Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Place Names Say

It strikes me as ironic when I drive through different states and come across a town name that is identical to a place on the other side of the country. For example, Montpelier. There has been a city by that name in Vermont for as long as this country has been here. Then there is one in Idaho. What about Manhattan, Kansas? Were they homesick for Manhattan, New York? I wonder what was going through the minds of the settlers when they named the second one. Were they trying to evoke the spirit of the first place? Or did they just get stumped trying to think of a name for their new town? Or did somebody just like the sound of the name, and it was no more complicated than that? Or did some of the settlers come from families in the first city by that name? I don't really know. I am just fascinated by the obvious questions sometimes, the ones nobody else thinks to ask.

Of course, common place names probably inspired by geography, like Rock Springs or Springfield seem to pop up all over this country.

Some are obviously tributes to history, such as Paris, Cairo, Moscow and so on. Of course, New York, New Orleans, New Jersey and New Hampshire are all salutes to old York, old Orleans, old Jersey and old Hampshire.

I wonder what choosing place names says about the people who choose them. Are they imagining the future? Setting a vision to inspire?

Real Estate developers often ironically name their new places after what is not there any more, like a subdivision named something farm, something woods, or something pond. Usually those get wiped out to build the subdivision.

Just a thought. I get curious about the oddest or obvious things sometimes. There are thousands of other examples we could choose, but you get the idea. Maybe this thought will help you see some other places with new eyes.

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