State Names

See the source imageIt seems like a cottage industry, picking apart this unfortunate quote from earlier this week:

We came here and created a blank slate. We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes we have Native Americans, but candidly there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.

We’ve hit on food and money here so far. Candidly, I wonder if Rick Santorum ever had any schooling in American geography. The majority of US states can trace their name to native languages here. And most of those states are categorized these days as red–ideological confreres to the retired Senator from the Keystone State.

One entry from this page on Native American State names:

Chwewamink, which means “by the big river flat” in the Lenape Indian tribe. The Lenape Indians never actually lived in Wyoming– it was originally the name of a town in Pennsylvania, and white settlers from that area brought the name with them when they moved west.

White from Pennsylvania, hmmm. It seems as if nineteenth century folks had some regard for the names of the people they knew and places in which they settled on this continent. Would that whites of the twenty-first century had better schooling in their own culture.

Names are important. They tell us where we are and where we’re going. They are an indelible part of culture, even American culture.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to State Names

  1. Liam says:

    The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is named for a local people who were named for a local geographical feature – the Great (Blue) Hill that is the tallest prominence near the East/South Coasts of the USA south of Maine, part of a string of coastal hills that served as fire signal stations for local indigenous peoples (think a much less grand version of The Return of The King). (W)GBH (which dropped the W last year) is also named for the Great Blue Hill as its transmitters were long stationed there, but local wags decades ago joked that the acronym had a double meaning because of Harvard’s involvement in the establishment of the station so that GBH also stood for God Bless Harvard.

    Btw, the proper eponym for residents of Massachusetts does not use that name; rather, it’s Bay Stater. (Another New England state with an indigenously-based name is similar in that regard: the eponym for residents of Connecticut is Nutmegger; my parents were Nutmeggers.) New England is strewn with a tapestry of indigenous and non-native place names, such as Lake Chaubunagungamaug in the town of Webster MA, and both types of place names are a rich source of shibboleth pronunciation that help identify if the speaker is local or From Away.

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