The following is a guest post.
When we moved to America I experienced all of the above (except the schools; my kids were born here). We moved here after living in Germany for a while and I remember a colleague saying to me before I left, “Well, at least you won’t have any language difficulties over there.” Ha! I couldn’t even manage to order a bottle of water successfully over here for the first few weeks with my English accent!
However, when you move to New England there is an interesting difference. In all the newness there is some familiarity. Driving even in just the close vicinity of Boston you encounter many place names that you know well. A short tour will take you through Cambridge, Reading, Chelmsford, Carlisle and Winchester to name just a few.
Donna can easily get to Bedford, Massachusetts (she was born in Bedfordshire, UK). Funnily enough though, the towns Donna and I are from are not to be found in these parts – Biggleswade and Congleton – how’s that for two funny names? A little farther afield we can get to Plymouth, Yarmouth, Gloucester, Essex and Worcester. I would have to go as far as Connecticut to get to Cheshire to find the namesake of the county I am from.
Some of the towns bear no similarity to their namesake in England. I grew up near Manchester in the UK, a large, busy city, whereas Manchester-by-the-Sea in Massachusetts is a small, quaint seaside town. However, Cambridge, MA is a university town on a river as is Cambridge in the UK. Many of the New England names are pronounced the same way as in England but not all.
Just north of Boston is the town of Woburn, pronounced Woo burn in Massachusetts! They do not have an abbey though as the English Woburn does. Someone recently told me they were going on a trip to England and would be visiting Warwick. He pronounced it War Wick like the town in Rhode Island. I gently told him people wouldn’t know where he was looking for if he said it like that in England!
It seems that the immigrants who had come over from England as part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s settled many of these towns. I’m sure they hoped to feel a connection to home by naming these new places after their hometowns.
What’s interesting is that Reading is next to Chelmsford; Carlisle is near Bedford. Towns that are nowhere near each other in England are neighbors in New England. The immigrants, it seems, weren’t too worried about those details.
There’s Taunton and Harwich, Northampton and York; the list goes on. It is quite comforting encountering all these English town names scattered throughout New England, reminders of home wherever your drive may take you.