I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Word Nerd in me absolutely loved this little gem of a book. I will say that it is probably better suited to reading a physical copy, as it is not a book you will necessarily read straight through, as I did. The content is better suited to be something you can kind of hop in and out of as-needed or depending on your level of interest in certain places. The book divides England up into regions and then from their it recounts some explanations of how places came to be named as they are today. It would get rather repetitive for a more casual reader (and honestly did for me too a little bit) but overall the information was really interesting and something I kept returning to frequently.
For those unaware, there is an incredibly rich history in the UK. As far back as we can see, from the Celtic people, to the Romans in Britain, to the Viking invaders, to the Anglo-Saxons, then the French Normans, as well as the natural evolution over time that evolved, these places sound quite familiar in many instances, and wholly alien in others. I loved reading about the many hamlet and village names that could be traced all the way back to the Celts. There were also occasions where the exact development of the place name is unknown, so various theories are put forth and each is given enough of an explanation for the reader to understand why either makes sense.
A lot of the names we know today came mainly from nature. I was amused to find that Gotham comes from the words 'goat' and 'hamm' smooshed together. Hamm meant an enclosure, so Gotham literally means a goat enclosure.
Though there is no way the book could cover every single hamlet, village, town, and city in England, this is a valiant attempt - and the author even admits it would be difficult. I feel the author chose a great selection of place names to represent a wide variety of etymologic evolution. We are also given enough background that you could probably figure out some place names you are interested in that were not covered in the book.
I also enjoyed the absolutely ridiculous-bordering-on-downright-rude names that the author mentioned and got quite a good chuckle from them. I should have jotted a few down but was giggling so much I didn't even think about it. Yes, sometimes I have the maturity of a twelve year old.
All in all a fun little gem, but be sure to check out a physical copy instead of a digital one.