Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

...according to William Somebody-or-other.

Let's explore that a little bit.

New York has not always been New York. Neither has New Jersey always been New Jersey. Before there was New York City there was Nieuw Amsterdam. Before there was New York state there was Nieuw-Nederland. Before there was New Jersey there was Nya Sverige (New Sweden). Present-day Wilmington, Delaware, was originally called Fort Cristina after Cristina, Queen of the Swedes, Goths and Wends, Grand Princess of Finland, and Duchess of Estonia, Livonia and Karelia, Bremen-Verden, Stettin, Pomerania, Cassubia and Vandalia, Princess of Rugia, Lady of Ingria and of Wismar, the only surviving legitimate child of King Gustav II Adolph and his wife Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg. You read it here first. Don't believe me? Here's proof:

(Map used in accordance with the provisions of CC BY-SA 3.0)

By 1680 the English had replaced the Swedes and the Dutch. By 1763 the English had replaced the French as well, except in a couple of places like Quebec and Louisiana. Today there are hints of England all over the place in America.

Pennsylvania has York and Lancaster. Connecticut has Hartford and New London. Massachusetts has Boston and Plymouth and Cambridge. Don't forget New Hampshire, which has Manchester. Six states are known collectively as New England.

I'm not through.

In Florida, which once belonged to Spain, the street my wife's parents lived on crossed both Northumberland and Westmoreland. Several states have a Mansfield (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Massachusetts do) but the one I grew up in -- Mansfield, Texas -- was not named after the Mansfield in England. No. It was named after two men, R.S. Man and Julian Feild (yes, spelled that way, F-E-I-L-D), who built and operated a grist mill around which the town grew. Eventually the locals grew tired of correcting other people's misspelling and apparently just said, "Whatever." But my Texas Mansfield is definitely not named after Mansfield, England.

What America is definitely full of (don't be making up your own post) is Native American names. From Narragansett in Rhode Island to Appalachicola in Florida to Chillicothe in Ohio to Tonawanda in New York to Tuscaloosa in Alabama to Chattahoochee here in Georgia, one encounters them everywhere. There's Walla Walla in Washington, and Mishawaka in Indiana, and Manitowoc in Wisconsin, and we must not forget Pottawattamie County in Iowa, where the county seat, Council Bluffs, was so named because a council took place on some nearby bluffs in 1804 between the members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and -- wait for it -- some Native Americans. But one cannot assume that an unusual-sounding, multisyllabic name is Native American. Ypsilanti in Michigan, for example, honors Demetrios Ypsilantis, a Greek hero in Greece's War for Independence in the 1820s.

Atlanta had a couple of other names in its early years, Terminus and Marthasville.

"My kind of town Chicago is," sang Frank Sinatra, managing to sound like Yoda while cleverly avoiding the fact that "Chicago" is derived from a French rendering of the Miami-Illinois word shikaakwa to denote a particular botanical. According to Wikipedia, the first known reference to the site of the current city of Chicago as "Checagou" was by explorer Robert de LaSalle around 1679 in a memoir, and Henri Joutel, in his journal of 1688, noted that the wild garlic, called "chicagoua", grew abundantly in the area. "My kind of town, Wild Garlic is" just doesn't have the same pizzazz.

You want Dutch names? Fishkill and Peekskill and Saugerties in New York, Schuylkill in Pennsylvania. You want Spanish names? We have mucho many, many, many of those: San Francisco (St. Francis), San Miguel (St. Michael), Las Vegas (The Meadows -- no, really), Los Angeles (The Angels), which is actually a shortened form of its original name, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Porciúncula River), Las Cruces (The Crosses), Santa Fe (Holy Faith), Santa Cruz (Holy Cross), San Diego (St. James), San Antonio (St. Anthony) -- I think I am detecting a pattern here.

I am also detecting that this post is getting a bit long in the tooth without any discernible purpose, so for now, let me just say, "Toodles."


[Note to Loyal Readers Who Made It This Far: I won't be blogging for a few days as Mrs. RWP is having surgery on her second eye tomorrow and I will be concentrating on being a good caregiver. --RWP]


  1. “Mrs. RWP is having surgery on her second eye tomorrow”

    I didn’t realize that there was any mammals who had more than two eyes, so I’m wondering how many she has left to get fixed.

    My Dad’s mother, Fannie Mae Hall, was born in 1876 and was left in an orphanize somewhere in the Chattanooga area, although I suppose it could have been over in Georgia or Alabama. I’ve tried to track down information about her, but I’ve had no luck. She was taken in by a family named Grey, and I’ve found their graves, but it didn’t help me find out anything about her. She insisted on keeping her parents’ name of Hall, and she was three-quarters Indian, although I’m not even certain what tribe. Would this be anything you might have a lead on? I only wish that someone had made an effort to write down things about my family. My mother recorded such births, marriages, and deaths as she knew, but they simply don’t go back far. All Con’s mother had centuries of carefully accumulated information that she threw away simply because it was old, fragile, and not pleasing to her eyes, an act that struck as the equivalent of throwing away diamonds. I’m going to send off for one those DNA tests for whatever it might be worth. Maybe that too is something you have thoughts on.

