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Funny Place Names: A Nickname Map of the UK

Nickname map of the UK

The people of the United Kingdom have a bit of a reputation when it comes to funny place names. From the never-ending consonants of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (it’s correct, we triple checked), to the unfailingly amusing Nether Wallop – this is a nation that relishes a memorable place name or two.

Yet, not every town or city has such an attention-grabbing name – for every Pucklechurch or Great Snoring, there is a Newport or a Whitchurch. Well, actually there are 7 Newports and 10 Whitchurches in the UK alone – popular doesn’t always equal interesting.

Still, it’s no surprise that some of the places with “uninspiring” names have earned themselves more creative nicknames as well. Some are smart, some silly, some are just plain odd. And there are a lot.

Here at Vivid Doors, we thought we’d collect some of our favourite place nicknames to create an alternative map of the UK. Not only does it showcase the sensibilities of the UK people, it gives some intriguing insight into its history as well.

Nickname map of UK

What are some UK city nicknames?

Of course, even across alternative nicknames, some places are more creative than others. Durham pretty much phoned it in with ‘Pink Panther Town’, which refers to nothing deeper than the similarity between the place name and the iconic ‘drum-drum’ theme tune. Bath has a somewhat surface level nickname as well – ‘The Tub’, which is definitely apt but not entirely inventive.

Not every nickname is picked through fondness either. At least we don’t think the people of Kingston-Upon-Hull would choose to crown their hometown ‘Hull On Earth’. If they would, maybe it’s time for a change of scenery.

Durham castle
Durham Castle
Durham nickname
Bath nickname
Hull nickname
Glasgow docks
Clyde Arc, Glasgow

A lot of UK nicknames spring from historical roots. One nickname for Glasgow is  ‘Dear Green Place’ which is the Gaelic meaning of the word ‘Glasgow’.

Similarly, the Isle of Wight caught the name Dinosaur Island on account of the abundance of dinosaur remains that scatter its shores. And the fact that it’s an island, obviously.

Then there’s Wakefield which earned its nickname ‘The Merry City’ all the way back in the Middle Ages. In those heady days gone by, Wakefield was a buzzing centre for both work and play – though the ‘Merry’ name suggests which aspect was more important, even then.

Glasgow nickname
Isle of Wight nickname
Wakefield nickname

As a capital city, London has more than its fair share of nicknames, but ‘The Great Wen’ stands out as a particular favourite for us. Another nickname drawn from history, this one was coined in the 19th Century by journalist William Corbett. 

Clearly, Corbett was not a fan of the city, as ‘Wen’ means boil or cyst. Essentially, he was calling the city a boil on the face of the nation – nice.

Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament, London
The Clasping Hands, Greta Green
The Clasping Hands, Greta Green

It’s hard to say exactly when Gretna Green was crowned the ‘UK Marriage Capital’ but its origins definitely lie in the town’s famous history. In the 18th Century, it was made illegal to marry under the age of 21 in England without consent from your parents. 

As a result, lovestruck teens would dash across the border to tie the knot in Scotland. Gretna is one of the first stops north of the border making it the obvious choice for eloping lovers. Even now, with no legal need to go there, thousands of couples still head to Gretna Green every year to weave their marriage into the romantic history of this small Scottish village.

London nickname
Gretna Green nickname
Manchester nickname

Not all place nicknames have such illustrious histories. Manchester found the nickname ‘Madchester’ in the drug-addled indie music scene of the late Eighties and early Nineties. As the phrase ‘mad for it’ echoed around the streets of the city, a simple name switch grew popular. The Madchester scene may have been left in a more decadent decade, but the nickname for the city still remains.

Even more recent is the nickname of a tiny fishing village down on the coast of Devon. In 2011 a documentary called Fish Town was filmed in Brixham, named for the main trade in the village – fishing. Another name embraced by the locals so it still sticks around. 

Media City in Salford, Manchester

Scroll down to see more of the brilliant nicknames sprinkled across the UK.

Aberdeen nickname
Birmingham nickname
Bradford nickname
Brixham nickname
Comrie nickname
Glasgow nickname
Leicester nickname
Padstowe nickname
Peterhead nickname

You’re more than welcome to use our illustrations for your own content, all we ask is that you credit Vivid Doors as the original source with a link back to this post. Hi-res versions of the images can be downloaded, here.

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