26 December 2009

On Basingstoke

'Basingstoke: A respectable town in Hampshire whose name for some reason has come to be regarded as droll or even irresistably amusing, placing it on a par with towns such as Chipping Sodbury, Godalming, Scunthorpe, Wigan and Surbiton'

Mad Margaret: When I am lying awake at night ... strange fancies crowd upon my poor mad brain, and I sometimes think that if we could hit upon some word for you to use whenever I am about to relapse - some word that teems with hidden meaning - like 'Basingstoke' - it might recall me to my saner self [W.S. Gilbert, Ruddigore, 1887]

- Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, London, 17th ed., 2005

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