    BTW, I’m back to having a problem getting to you as two disappeared just last week. The “pending approval” message will appear, that will be the last ever see of them

  2. I hope the surgery goes well and you can fulfil your caregiving role to everyone's satisfaction.

  3. Snowbrush, after Mrs. RWP gets her second eye fixed she will have zero eyes left to get fixed. Thank you for asking. I had no messages waiting from you that I am aware of; they must have gone off into the void. Also, I googled "Fannie Mae Hill 1876" but I'm pretty sure I didn't get your mother.

    EC/Sue, thank you. So do I.

  4. “after Mrs. RWP gets her second eye fixed she will have zero eyes left to get fixed.”

    Then she’ll be blind as a bat, poor thing. Yell in her ear that I’m sorry to hear it.

    “I googled "Fannie Mae Hill 1876" but I'm pretty sure I didn't get your mother.”

    I’m pretty sure you didn’t either, but thanks for going all out! Seriously, it’s small wonder you didn’t find my mother by googling a woman WHO WASN’T MY MOTHER. When I think of all the times you’ve gotten onto my case for my poor reading skills, it’s almost as if (dare I say it?) you’re shudder, a liberal.

  5. Snowbrush, silly me -- I didn't mean to say I googled "Fannie Mae Hill 1876", I . meant to say I googled "Fannie Mae Hall 1876" and I am sorry for causing any confusion or consternation on your part! I would never suggest that Fannie Hill was your mother. Well, I did but that's water under the bridge now.

  6. Nobody named Fannie was my mother! My mother's name was Kathryn. My father's mother was Fannie, and she's the 3/4 Indian who was an orphan. If you google her, you'll find obituaries for a thousand women with her name, but I know when she died (I attended her funeral), and I know when she was born. It's her parents' names and tribes that elude me.

  7. Now that I've read all these comments about somebody's mother named Fannie, I'm totally confused!
    Give Mrs. RWP my best wishes on her upcoming surgery...I will be praying for a quick and uneventful recovery! Be sure to buy her a get well soon bouquet and I'm sure she'll overlook any caregiver deficits!

  8. I found this post interesting. Names and their origins have always fascinated me. My research has led me to the discovery that Canton, Georgia was once called Loonyville... Only kidding! I hope all goes well with Ellie's surgery and that you perform your nursing duties with aplomb.

  9. I want to make an announcement. Snowbrush's paternal grandmother was named Fannie Mae Hall and was born in 1876. He knows when she died but has not divulged that information, even though he attended her funeral. His mother's name was Kathryn, and she bore him in a room in Mississippi that faced either north or south or east or west, unless it was on a bias, which some think much of Mississippi is. Fannie Hill is a novel of dubious distinction that has no connection whatever with Snowbrush unless he never returned it to the library in Eugene, in which case he owes them a bundle. This is neither a tribe nor a diatribe, but it might be a treatise, which is different from a treaty or even 3/4 of a treaty. Conclusion of the matter: I'm becoming more like Putz every day.

    Hilltophomesteader, thank you for the good wishes concerning Mrs. RWP. I did not buy her "a get well soon bouquet" unless you count the takeout from the Greek restaurant on the way home (avgolemono, lamb shank with orzo, Greek-style green beans, Greek-style roasted potatoes). Avgolemono is egg-lemon soup with chicken and orzo. Mrs. RWP should be all better in a couple of weeks orzo.

    Yorkshire Pudding, I expected you to make a comment about England having put a stop to phallus-shaped colonies in the New World in the seventeenth century, but I never expected you to perpetuate the claim that Canton was once called Loonyville. It is true that when my friends Ray and Sheila Looney moved from Roswell to Cartersville they probably passed through Canton, but that is beside the point and cannot be helped in any event. If I cannot perform my nursing duties with aplomb I will try to do it with a peach. It is Georgia, after all.

  10. I may have got this wrong, but isn't California derived from "caliphate" or something similar? I also like the fact that Cajun derives from "Arcadian", the utopia that the French settlers thought they were heading for after being kicked out of Canada by us Brits.

  11. Parrots/Ian, close, but a little skewed. California is named after either a fictional black woman from a sixteenth-century Spanish novel or the island where she lived with griffins; she and they fought Christians alongside a Muslim general (the caliphate connection) but later she became a Christian herself. Early Spanish explorers such as Cortez were familiar with the novel and thought at first that the Mexican peninsula we call Baja California today was an island. And the Cajuns were leaving Arcadia or Acadia (the Canadian Maritime provinces), not going to it when you Brits were so bellicose, I mean inhospitable. Not to worry, that expulsion gave us Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Evangeline" a century later...the butterfly effect.

  12. "Now that I've read all these comments about somebody's mother named Fannie, I'm totally confused!"

    Robert, I too googled California (while wondering why Parrot didn't do it himself--not that I would ever complain), but I knew that you would provide the answer, so I thought it good to leave the task to you as the blog owner. One thing I adore about you is that you're sufficiently curious about all manner of things that you go looking for the answers. Another is that you regularly correct my errors. A third is your sense of humor, something that Peggy so enjoys that she often talks about your latest comment that gave her a chuckle.