2017, Volume 14, Issue 3

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Andrew Breeze
University of Navarra
Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

“Good Friend” and the Goodwin Sands, Kent

Voprosy onomastiki, 2017, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp. 204–209 (in English)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2017.14.3.030

Received 11 March 2017

Abstract: The Goodwin Sands are a hazard to shipping in the English Channel. Their name means “good friend” and is often taken as euphemistic or propitiatory. Alternatively, in a legend with Celtic parallels, the sands have been regarded as an island which belonged to Earl Godwine (d. 1053), but was drowned by natural disaster. Science shows, however, that the Goodwins have never been land within historic times. Their name can thus have nothing to do with Godwine of Wessex. Nor is it an attempt to flatter a feared entity. The author argues that the name should be explained instead by reference to the Downs, an anchorage between the sands and the Kent coast. Dangerous to mariners, the Goodwins are nevertheless a natural breakwater; by creating the calm water of the Downs, they really were a “good friend” to seafarers. The interpretation has an equivalent with the Manacles, “stones of refuge,” off the Cornish coast. The Goodwins and Manacles have wrecked many ships, but saved far more, the first as a barrier against storms in the Channel, the second as one against storms in the Atlantic. Their names will hence display the same naming pattern.

Keywords: Goodwin Sands, legends of drowned lands, shipwrecks, the Manacle Rocks of Cornwall


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