Etymologic cartography

I propose Etymologic cartography as a field of study: Somebody had the simple but appealing idea to simply translate the toponyms on a map to English. In this case the subject in question is the USA:

USA_state_names_etymology

Some of the names are rather interesting (and were unknown to me), e.g. Asleep for Iowa, Flattened Water for Nebraska, Great Hills for Massachusetts, Lord of War for Delaware, Dugout Canoe for Missouri (see here for an ordinary USA map for comparison). Note also, that both peripheral Alaska and peripheral Maine consider(ed) themselves the Mainland and that Idaho was apparently named such as a practical joke (really!? – possibly!)!

Also, the map nicely answers a question a friend of mine recently wondered about (and which I couldn’t answer): Kansas apparently means Wind, while Arkansas means People of the Wind!

The principle of etymologic cartography is of course easily transferred to other geographic areas. Though, coming to think of it, given its history the USA has probably a substantial (more than average?) density of toponyms that don’t stem from the local language but rather from Spanish or Aboriginal American languages (think, for example, Utah). I wonder what other countries or regions would especially lend themselves to such an experiment?

(via gisn8)

Ralph Straumann

Ralph is a world-citizen, a geoinformation specialist by profession, and interested in many topics. Here, he'll confine himself mostly to things geo-visual.

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7 Responses

  1. p.h. says:

    Delaware = de la ware, from Thomas West, 3rd Baron de la Warr (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delaware). It’s a bit odd to come up with “Lord of” when it is just the titel (i.e. Adelsprädikat) “de la” – or basically the name of a person.
    But I noticed they did the same with “Washington” – so it is probably just consistent.

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