In a country not lacking in peculiar place names, Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate, one of the shortest streets in the historic city of York, England, is perhaps one of the strangest. The meaning behind the unusual moniker is shrouded in debate.
According the plaque at the end of the street, in the year 1505 the street was known as “Whitnourwhatnourgate” which translates to “What a Street!”
However, some say the origins of Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma are actually supposed to mean “Neither One Thing Nor Another.” In the Middle Ages, it was the location of the city’s whipping post and stocks, which could also possibly account for the “Whip” part of the name.
One idea that is commonly agreed upon is that the use of “Gate” at the end does not in fact relate to an entryway, but instead derives from the Norse “gata,” meaning “street.” Many places in York, and the wider United Kingdom, have place names that stem from Norse roots. Indeed, the short stretch of raised pavement is located in the city center between Colliergate and Fossgate, where it runs between Saint Crux Church and the nearby junction in the road.
Visit England withAtlas Obscura Trips
Folklore and Magic of Southern England
Mythical castles and ancient witchcraft, ecological biomes and fairy-tale forests, sea tractors and flaming tar barrels—all this awaits you on our one-of-a-kind exploration of southern England's historic haunts and eccentric traditions.