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Technical Terms
April 27, 2013
10:57 am
John Turl
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Can anyone tell me if there is a technical term meaning "same name but different spelling", e.g. as in "High Beach is an *nym for High Beech"? The nearest I can find is 'allonym', but I think that should be reserved for "same place but different name".

August 15, 2013
11:05 pm
John Turl
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The absence of replies to this question suggests that there is no term in common usage in toponymy for "the same name but different spelling". Certainly, no such term is listed in the UNGEGN 'Glossary of Terms for the Standardization of Geographical Names' as far as I can see. It is a strange omission since even in England there must be many such examples; in my own area, High Beach/Beech and Lea/Lee Valley are just two that come immediately to mind. But in a country such as Ghana, my country of research, where place names have been written down before official orthographies have been agreed, and have varied with the linguistic background of those recording them, there must be far more. In the GEOnet Names Server database for Ghana about 52% of the locations have allonyms, most of which are merely alternative spellings.

I think it is important for clarity and discussion to have a distinct term other than 'allonym' for an alternative spelling. Alternative names and alternative spellings are wholly different concepts and arise from very different evolutionary processes. I am wondering what other toponymists would think about the word ‘heterograph’. It seems to convey the required idea of 'other ways of writing', and contrasts with 'orthograph' which would be the 'correct way of writing' a name. Other suggestions for discussion would be interesting.

September 3, 2013
10:00 pm
Carole
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Place-names that develop from the same origin but have different modern spellings are known as "doublets". Is that what you are referring to here? I'm not sure that a technical term would be needed for a place with a single name that has variant spellings.

Carole

September 22, 2013
7:53 pm
John Turl
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Thanks Carole. Can you point me to any reference/webpage where 'doublet' is used in this sense? However, I'm not sure if it quite meets my needs. The term 'doublet' seems to suggest there will only be two variant spellings, whereas I have examples with multiple spellings. I do think there is a need for such a term simply for ease of communication, e.g. if the accepted term was 'heterograph' one might want to say something like "The toponym 'Ahiem' has at least 3 other heterographs, viz. Ahyiem, Ashiem, and Eshiem".

September 30, 2013
10:04 am
Carole
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Sorry for the slow reply, John; I've had computer problems. Here's an example from Alison Grant's article "A New Approach to the Inversion Compounds of North-West England" in 'Nomina' 25 (2002), 65-90, at 72 (single inverted commas represent italics):

"Hobcarton (Cu) is a doublet of Hopecarton in Peebleshire, as they both contain Old English (OE) *'hobb' or 'hop' and the Gaelic personal name 'Cartan'."

I think the term "doublet" would be used irrespective of the number of such parallel names: two or more. However, I do realise now that it isn't quite what you want, as it refers to names that have developed from the same origins, irrespective of whether or not they have the same modern spelling. Sorry!

October 1, 2013
10:55 pm
John Turl
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Thanks again Carole. Although, as you say, 'doublet' is not quite what I want, it's interesting to know that term as well. Alice says that she will put the question to her onomastics reading group. So we shall see what they come up with.

May 12, 2014
12:43 pm
Alice
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John, sorry for the delay with this! The onomastics group were of the opinion that they would generally just describe this as 'variant spellings' (and in fact already do so). I suppose there's no reason you can't use 'heterograph' (or similar), as long as you define it, but the responses of the group indicated that it would probably not catch on in wider use, or at least it would not catch on quickly.

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