Posted by: billpurdue | April 10, 2010

94 Place Names, Carol Klein and some feedback

First of all I’d like to thank my friend Janet for her comments on the books of Pearl Buck, whom I mentioned in the last posting.  I have to confess that I haven’t read any books by Pearl Buck, so perhaps I’d better. Janet was at one time an ardent fan. She writes:

When I was a sickly teenager I just adored her books (together with Neville Shute’s!), whether they were about life in China, or her autobiography about living in America.  (She felt strongly that it was better to have healthy cattle rather than vaccinate them against TB).

Of course ‘The Good Earth’ was fantastic, but the one I remember the most vividly was called ‘The Mother’ or ‘The Empress Mother’ – something like that!  I believe it was vaguely based on fact and it started with this strange event, which took place every few years, when every village was expected to send their prettiest virgin to the capital to be paraded before the Emperor.  The whole process took hours and hours, and each had just a few seconds in the royal presence, and with a wave of his hand, they would be sent to the Palace of the Forgotten Concubines, never to be seen again, or ever allowed back to their families.

Our heroine naturally didn’t think much of this system, and when eventually her turn came, instead of appearing immediately, there was a pause, which surprised everyone, especially the Emperor, who by now was bored out of his skull!  Anyway, when after a few seconds, she did appear, all of a flutter, as she fell prostate onto the floor, she released a tiny toy dog out of the sleeve of her flowing kimono, which ran yapping across the floor.  Of course, everyone laughed, especially the Emperor, and of course she was chosen to go to the royal palace, and then went on to become the most powerful woman in China.

And I’ve never forgotten the moral of the story ‘First impressions count!!”

Many thanks, Janet for your comments. There are several titles by Pearl S. Buck still in print including The Mother and Pavilion of Women . I notice that Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck in China by Hilary Spurling will be published in the USA in June (if I understand the information correctly) as Pearl Buck in China: Journey to the Good Earth.

Just out

I may have mentioned before that I have an allotment. Since I started getting it into shape (and I still have a long way to go), I’ve been taking more notice of gardening books. I’m rather keen on the series of books by Carol Klein, that bubbly enthusiastic presenter on Gardeners’ World and I have most of them – and I refer to them quite frequently. On April 1st Carol brought out another in the series: Grow Your Own Garden: How to Propagate All Your Own [BBC £20 9781846078477] As you might guess, it’s all about filling your garden with plants without spending lots of cash on new plants at the garden centre. I will be looking for this book in the shops and I’m sure it will be added to my wish list

Place name origins

In my next column in the Chad, my local history book of the month will be a book for all those who like to  look up  the origins of names – even if it turns out to be a derivative from the Anglo Saxon for “ a farm by a wood” or some such combination. Nottinghamshire Place Names by Anthony Poulton-Smith [  The History Press £12.99, 9780752448886] explains the origins of the names of most towns and villages in the county as well as rivers, woods, pub names and much else besides.

It’s not possible to tell if this is a comprehensive list . I suspect that it would have to be a much more erudite tome if it included absolutely every name in the county.

There’s nothing wrong in a book of this nature at what you might call the “popular “ level (ie. for people like me), but I do have a bit of a gripe about this book. It has no index of any kind. This isn’t necessary if you are just looking up a name of a town or village, but if you need to know the origin of the name of a large wood or perhaps a suburb, you need to refer to the village or town nearest to it. In the blurb on the back cover there is the question “Who worships at Frog Abbey?”. You would really need to plough your way through the book to find the answer as Frog Abbey has no entry of its own. I would now like to know the answer myself!


  1. I love your book blog and thought since you and your readers are interested in place-names, you might want to know about my recently self-published book entitled Roxbury Place-Name Stories: facts, folklore, fibs. Of course, the name Roxbury sounds British and was settled 300 years ago by Englishmen, but it’s name is from the geography of the landscape.
    The book traces the origin of hundreds of place-names on roads, waterways, bridges, parks, cemeteries and other places in this small New England town. The book has a map, photos, nearly 500 endnotes, an extensive bibliography, and a detailed Index.

    I’d be happy to send you an attachment – via email – of a cover and sample stories, if you are interested. Also, I can give you links to the various wonderful news articles that have been written about the book.

    • Hi Jeannine

      Many thanks for your kind comments about my blog. I would be interested to know more about your book on the place names of Roxbury, though it may be of limited interest to most of my blog readers who are from the north east midlands of England.

      The information can be sent to me at Thanks.

      Bill Purdue

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