New Project: A Dictionary of British Place Names

I have started a new project today. In short, it is a small web-app giving information on the etymology of British place names. I’ve made it a sub-site of my main website – you can view it here: http://benjamintmilnes.com/dictionary-of-british-place-names/#/.

I decided to do this project quite spontaneously this morning. The idea’s been floating around in my head for a few days or so. I’m normally quite reluctant to start new projects of this kind nowadays – I have a lot of projects – too many, really – and each new project takes time away from the others. However, this project is quite valuable for the world-building for On The Subject Of Trolls, and it is relatively simple to do, so I decided to start it.

Amazingly, I’ve managed to get it to a ‘finished’ state in just a few hours. Now, when I say ‘finished’ here, I don’t necessarily mean absolutely complete in all ways. I find it useful to distinguish between different kinds of ‘finished’. A part of this project is actually researching and writing out the etymology for all or lots of British place names. (I may not do absolutely all British place names – I may only do a few hundred or a few thousand in total.) This is something that is very difficult to do all in one go – this is something that’s better to do gradually over time, so I don’t include this in what I mean by ‘finished’. Similarly, with any web-app, there are often hundreds of features that you could program into it – I don’t include these in ‘finished’ either. With projects like this, I generally consider them finished when I have something that I can put online, that works (even if it only has a limited number of features), that looks polished, and that contains well-formed data (even if it’s only a small amount of data). In the case of this project, I have managed to create 11 data files for place names, create the compiler (which takes those data files and outputs a JSON file that the web-app effectively uses as its database), and create a polished front-end.

So the web-app is now online and available. It describes the etymology of various British place names. In future you will be able to search for place names that have a particular suffix or that have a particular element in them. There are other fun features that it could have too – like rendering a map of Britain using the names that places had in a given century. It only contains a few entries so far, but I will add to that over time.

This is a very fun project to do. I have liked etymology for a long time – I can’t remember when it was that I started looking things up on etymonline.com several times a day – probably about seven or eight years ago – but it has been a fascination of mine for a long time. Place names is an area of etymology that is somewhat lacking online – it’s fun being able to create something new that’s useful.

A dictionary of vocables

Vocables are fun. Vocables are those words that aren’t quite words like ‘ah’ and ‘oi’ and ‘huh’. They’re normally an approximation of a sound we make in conversation to convey a specific idea.

To me, every vocable has a very specific meaning, and I choose which vocable I use at a specific point in a piece of text very precisely.

So I thought I’d write down what I think lots of different vocables mean in a kind of short dictionary of vocables.

Ow, Argh – Pain
Aw – Adoration
D’aw, D’aww – Excessive Adoration
Ew, Eww – Disgust
Oh – Realisation
Ooh – Titilating Realisation
Ah – Exciting Realisation, Disappointment, Awkward Realisation
Ahh – Nostalgia
Aah – Relaxation
Uh, Um, Er, Erm – Hesitation
Om, Ohm – Meditation
Aha – Surprise
Ha – Cynical Laughter
Hahaha – Continuous Laughter
Bhahaha, Phahaha – Explosive Laughter
Haha – Are you an idiot? No-one laughs like that.
Mhm, Mha, Mwahaha – Evil Laughter
Heh heh, Hehe – Aspiring Evil Laughter
Teehee – Mischievous Laughter
Oi!, Hey! – Critical Interjection
Ey, Eh – Knowing Suggestion
Meh, Eh – Indifference, Apathy
Psst – Whispered Interjection
Pfft – Cynical Rejection
Hmm – Thought
Mmm – Deliciousness
Huh – Confusion
Arr! – Pirates
Zzz – Sleep