Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"The Great Grimsby" by F. Scott Maxgerald

This is one of those posts that started out to prove I know what I'm talking about, but soon fall flat on my face. Later on in the post, I will try to pick myself up and recover my dignity. This is one of those kinds of posts I mentioned before, where I try to write down what I learned in my studies and hope you will pitch in and correct any faulty information.

There are eight traditional regions in England which derive from their geography and history. One of these eight official/unofficial non-political regions of England is called the Northeast region. It is also called Yorkshire and Humberside. Why not just "Northeast", you ask? Well, because (greater) Yorkshire is what pretty much makes up this region in the Northeast, and Yorkshire is next to a river called The Hummer. Humber. Sorry. Or perhaps "Northeast is just not descriptive enough or long enough.

Not to worry though, (I sense your worry) because in this post I am only going to talk about a place called Grimsby. I know, I know - the British ALWAYS use two names. And, if there is a nearby river, you may be sure the city is located ON the river. Often UPON the water. But that is cool. Try to move past it.

Now, there is just one tiny problem. The city of Grimsby, though on the Humber Estuary, is apparently not really in the Northwest Region (Or Yorkshire and Humberside, if you prefer, and you probably do.) "Humberside" apparently means only one side of the Humber. Sigh. Why do you make this so difficult.

Moving on. As I said, or should have said, one of these eight official/unofficial non-political regions of England is called the East Midlands region. Lincolnshire is in the East Midlands region. Grimsby is in Lincolnshire. So far so good.

Grimsby is no exception to the mandatory Two Names rule: it used to be called GREAT Grimsby. This was, one supposes, to clarify it from Small Grimsby (Wee Grimsby? Lesser Grimsby?) which was a smaller town a few miles to the south, and which (I must assume, since no REAL reason was given) people were always going to Teeny Grimsby and thinking they were in Great Grimsby, but they really weren't. I know what you are thinking, and I agree. If the English would simply use one name per city, this alternative naming system would not be necessary.

Before I forget it, there is another reason I am introducing Grimsby today, which has to do with the once-American frozen food company called Bird's Eye. This, along with the rumor that folks have been known to catch a fish or two in that area. But these things will be discussed (if not actually made clear) in a later post. MUCH later, probably.

Due to that uncertainty, please don't hold your breath on the frozen fish story.

Onward and upward. I want you to know how Grimsby got its name, so you can feel connected.


None of you probably remember a movie called "The Vikings". Perhaps just as well. It was a story about Vikings who sailed to England and captured a prince's bride-to-be to use. ummm. To use as a hostage, I mean. As Vikings do.

The head guy was Kirk Douglas (of course, since he owned the production company) and his nemesis was Tony Curtis who got his hand chopped off by the English for letting Ragna die with a sword in his hand, when the English just wanted him to die and not go to Valhalla. As English are wont to do. Ragna (played by the venerable Ernest Borgnine) was the Viking King and was the father of Kirk Douglas' character. Which was quite a cinemagraphic trick, seeing as how Kirk is two years older than Ernie in real life. Ernest is in his nineties now, so Kirk is, like, maybe, a thousand. Tony's real life wife, the original Psycho shower lady, mother of Jamie Lee, played the captured/used royal bride-to-be (sans big blue sapphire ring) and, christ I can't think of her name right now. Lee. Leigh. Vivian Lee? No. Lee something. JANET LEIGH!!! Maybe that's where Jamie got her middle name -- Janet and Tony couldn't spell. You think? Anyway...

The part of the movie that is relevant to this post (if only to a LESSER degree) is the part when the Vikings get REALLY pissed at Tony Curtis and bury him in the sand at the edge of the water with only his head sticking out and the tide is starting to come in. Remember? Like, "If you are telling the truth, you won't drown, and if you are lying, well, at least you will never be thirsty again." It's night and the clouds are moving past the moon and Tony is very upset because the tide is getting higher and higher around his chin. And finally, in his despair, he cries out to ODIN! again and again. "ODIN! ODIN!! ODIN!!!. Well, by golly -- wouldn't you know it -- just as the water reaches Tony's nose, Odin finishes his supper and hears Tony's cries. Odin blows his breath on the water and blows the tide back. So everyone who comes in the morning knows Tony was telling the truth after all.

Grimsby was settled by Danish Vikings about 800 A.D. or thereabouts (not important to this post, but I think somewhere in that era, though others may have settled it earlier due to it's strategic position. Romans, probably. It's ALWAYS the Romans.) And "Grims" was the head Viking's name that settled it. So it was named after him. "by" is old Danish for "village." In modern Danish it means "town". So the meaning has changed a lot over the years as the Danish language has evolved. The 'GREATER" part we've already discussed. Probably more than we should have. So there you go: Greater Grims-by. Cool, no? Wait, there's more.

