One of the classes I go to is Saxlish, looking at the Saxon influence on the language we speak and the names that are all around us – our own personal names, and names of places and geographical features. We have an amazing and extremely knowledgeable teacher, Bob, and his equally knowledgeable side-kick, Alan. They were both engineers by profession, and yet have this vast. almost encyclopaedic knowledge of Anglo-Saxon in particular, but other languages, the history of language and the history of people, their movement, settlement, migration… there barely seems anything that between them Bob and Allen do not have some knowledge of and answer to.
Each time we meet, Bob sets us a little bit of homework; last time we had to find out all we could about the derivation of Cameron, Cambridge and Campbell. I had a bit of a head start because I am Cambridge born and bred, so I knew that originally the name of the place was something like Grantabridge, or Gruntabridge, or Grontabricc because the river now called the Cam, was originally the Granta, and in fact the Granta is still the upper reaches of it. Somehow, probably when the Normans arrived it got changed to Cambridge.
I also already knew that Cameron comes from the Gaelic, cam means crooked and sròn is nose, so someone way back had a crooked nose and so was called Cam-sròn, which became Cameron. There is also the thought that maybe the last part of it comes from brun meaning hill, so a crooked hill.
I had to do a little research for Campbell, but I did guess that the cam part might again mean crooked; I wondered if the bell part of it might come from béal, the Gaelic for mouth (as in Belfast – Béal Feirste) so Campbell would originally have been someone with a crooked mouth!
This week we are trying to find the origins of Truro and Redruth!