SOME of us are old enough to remember when “Pudsey” was just the name of a rather workaday township on the outskirts of Leeds. You went through it on the 508 bus from Halifax and never gave it a second thought really.
Perhaps it was best known for having a cricket club that Len Hutton once played for. And wasn’t the Famous Mike’s Carpets (“where you CAN afford to buy”) based in Pudsey or thereabouts?
But then, as long ago as 1983, a lovable bear with an eyepatch, the emblem for Children in Need, was created by a BBC designer who actually came from Pudsey.
She plumped for the name of her hometown and the word “Pudsey” became iconic, as we didn’t yet say in the early 1980s.
The journey of “Pudsey” from rather brusque and bleak Northern place name to a word that is the epitome of cuteness has been sealed, of course, by the loveable dancing dog that won “Britain’s Got Talent” or “The X-Factor” or whichever one it was.
It wouldn’t be very surprising if, in a few years’ time, the annual list of Most Popular Boys’ Names in Britain showed that Pudsey had entered the Top 50 and was gradually beginning to oust Aiden, Jake and Dominic from the lower reaches.
But what if that BBC designer had come from elsewhere in the West Riding?
Heckmondwike or Cleckheaton wouldn’t have worked, although Batley the Bear would have been OK.
Or we could have had Rastrick the Rabbit maybe or Fixby the Fox.
Salendine Nook (yes it’s a real place and it’s in the outskirts of Huddersfield) has possibilities, but perhaps more as the name for a gentlemanly secret agent than a cuddly animal (“The name is Nook. Salendine Nook”).
But my favourite Calderdale place name would be perfect for anthropomorphic purposes – Jowler (it’s near Luddenden).
The first time I heard the word I imagined it belonging to a cartoon dog, perhaps a character in “The Beano” (“Hello, readers!
I’ve promised to be on my best behaviour when we visit the new sausage factory in Beanotown!”).
But the point of all this is that place names can change their connotation very easily, and Pudsey is the paradigm for this.
What about the strange case of Staines, which is dahn sarf somewhere?
It was reported this week that the local authority, fed up with the obloquy heaped on Staines because of its Ali G connection, has decided to rename itself Staines-upon-Thames.
A lot of commentators have pointed out that this new name is, if anything, even worse than plain Staines. Adding “-upon-Thames” does rather conjure up images of dead fish floating belly upwards as environmental health officers try to track down a source of pollution. But we’ll see how it works out.
Is there anywhere in Calderdale that could benefit from this rather drastic tactic?
Well, it pains me to say it, but my hometown does have rather a bleak name, like a punch in the mouth or the clatter of clogs on the cobbles.
But if it were to be renamed “Brighouse-upon-Calder”, it would seem so much cosier.