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Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United… (1945)

par George R. Stewart

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4951238,072 (4.16)38
George R. Stewart's classic study of place-naming in the United States was written during World War II as a tribute to the varied heritage of the nation's peoples. More than half a century later, Names on the Land remains the authoritative source on its subject, while Stewart's intimate knowledge of America and love of anecdote make his book a unique and delightful window on American history and social life. Names on the Land is a fascinating and fantastically detailed panorama of language in action. Stewart opens with the first European names in what would later be the United States--Ponce de León's flowery Florída, Cortés's semi-mythical isle of California, and the red Rio Colorado--before going on to explore New England, New Amsterdam, and New Sweden, the French and the Russian legacies, and the unlikely contributions of everybody from border ruffians to Boston Brahmins. These lively pages examine where and why Indian names were likely to be retained; nineteenth-century fads that gave rise to dozens of Troys and Athens and to suburban Parksides, Brookmonts, and Woodcrest Manors; and deep and enduring mysteries such as why "Arkansas" is Arkansaw, except of course when it isn't. Names on the Land will engage anyone who has ever wondered at the curious names scattered across the American map. Stewart's answer is always a story--one of the countless stories that lie behind the rich and strange diversity of the USA.… (plus d'informations)
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    Sticklers, sideburns and bikinis: The military origins of everyday words and phrases par Graeme Donald (Joles)
    Joles: If you enjoy reading where names of places come from, you may enjoy where some of our words and phrases in everyday use come from, as well. Those that come from the military can be found in Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis.
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http://derekwatkins.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/generic-stream-terms/

Since I'm a map nerd, might be worth flipping through.
  LudieGrace | Aug 10, 2020 |
Picked this up because of Lauret Savoy's Trace... A nice mix of dry factual stuff, little flourishes of poetic musings, and odd tidbits of forgotten history. Of course, Stewart tends to focus on white/colonial history, but I was also pleasantly surprised by the way he discusses Native peoples' names. I found myself skipping over sections that dealt with parts of the country I wasn't familiar with and the parts that dealt mostly with the Spanish and the French. Overall, very good and also quite boring! ( )
  Jetztzeit | May 15, 2020 |
A very interesting account on how some of our locations were named. ( )
  Hedgepeth | Nov 24, 2010 |
Cette critique a été écrite dans le cadre des Critiques en avant-première de LibraryThing.
I doubt that most readers of this book would begin at the first page and read straight through to the end. Instead as I imagine many readers would do, I checked the index for a topic I was interested. I found an intriguing account of how the spelling of Pittsburgh came to include with the ending 'h'. Scottish soldiers stationed at Fort Pitt during the founding of the city were responsible. As there was no method for establishing an official or standard spelling then, the city name came to vary with and without the 'h'. In the late 19th century the US Postal service standardized place names and decided upon 'Pittsburg'. The decision sparked a several year old campaign by a local newspaper supported local politicians to reverse the decision and return to 'Pittsburgh'. Eventually the locals prevailed. Checks of tales of the naming of other cities and geography I had a connection with yielded similar interesting stories. Such a dip and taste method of reading I suspect will be the norm and will be rewarding.
  pitjrw | May 15, 2009 |
This is not the first time I have read Stewart's opus about place naming in North America. In college I took a course in historical geography. I remember two things about the course: that the classroom was near the seismograph in Cramer Hall (one of my favorite places to wander past), and this book. The way that people express their cultural shape through naming has always intrigued me. Much of Stewart's theory was foundational enough that it stuck with me during the decade between that class and my recent re-reading: the types of place naming (transplantation of old names, adopting forms of native names, names describing events or attributes, biographical naming); trends in naming (colonial towns almost universally named after British counterparts, then post-Revolution rejection of English terms, then embracing of down-home American naming and Romantic notions). He traces the linguistic roots of name pieces (town-name-emes?) that we take for granted: -hurst, -glen, -ville.

A book that could easily have read like a laundry list of towns and rivers is instead an adventure. Stewart comes across as one of the last of a dying breed: born in the 19th century, he projects an aura of pith helmets and wooden drawers full of collected specimens. He recaps centuries of expanding frontiers from a vantage (the first edition came out between the wars) where those frontiers had finally bumped up against oceans. The age of heady exploration and gentlemanly academic pursuit was waning. Stewart's tone is both poetic and wistful. It imparts an engaging enthusiasm.

Names on the Land, though a carefully-researched (and vast-flung) labor of love, does suffer from its age. I noted a few inaccuracies, including his claim for how Pompey's Pillar (Montana) got named. Modern accounts explain that Pompey was the nickname of Sacagawea's son. Stewart, however, posits that "The [then] current classical furor and the love of the republican heroes may account for Pompey's Pillar." Much discussion is had over the origin of the naming of Oregon, and Stewart leans toward a sloppy map engraver misspelling or transposing a version of "Wisconsin." This theory is still in the mix, but has fallen slightly out of favor.

Stewart is masterful at weaving the stories of the cultures that influenced the names on our land. He traces the Spanish era of California and the Southwest. He gives a romp of an account of the French explorers Jolliet and Marquette, who, in the course of a summer's paddling trip, established some of the greatest names of the central continent: Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Omaha, Arkansas, others. He follows the ebbs and flows of popularity: pro-French naming after the Revolution, classical revival, mellifluous and "proper" names of the Victorian era. He shows a soft spot for the rustic and honest names of the mountains and the west.

Take this sentence as an epitome of the book's character: "Deathball Creek in Oregon originated from the attempt of an amateur cook to make biscuits." You can sense Stewart's tongue-in-cheek affection for the rough-and-tumble pioneer naming style, yet once again a slight inaccuracy is unearthed: McArthur's Oregon Geographic Names (a source I'll call more reliable with respect to Oregon-specific names) cites the feature as Deathball Rock (not Creek).

This book sticks with you if you are of the right inclination. It has a strong sui generis feel to it. It will always maintain a safe, revered position on my bookshelf. ( )
5 voter lyzadanger | Jan 20, 2009 |
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Nom de l'auteur(e)RôleType d'auteurŒuvre ?Statut
George R. Stewartauteur(e) principal(e)toutes les éditionscalculé
Weiland, MattIntroductionauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé

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Name, though it seems but a superficial and outward matter, yet it carrieth much impression and enchantment.-Francis Bacon.
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Once, from eastern ocean to western ocean, the land stretched away without names.
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George R. Stewart's classic study of place-naming in the United States was written during World War II as a tribute to the varied heritage of the nation's peoples. More than half a century later, Names on the Land remains the authoritative source on its subject, while Stewart's intimate knowledge of America and love of anecdote make his book a unique and delightful window on American history and social life. Names on the Land is a fascinating and fantastically detailed panorama of language in action. Stewart opens with the first European names in what would later be the United States--Ponce de León's flowery Florída, Cortés's semi-mythical isle of California, and the red Rio Colorado--before going on to explore New England, New Amsterdam, and New Sweden, the French and the Russian legacies, and the unlikely contributions of everybody from border ruffians to Boston Brahmins. These lively pages examine where and why Indian names were likely to be retained; nineteenth-century fads that gave rise to dozens of Troys and Athens and to suburban Parksides, Brookmonts, and Woodcrest Manors; and deep and enduring mysteries such as why "Arkansas" is Arkansaw, except of course when it isn't. Names on the Land will engage anyone who has ever wondered at the curious names scattered across the American map. Stewart's answer is always a story--one of the countless stories that lie behind the rich and strange diversity of the USA.

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917.3 — History and Geography Geography and Travel North America United States

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