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What's in a name?

A friend recently sent me this picture. (Left) He said,

“I was mountain biking with my daughter through Aliso and Woods Canyon in Laguna Beach, CA, and came upon this sign.”

There is also a Moulton Parkway in that same area in Laguna Hills; it seems probable that both were named after some influential person named Moulton from that area, although I am pretty sure it is not me.

Some people have a hard time figuring out how to pronounce Moulton. One of the strange rules of the English language is if there are two vowels together in a word, one of them is silent.

But is it the first or the second vowel?  In this case it is the second, so drop the “U” and pronounce it Molton.

Moulton is a pretty common name both in England and the US; look in any US phone book and you will find at least half a dozen. In England and Scotland there are at least five small towns or villages named Moulton, which I am sure is where the name originated.

English surnames often derive from the occupation of a person; hence Smith, Baker, or Miller. Or some less obvious ones like Cooper (Someone who makes wooden barrels.) or Fletcher (Someone who puts the feather flights on arrows.) Not a lot of job opportunities for fletchers these days.

Names like Black, White, Brown or Green came from the color of a person’s hair or eyes. Often a person was named John, William or Robert, and his son was called Johnson, Williamson or Robertson, and in many cases it got abbreviated to Johns, Williams or Roberts.

Other English surnames are the same as the place they originally came from. Moulton is one of those names. Its original meaning was simply, “A place where mules were kept.”

So people were named after a place, the later places got named after people. This I think is the most likely scenario in names of places in America. Almost certainly the case of Moulton Pkwy. in Laguna Hills, California. I would be interested to know who that was if anyone from that area knows.

There is a town of Moulton in Alabama, which may or may not have been named after a town of Moulton in the UK.

However, another town in Texas was named Moulton by someone from Moulton, Alabama who apparently lacked imagination.

Only 3,000 or so people live in Moulton, Alabama, and under a 1,000 in Moulton, Texas.

I wonder if there is anyone named Moulton living in either place.


Addendum Feb. 24. 2011

Places in USA named after British places, with some creative spelling. 


Reader Comments (7)

CRUMP , A person crooked over or bent! No wonder Marcia my wife is saying "stand up straight John, BUT its VERY true when I ride my bike.

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

The Orange County Moulton street and peak are named after Lewis Fenno Moulton, a wealthy landowner:


February 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGK

Thanks for the link.

February 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave Moulton

Dave , help me out:

If you don't I'm gonna get hit by a Hummer and die.

Last name is Graves,

Amazingly, I have an ancient copy of our geneology, even our family's british coat-of arms,

We apparently were seriously intertwined with the Fletchers.

Some of us owned slaves in the south.

One of us signed the delaration of independence

I'm sure some of us were douchebags.

The wierd thing is I love to flyfish, ride British steel, and shoot longbow. I have a custom longbow that cost a thousand dollars. It is the equivalent of a Fuso.

I make my own wooden arrows and know all about left-hand helical fletching (I prefer "sheild pattern vs, parabolic). I , uh...Fletch...my own with a vintage Bitzenburger jig, one feather at a time. The jig is made of Zinc. which in itself is interesting.

I have never been to the UK.

I know some Graves' were on the Donner party, which was pretty hardcore. whatever. We ate dead frozen bodies in the snow trying to get to the Promised Land.

But what is the deal with Graves? Gravesend? Were we Gravediggers or Grave-robbers? Where the hell is Gravesend anyway? Do they ride bikes there? Do people live in vehicular harmony? Is there cycling advocacy, or is it just some crappy old stonewall town in the moors?

Ever read the poetry of Robert Graves? What a douchebag.

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

You seem to know far more about the Graves name than I do. However, I do know where Gravesend is. It is in Kent on the River Thames east of London, There is a ferry there across the Thames to Tilbury on the North bank of the river. I mentioned it in my blog post about "Riding my bike to Grandma's house."

February 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Dave sorry I was rambling away, too much coffee, I could have Google mapped that myself, I guess. Someday I will visit there on my bike.

Rode 50 Miles today around Newgate Prison, an 18th century copper mine converted into a brutal underground prison, It's in ruins, It's in Granby CT.

What I love about this sport is how it "resets your mind" afterwards.

I remember reading about a Moulton factory for Raleigh, or maybe the Moulton family was integrated highly with them? Or there was another Moulton guy who was high in the company's ranks before you, something like that, I'm trying to remember.

Or maybe there was an actual Raleigh brand named Moulton. I think it was early 1900's.

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

That was Alex Moulton who invented the small wheeled bike. Raleigh did build them for a while, but now they are made by the original company. http://www.moultonbicycles.co.uk/

February 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

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