Some say (and this is a stone solid fact because I read it in Wikipedia) that this Grims feller was really.................... ODIN!!!!! They do! They DO say that! See, Odin used to like to come down and walk the earth among mortals. On Friday nights, I think. (That part wasn't in Wikipedia, so I'm assuming.)

I've not even got STARTED on this English regions thing, so if you miss my next post, you will be so distraught you'll probably go bury yourself in the sand.


  1. What a good post! It explains much about the English mentality.

  2. I am amazed. In the 5 years I lived in Grimsby, I had no idea all the facts I was missing, but it's not a place I readily remember. You've missed one fact though: Ian Huntley, one of the most notorious murderers in recent times, was born in Grimsby.

  3. Grimsby has never been so fascinating!

    But, tell me please, was it really necessary to remind us of that God- ..., sorry, Odin-awful film!

  4. Yeah, why mention Odin?
    You should be thorry!

  5. Well, I had to work in Odin somehow, because of the legend he founded Grimsby. I couldn't think of any other Viking movies to let me do that.

    But it was a damn good movie. Don't tell me you all didn't love it when Kirk Douglas jumped from oar to oar or when he threw his axe at the wench's braids and she swooned for him. It doesn't get any better than that. :)

  6. @Adullamite - Yes, it WAS quite good, wasn't it? Sometimes I surprise myself. I don't quite get the part about it explaining the English mentality, though. You mean having alternate names for cities? Being quite anal abut the Humber's sides? Inventing Lincolnshire in the first place? Not appreciating quality American movies? What?

  7. @A. - Oh, you don't know the half of what you missed about Grimsby. When I'm finished, you will probably move back there, swelling with pride. For example, few people know the Grimsby city fathers (Grimsters, as they are fondly referred to on the lesser banks of the Greater Humber Estuary) are now in the process of making a carnival ride out of the harbor tower. I will bring you up-to-date on that and much more.

    Thank you for bringing Mr. Huntley to my attention! I'm guessing he was simply a misunderstood Scott gone amok, but I will certainly study up on him and report back with all the gory details.

    You may be sure. :)

  8. Or "Scot" if you prefer. I was thinking of the "Beam me up" Scottie of Star Trek fame who always respond with, "Oh, but I wishacould, sir! Bit I canna right now becausea the dilithium chystals have all been polluted by antimatter. Just hold yer arse, sir, if ya please."

    You remember. Forgive me for the extra T.

    Speaking of T...

  9. @Symdaddy - I detect yet more sarcasm about fair Grimsby. Google makes it sound like a slice of heaven. You people are making it sound like Gary Indiana in 1962. I must explore this more closely and report back.

    I think you are missing much of the intellectual subtlety of "The Vikings." Perhaps deliberately so, if I may say. For example, when the old lady oracle invented magnetism so the Vikings could sail far from shore in the fog, simply holding a weathervane on a string and watching its beak move in circles. Don't tell me that wasn't meant to be a parallel to the fear Christopher Columbus' crew must have felt 700 years later! I put it to you.

    (I recall these treasures from memory, so you will forgive any minor inconsistencies, please.)

  10. Hello there,

    As someone from Grimsby (now living in Indiana) I was excited to happen upon this post through Expat Mum's blog.

    I really enjoyed your post. Just a couple of minor factual details to point out: 1) Grimsby is in fact a town, not a city (the difference being, a city would have a cathedral and a town wouldn't); 2. Great Grimsby's smaller counterpart is known as "Little Grimsby" rather than "Small Grimsby"; 3. The Viking's name was Grim (as in Grim's-by), and not Grims.

    These points aside, it was a joy to read a post about Grimsby by an American. Have you heard the song "Grimsby" by Elton John?

    P.S. I too am on Blogspot, commenting about my life as a British expat living Indiana at I'd appreciate any factual corrections you ma have of my writing.

  11. @Laurence Brown - First, I want to thank you for stopping by my blog. I'll admit it gets a little out of hand from time to time.

    Thank you for the information/corrections about Grimsby. I thought it was (is) a delightful town from my reading about it.

    I apologize in advance for abusing the lesser Grimsby yet again in my current post. It is hard to resist. Sorry.

    I doubt there is anything you could say about Indiana that would need correcting (or that I would know enough to correct) but I will be happy to visit your blog. Thanks again for reading the post.



Related Posts with Thumbnails