Monday 23 July 2012

What Your House Name Reveals

What do you call your dog, house, children? Consumer classification company Mosaic will know.

Upper-middle-class Upwards avoid names like Holmeleigh - they sound too cosily made up. Over-complicated names, especially with added yyyys, are a failed attempt to look classy.

Manors and stately homes were called Something House (park, hall, court, castle, manor, place), or they had a single name like Pencarrow, Sezincote, Tyntesfield or Cotehele. Farms were often called after the family that owned them (Robinsons). But when the suburbs copy, these naming conventions become taboo to Upwards and Stow Crats.

So what can Samantha Upward call her house? Not “Thistledome” painted on a wooden slab in the shape of a dolphin. Or anything on a cast-iron plaque also featuring painted flowers and/or kittens. Or carved on a board in pseudo-Celtic lettering. Lower-middle-class Jen Teale adds a “via” to her address and puts the name of her house (if it’s got one) in quote marks. At the end of letters, she signs herself “Jennifer Teale (Mrs.)”.

If you live in a stately home called Beaulieu (pronounced Bewley), that’s OK. If you inherit a house name that’s fairly plain and descriptive (The Pines, Orchard End, Eden House – after someone who built it or lived there) you can keep it. Anything twee (The Nook, Honeysuckle Cottage) should be avoided, unless you actually live in a nook draped with honeysuckle. The Old Mill is descriptive, and The Old Electricity Substation might have some cachet. Inner-city converted warehouses proudly display names like Perseverance Works, or The Chocolate Factory. (“Factories” now produce art and music.)

Here are the UK’s Top 50 house names from the Halifax House Names Survey of 2003:

The Cottage
Rose Cottage
The Bungalow
The Coach House
Orchard House
The Lodge
The Old School House
Ivy Cottage
The Willows
The Barn
The Old Rectory
The Croft
The Old Vicarage
Orchard Cottage
Yew Tree Cottage
The Laurels
The Old Post Office
The Gables
The Hollies
The Beeches
The First
Meadow View
The Stables
The White House
Holly Cottage
Willow Cottage
The Haven
White Cottage
Mill House
The Orchard
Primrose Cottage
The Granary
The Nook
Corner Cottage
School House
The Old School
Honeysuckle Cottage
Lilac Cottage

Of this list, most will pass with the Upwards, apart from The Haven, Fairview, Treetops, Greenacres, Wayside and Oaklands, which have a whiff of seaside bungalow or golf course. You can imagine an Agatha Christie mystery happening in any of them. (Inspector Spence retired to sandy, Home Counties Pine Ridge.)

Retired middle-class Weybridges live at: Badgers Cottage, Cuckoo Cottage, Curlew Cottage, Dolphin Cottage, Fox Hollow, Kestrels, Magpies, Mole End, Nightingale Cottage, Robin Hill, Rookery Nook, Squirrels Leap, Swallow Barn, The Jays. The Nouveau-Richards live at Two Hoots.

Countrified Upwards live at: Orchard House, The Orchard, Woodlands, Treetops, Oaklands, The Willows, Yew Tree Cottage, The Laurels, The Hollies, The Beeches and The Firs.

Golfing Weybridges live at: Hillside, Hillcrest, Sunnyside, Woodside, Meadow View and Fairview, on a sandy soil and with a lot of Scots pines in their garden.

Jen lives at: Thimble Cottage, Pippins, The Little House, The Nutshell, Whispers, Wishing Well Cottage and The Nest.

Pretentious Victorian seaside terraces have individual houses called: Ambleside, Blencathra, Eskdale, Rydal, Tarn Hows, Windermere, Lamorna, Tresco and Kynance in Gothic lettering on the stained-glass panel over the front door. Houses like this are also called after actual stately homes such as Normanby (Hall) and Dunvegan (Castle).

George Mikes in How to Be an Alien complained that the British are very reticent about revealing their house name or number. Perhaps they're still agonising over a name, or style of lettering, that won't be common. Who gets the solar-powered house number that lights up at night?

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