SOME years ago now, a journalist, who previously lived in the Midlands, joined the Daily Echo and found himself with something of a problem.

After three or four days covering news stories in various parts of Southampton, I can remember the reporter asking me: “Where is this place, Soton!

“I’ve found Woolston, Bitterne, Portswood, and Shirley but, despite many signs for ‘Soton’, I just haven’t be able to track this place down.’’ For those born and brought up in the city, the abbreviation of “Soton’’, together with the name “Sotonian’’, is just something everyone accepts and, probably, it does not cross peoples’ minds that these words are anything unusual.

So where did these two, everyday, words originally come from? Well, it is the Daily Echo which must put up its hands and admit to inventing the words many years ago.

The name of Southampton has undergone various forms over its long history, stretching far back to the days of the Roman invasion, as it reflected the changing language of the time, as well as adding and dropping parts of the word used to describe the surrounding area.

However, the derivation of Soton and Sotonian has a rather more mundane origin as both were coined to describe the city and its residents by journalists at the Daily Echo, who found Southampton and Southamptonian far too long to fit easily into the newspaper’s headlines.

Although the exact date when the words were first used is unknown a report in the Daily Echo from as long ago as January 1957, even then referred to their origin as “years ago’’.

The abbreviations did not enjoy universal approval as in another Daily Echo story of more than half a century ago, the late Norman Scholfield, Southampton’s well remembered town clerk of many years, dismissed the words as “literary slovenliness’’.

One of the Daily Echo’s most respected journalists of the 1950s, C.F. Carr, once told local Rotary club members: “These words were produced for convenience in newspaper headlines.The abbreviations for Southampton and Southamptonian were invented by the Southern Daily Echo years ago.’’ Southampton was originally plain Hamton. This was supposed to mean “the home settlement’’ but modern historians consider the definition as “the settlement on the bend in the river’’ to be more correct.

The word, settlement, implies one surrounded by a stockaded bank and ditch, while the element “South’’ does not appear before the late 10th century.

In the Middle Ages the first part of the name was usually spelt Suth, while local people in those days were not Sotonians but “men of Suthamton.

In 1896, King Edward VI Grammar School launched a magazine for its pupils, entitled “Sotoniensis’’, a Latin name reflecting the academic tradition by which Oxford and Cambridge become Oxoniensius and Cantabrigiensis.

The date of when these two words appeared in the Daily Echo will probably never been known but its safe to say Soton and Sotonian will still raise a few visitors’ eyebrows in the years to come.