Me, again. I’m back to talk about weird Massachusetts names and why they’re weird. In case you forgot, here is the list we’re working with. Fake Massachusetts town names. Do you remember how to pronounce these? Lameham, Unstable, Hamham. See the last post for the answer.
Now that we understand the humor in pronouncing these names, let’s look at another funny thing. Here’s something that might surprise you. One of these names is real. A real Massachusetts town. Can you guess which one? You can? Good. I will wait here while you google each name.
(10 minutes later)
You’re right, it’s Braintree.
Surprised? I was too, honestly. Braintree. Brain. Tree? Is it normal to think about a tree with a brain? In order to uncover the mystery of this word, we have to go back in time.
We have to look at the history of the word. The etymology of a word can show how it has been used in different years and different languages. It’s fun because you can see how words move through languages.
Remember how most of the names of New England towns come from (Old) England? The same thing is true with our friend Braintree. Located in Essex, England, the town of Braintree has been around much, much longer than Braintree, Massachusetts. In fact, it’s been around for almost 4,000 years. Some of the roads were built by the Romans! This is where it gets a little mysterious. Nobody’s exactly sure about the name “Braintree” but there are a few theories. A popular theory is that the town is named after the River Brain (which sounds like a good theory to me but what do I know). Other theories have to to do with different names. Braintree may have been called “Branoc’s tree”, or even “Rayne”. So that explains the “brain” part but what about “tree”?
After a few Google searches, I found out that “tree” used to be spelled “try” and means “big village” in the Saxon language. So, “Braintree” could possibly mean “Big village near the River Brain”. Or, maybe it could mean “Branoc’s village”.
When we go back in time, we have to be both careful and imaginative. Sometimes we don’t have enough information! I’m sure if you spent more time researching, you could become an expert on the history of the word Braintree. So, next time a word seems strange to you, learn about it!