Braintree (was: George Washeengton's Spich empeedeemint)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 28 02:15:48 UTC 2008

That sounds like a very reasonable analysis. Some years ago, someone
wrote to the answerperson of The Boston Globe to ask the origin of the
name of Braintree and was told simply that Braintree was named after
Braintree, leaving open the question of the name's ultimate
derivation, which is still of interest, whether the American Braintree
was originally Brantry or was always Braintree and "Brantry" is merely
the spelling error of some semi-literate map-drawer who used the
vowels of his own idiolect as his model.

And then there are the other old maps that show the name of Harvard
Yard as the "Harvard Play Yard."


On Mon, Feb 25, 2008 at 10:12 AM, Damien Hall
<halldj at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>  Poster:       Damien Hall <halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>  Subject:      Braintree (was: George Washeengton's Spich empeedeemint)
>  -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>  There's a town in Suffolk, England, called Braintree.  Is it possible that at
>  some point someone thought that people saying 'Brantry' /braentri:/ were merely
>  mispronouncing 'Braintree', and that person hypercorrected the spelling, which
>  then stuck?  That would presumably be by analogy with so many other English
>  placenames that reappear multiple times in the different states of New, ahem,
>  England.
>  I'd like there to be a satisfying phonological explanation too, but maybe the
>  idea of a false equivalence with the English name goes part of the way.
>  And, yes, whenever I see 'Braintree' on either side of the Atlantic, I think of
>  'brain stem' and the appearance of human brains in general too.
>  Damien Hall
>  University of Pennsylvania
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>  The American Dialect Society -

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