MY BRAIN HURTS!!!!
I was going to do a simple post about where I went yesterday afternoon. You can see it in the picture above. It is Porthleven. Nice clouds, eh? Anyway, I thought I’d check up on a few facts before posting — such as: it’s the southernmost port in mainland Great Britain. While doing so, I came across a reference to one of the streets in the village — The Gue.
Glue, I know about. If memory serves me well, a grue is a nasty beast that might eat unwary players of the old text adventure game Zork. But Gue? Google was no use. All I got was page after page of estate agents’ adverts for properties available (now or long ago) in the street. OED tells us that a gue is, or rather was, a stringed instrument used on the Shetland Islands OR an obsolete word for a rogue. Neither of these meanings seemed very relevant.
Further searching threw up the place-name Gue Graze, which is on the coast close to Mullion, not too far from Porthleven. Gue Graze is a source of soapstone (aka steatite) which was important in the early porcelain industry in England. None of the pages I found said anything about the meaning of the name, however.
Then came the aha! moment. Maybe it is a Cornish word that has undergone an initial consonant mutation k → ɡ. Off to the usual books. I was right. Kew is Cornish for “hollow, enclosure”, and has cognates cau in Welsh and kev in Breton. Once I found this out I realised that almost every day I pass by a street whose name in English is Hea Close. This now has a street sign which bears the Cornish name too — Kew an Hay.