 2011
Oliver Padel has spent an academic lifetime devoted to Cornish place-names: quite simply, there is no more qualified a guide to their derivation.

This is a review of the original edition, published in 1988, so some of the results will probably be tempered by evidence of place-names written in old documents discovered since then. And I am not sure about his contentions about Anglo-Saxon `settlement', since DNA evidence in the last few years had hinted that most Devonians are as genetically Celtic as the Cornish; rather we should now be talking of Anglo-Saxon `overlordship' imposing its language in the same manner as Padel goes on to describe the Normans introducing a French element into place-name formulation in the years following the Conquest.

As a measure as to what to include in his `popular dictionary', Padel selected all those names that appeared on the Ordnance Survey's 1982 quarter-inch map of the county, a total of just over a thousand names. Padel writes how, "Allowing the map-makers to make the initial choice has produced an unexpected selection of names - not at all the selection that I might have picked for its interest to me as a philologist." One can understand that a popular dictionary must have some way of excluding the least known, but the result unfortunately is that, for example, we have an explanation for the hamlet of `Markwell', but not for the name of the parish of St Erney in which it stands.

In his forty-eight page introduction, Padel explains the complexities and frustrations of the processes involved in place-name etymology, including such technical concepts as mutations, compounds, and lenition. The dictionary itself covers 130 of the book's 220 pages, and is full of interest. Thus, I learned that `Bodmin Moor' is probably a creation of the Ordnance Survey, replacing the previous `Foweymoor'; that `Bugle' really is named after a public house; and that the meaning of the Tamar village of `Cargreen' is the same as the `Carrick' of the Fal estuary at almost the other end of the county. It was interesting too to learn that the place-name `Cardinham' appears before the Dinham family arrived, a curious echo of the Dinham suburb of the Shropshire town of Ludlow.

Despite Padel, I still see a topographic link between `Callington', `Calstock', and `Kelly Bray', and I am not so sure of Padel's derivation for `Crafthole'. Here I would argue topographically rather than philologically, as the settlement itself, whilst indeed on a hill, is in a hollow within it: from south, east, and west, you go DOWN into Crafthole. And perhaps a good shave with Occam's razor is called for where the derivation of `Pentewan' is concerned.

The book comes with indices of Cornish, English, Norse, and French elements at the end, as well as an index of personal names and suggestions for further reading. Thus, for those finding Padel's volume of `Cornish Place-Name Elements' for the English Place-Names Society too academic for their tastes and yet still wanting a straight-talking guide with a good reputation, they could do no better than opt for this useful guide.
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