24 - Editorial - Variations Enigma

09:42PM BST - Friday, 23 September 2005

Contributed by: Jerry Green

Those who live in the south-east comer of England will know that Tonbridge is a town not far from Tunbridge Wells. Spell either of them wrongly and you'll be in hot water with Men of Kent as well as Kentish Men (born respectively on the western and eastern side of the River Medway). Travel north of the Thames via the Dartford Tunnel and the M25 and you will reach the Al Great North Road coming out of London, at South Mimms in Hertfordshire. But how many people know - or care - that the adjacent village to South Mimms is North Mymms, spelled with a 'y'.

Robert Buntin's fascinating look in this issue of Gone A-Hunting at the spelling variations around the name Bunting - where the town of Dumbarton in the now-defunct Scottish county of Dunbartonshire comes into the story - serves as a reminder that family and place names were articulated verbally long before they ever came to be written down.

Getting down to specific cases, Jo and Gordon Bunting (see page 18) were able to pinpoint conclusively the point in their family history at which BUNTON became BUNTING.

At the 2001 Bunting Society gathering there was some discussion on the subject of making the society more 'inclusive'. Even though the membership already includes numerous Buntins, Buntons, etc, it was felt by some in the body of the hall that members of the wider Bunting diaspora who did not happen to spell their surname exactly B-U-N-T-I-N-G, and who learned of the society's existence, could be deterred from finding out more.

They might, it was suggested, therefore regard themselves as lacking in membership qualifications - perhaps even, heaven forfend, as 'poor relations'. As nothing could be further from the case, any thoughts from readers on possible strategies as to how 'Bunting variants' might be made to feel just as welcome in the society as those whose surname has just happened to evolve over the last two or three centuries to the name identifying our society.

Please relay any ideas or proposals on the subject to one of the four Bunting Society contacts listed opposite.

Alan Bunting

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