Friday, May 8, 2015

The Languages Behind US Place Names: Part 2

On Wednesday, I started a little linguistic journey looking at the languages that helped name places around the United States. Today I'll be looking at a few more languages that were used to name settlements, towns, and cities across the 50 states.


The Olentangy River Bridge, Columbus, Ohio
The European "discoverer" of the New World has lent his name to many things in the US. However, as an Italian working for the Spanish monarchy, Christopher Columbus probably never referred to himself using said name. His actual name was Cristoforo Colombo in Italian and Cristóbal Colón in Spanish. However, the Latinised version of his name came into popular use for naming states and cities in the US.

Take the D.C. in Washington D.C., for example. The D.C. stands for "District of Columbia", and "Columbia" is a New Latin term derived from Columbus' name. Of course, Columbus, Ohio, is also named directly after the man.


A number of settlers used Greek suffixes to name cities. Indianapolis, for example, uses the Greek suffix -polis (meaning "city") at the end of the state name of Indiana. However, Indiana takes the word India and adds the Latin suffix -ana, which designates a place name. This would confusingly make Indianapolis the "city of the place of Indians". Minneapolis is another populous example of this suffix in use.


The Angel Stadium, home to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
While Germanic settlers were common across the US, particularly the Midwest, Germany has had a more lasting effect on food in the States than place names. However, there are a few interesting place names that have taken the language as inspiration. As I mentioned on Wednesday, Charlotte, North Carolina, was named after the German-born British Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. I suppose that can count as both English and German.

In terms of other cities with German names, Anaheim, California takes its name from the Spanish word "Ana", from the Santa Ana river, combined with the German word "heim", an older German term often used in place names to mean "home".

There's also the city of Schaumburg, Illinois, which was originally called Sarah's Grove, until a meeting in 1850 when somebody slammed their fist on a table and screamed "Schaumburg schall et heiten!" (English: "It will be called Schaumburg!") and seemingly the name stuck!

That's all for now. Are there any languages that you think we missed? Tell us the city and the language that helped name it in the comments below.

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