What's In a (House) Name?: Background information when reading The Girl Next Door

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The Girl Next Door

A Novel

by Ruth Rendell

The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell X
The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2014, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2015, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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About this Book

What's In a (House) Name?

This article relates to The Girl Next Door

Print Review

Buckingham PalaceEven in the 21st Century, to send a letter to the Queen of England one's envelope might be addressed simply: Her Majesty The Queen. Buckingham Palace. London. No street address or postcode is necessary. Her royal home has a name. As such it follows an ancient and still-popular British custom; naming one's house. While numbered street addresses have replaced names in cities and towns, most houses in rural areas have only ever been known by name and some residents in towns and cities choose to give their homes names in addition to their number.

Wynding DownA survey taken a few years ago found that roughly one third of United Kingdom respondents noted they either had lived or still lived in a house that had a name. Nearly an equal number admitted they might be interested in personalizing their current, unnamed, home with a name. Rumor has it that the practice was founded originally in Roman times, when Roman elite named their villas. Traditionally most British houses were named either for their occupant (Farley Castle, Billingham Manor, Milton's Cottage) or their function such as The Coach House, The Mill, The Forge and so on. These names have carried forward to modern times long after the original occupants have moved on and the house's purpose has changed. In relatively recent times, names have expanded into the more whimsical such as Cuckoo Cottage, Fox Hollow and so on.

More recently, as an article in The Telegraph noted, house names have begun to reflect a markedly more humorous approach. "Barbara Borrington from Derbyshire saw a house in Horsforth, Leeds, called Kantafordyt, while another reader spotted The Bank's. Dr John Gladstone said his mother had crossed out one of the Os in his home, Stoneybrooke, while Brian Armstrong wrote from Saudi Arabia to say that friends of his lived in a basement flat in London called Wuthering Depths." While his home was under mortgage one gentleman named it Millstone. Upon paying off said debt he changed the name to Milestone. Additionally, there is this in an article on the insurance company Aviva's website:

A study by Norwich Union Insurance has revealed that while the classic Dun Roamin is still going strong, it's picked up a few eccentric neighbours along the way. Dun Struglyn may have been chosen by weary homeowners, while a military bent may have led others to call theirs Dun Soldrin. Dun Servin could be favourite with retired pub landlords, while jaded students could well have chosen Dun Learnin. There are others on the same theme such as Dun Farmin, Dun Talkin or Dun Snapyn too.

As The Telegraph article notes, "The British house name is resonant of this island's culture. It has even been nominated as an icon of England by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport."

Rose CottageAs of 2003, the most popular house names were, in ascending order: The Willows, Ivy Cottage, The Old Schoolhouse, Woodlands, The Lodge, Orchard House, The Coach House, The Bungalow, Rose Cottage and the most popular house name is, simply, The Cottage.

Buckingham Palace, courtesy of Diliff
Wynding Down, courtesy of Alamy
Rose Cottage, courtesy of Embapottery

Article by Donna Chavez

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Girl Next Door. It originally ran in January 2015 and has been updated for the July 2015 paperback edition.

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