The geography of toponyms

The geography of toponyms

Toponyms (the names given to places) can reveal cultural information through their etymology and patterns of use:

This map shows the distribution of the most popular generic toponyms for streams in the United States. These names vary widely across American in the etymological roots, the types of features they refer to, and their cultural patterns of use. These variations reflect the interplay of cultural and physical factors that have influences naming practices across the country. …. Generic toponyms, used to describe a general type of feature such as a lake or a pond, tend to change more slowly than specific names.

See also:
GNIS maps

After having grown up on “Adams Avenue” (between “North Washington” and “Monroe” Avenues), I’ve never had trouble remembering the names and subsequent order of the United States presidents. Since, I’ve been curious about the geography of toponyms for city streets. And not only their cultural underpinnings, but their long-term effects on urban residents.

[via languagehat]