So I got this book at Barnes & Noble a few days ago. It’s Peter Ackroyd’s “London: The Biography,” and at 773 pages finishing it before I leave in 3 weeks is going to be quite the project. I’m only on page 27 right now.
One of the passages I thought was interesting was one on page 10, regarding the origin of London’s name:
“The name is assumed to be of Celtic origin, awkward for those who believe that there was no human settlement here before the Romans built their city. Its actual meaning, however, is disputed. It might be derived from ‘Llyndon,’ the town or stronghold (‘don’) by the lake or stream (‘Llyn’); but this owes more to medieval Welsh than ancient Celtic. Its provenance might be ‘Laindon,’ ‘long hill,’ or the Gaelic ‘luund,’ ‘marsh.’ One of the more intriguing speculations, given the reputation for violence which Londoners were later to acquire, is that the name is derived from the Celtic adjective ‘londos’ meaning ‘fierce.’
“There is a more speculative etymology which gives the honour of naming to King Lud, who is supposed to have reigned in the century of the Roman invasion. He laid out the city’s streets and rebuilt its walls. Upon his death he was buried beside the gate which bore his name, and the city became known as ‘Kaerlud’ or ‘Kaerundein,’ ‘Lud’s city.’ Those of sceptical cast of mind may be inclined to dismiss such narratives but the legends of a thousand years may contain profound and particular truths.
“The origin of the name, however, remains mysterious. (It is curious, perhaps, that the name of the mineral most associated with the city—coal—also has no certain derivation.) With its syllabic power, so much suggesting force or thunder, it has continually echoes throughout history—’Care Ludd,’ ‘Lundanes,’ ‘Lindonion,’ ‘Lundene,’ ‘Lundone,’ ‘Ludenberk,’ ‘Longidinium,’ and a score of other variants. There have even been suggestions that the name is more ancient than the Celts themselves, and that it springs from some Neolithic past.”
Pretty cool. Anyway, so far it seems like a great read for word nerds like me, or anyone interested in history. It’s super thorough—and there’s lots of talk about the Roman Empire, Brutus, Caesar, etc. which I like.