The Geography Blog focusing on all things geography: human, physical, technical, space, news, and geopolitics. Also known as Geographic Travels with Catholicgauze!
Written by a former National Geographic employee who also proudly served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Atlas of True Names and Interview with the Cartographer
Many places in the United States have Indian names. A common question that the curious will ask is what about the meaning of the name. Sometimes there is an available answer but most times this is not the case. The mystery of name origins is found throughout the world as well. Few Londoners will know there city means "Fort on the Hill" or "Hillfort."
Recently Kalimedia released the Atlas of True Names. The atlas is actually a series of maps that display the true meaning of places names. Currently there is one of the whole world and a detailed one of Europe.
The maps reveal the true history and geography of a region. The Yucatan is labeled "I don't understand you." That name comes from the Maya word that they allegedly told the Spanish arrivals when the Mayans first heard Spanish. The term Yucatan stuck in Spanish minds so it was tied to the land. Similar stories exist for the rest of the world.
The maps are truly fascinating. While some may argue on particular points or names, the atlas is an excellent addition to any geographer's collection. Besides the novelty factor the maps allow one to see the world anew and learn the story behind the places.
I was allowed to interview the main cartographer over e-mail about the atlas. Below is our conversation:
Catholicgauze: What inspired you to create Atlas of True Names?
Kalimedia: Three different parts of my general interest came together:
1. Since I was a kid, maps were fascinating me and consequently I became a cartographer.
2. When I was 13 I first saw Tolkien's maps of Middle Earth. These maps inspired my fantasy. (Today the maps of Narnia are strikingly similar)
3. My interest in etymology started when I first translated my own name into comprehensible words.
The translation of personal or geographical names is different to a translation of simple words into another language. Sometimes the origins remain obscure and you have to go back in time to enter arcane worlds.
Catholicgauze: Is there anything that surprised you? Any names that made you think?
Kalimedia: While I changed the entries in the maps name by name, a strange, romantic continent appeared and notwithstanding I was the creator. I had to use the index several times to know where I was. Somehow it's like looking at the world with child's eyes again.
I really love the names with a story behind it:
Tax Haven for Pilgrims - Astrakhan
Mountains of Secret Fire - Pyrenees
Cape by the Dark Warrior's Village - Duncansby Head
Mother of the Universe/Ever Resting Mountain - Chomolungma/Mt. Everest
Sentinel of Stone – Aconcagua
Catholicgauze: What are your plans for the future?
Kalimedia: The surprising popularity of the "Atlas of True Names" demands translation into several languages. We continue quite soon with the French, Spanish and Italian version. Single fold up versions for the British Isles and the US are in preparation. Popular publishers in Germany and the US asked us to produce a real atlas in book form. Finally we'd like to establish KALIMEDIA as a brand for different outstanding maps at a low price level.
I am very grateful for Kalimedia for allowing the interview. I also wish them the best of luck broadening the appeal of geography to many.