Friday, October 16, 2009

Ohio Place Names... part one of a three-part cartographical odyssey

I had reason to look at an Ohio map recently. You remember maps, don’t you? Those big, colorful, multi-fold pieces of paper that we once used to find our way in the world, before computers or GPS?

I was looking to the map’s index, something that is usually followed by flipping the map over and then wrestling, refolding, crumpling, tearing and wadding it to a manageable size in order to locate your destination and consider a route. As I looked at the index, I was distracted by the fact that there were two towns with the name, Olive Green. It seemed a strange name to bestow upon a town; why would anyone choose to use it a second time?

If I wanted to drive to Olive Green, how would I know which one to choose? What were the implications for sending mail? Did the residents find this dual-moniker status confusing? Do the inhabitants of one Olive Green resent those of the other?

As I continued to look at the map's index I found several other anomalies. In fact, I spent quite a lot of time reading the names of Ohio’s populated places… I really need a hobby!

I found that Ohio has 43 instances in which two towns have taken the same name, though I included Valley View and Valleyview in that count; same with Lindale and Linndale. I was curious about the two towns named Millersport. Did the name suggest a port for millers, or a sport for Miller? I wonder about these things.

Surprising as it was, to me, that any name might be used twice, I had to chuckle when I noted that there were four names that had each been used three times—Bloomfield, Oakwood, Lafayette and Rome. Perhaps all roads don’t lead to Rome, but quite a few must.

More shocking, still, is the fact that there are four Newport’s and four Centerville’s! None of the Centerville’s appear to be quite at the center of anything; and shouldn’t the second Newport have been called New Newport, and so on?

As would be expected, there are quite a few towns named after founding fathers. The names of foreign countries are popular, as well. Foreign cities are well represented in the names of Ohio towns. I’m not sure if I can include Lima with that group, since I can’t state with certainty whether it was named after the city in Peru or the bean.

There are 19 occurrences of the abbreviation “Mt.” and 61 uses of “New.” It becomes apparent to me that early Ohioans were not a particularly creative lot.

There are a number of references to American Indian culture. Descriptive words from their languages; names of places; tribes; and chieftains. My favorites are Tymochtee, Wakatomika, Tontogany and Tawawa. Don’t ask me what any of them mean, I provide the raw data, you can do your own leg-work.

I wondered about a couple of the names I found on my map, and whether they, too, are references to Native Americans. I wouldn’t mind living in Round Head, though I’m not sure if that’s a title a native warrior would cherish. Still, it’s better than Round Bottom, or worse, Long Bottom.

I can only imagine the self esteem issues that a young native would have in being called Long Bottom. Probably didn't get many dates.


Ocean Girl said...

So what is Cincinnati? Native American? Any meaning, or just a name?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Carl, maps are a good hobby to have! I think you just found that out...
As a remote sensing/cartography major in college, I rejoice in your discovering the joy of maps!

Anonymous said...

I live 5 miles away from North Lima, but it's South of there.

Carl Vine said...

Ocean Girl: At risk of pretending like I actually know something; Cincinnati was named after the Roman, Cincinnatus, a citizen/farmer who was called upon to lead the Romans in war as dictator. After his success in this role, Cincinnatus humbly "returned to the plow."

Brenda's Arizona: You'll probably enjoy the second and third parts of this series. I expect they will post Tues 10/20 and Friday 10/23. Watch for them and have some fun!

lotgk: You've tapped into the irony that drew me into this mess!

Don said...

All I can say is stay away from world maps!!! You'd miss the prime of your life running through that one.

Roschelle said...

This was a truly entertaining post. I know now why I DON'T use maps....oh..btw...thanks for making it very clear that the pic in the upper right hand corner ISN'T you!...Or is it and you're just trying to throw us off???

Goddess said...

I live in a little village in Ohio called Russia. It's pronounced ROO-shee.

Ann said...

I never could get the hang of maps especially the art of refolding them. Enjoyed part 1 now I can't wait for the rest of it

Carl Vine said...

Don - So true!

Roschelle - The picture isn't me. Scroll down the left sidebar for a LOT of pictures that aren't me!

Goddess - It was surprising to me how many country and foreign city names there were on our map; though I never would have guessed such an unusual pronunciation for Russia. I wonder if the current pronunciation is the original one, or if it was a PR effort to distance the town form a perceived relationship with the USSR after WWII.

Ann - I would say that there should be refolding insstructions, but there probably are and we just ignore them - especially the men. After all, it's hard enough for us to look to a map for directions. Reading instructions is really just asking too much! said...

Every time I stop by that baby picture gives me the creeps. Photoshop at it's most disgusting :-)

Goddess said...

I've thought the same thing regarding the pronunciation of Russia. To make it stranger though, the founding families were French settlers (which is further evidenced by the town three miles over called Versailles - pronounced phonetically).

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