Monday, February 02, 2009

Classic Gauze: Origin of American State Names

It was a simple plan. Map out the origin of American state names. A great comment discussion then started which showed me that state origins can have an unknown past and combine several languages.

Another thing decided was that American Indian words were used for interior states because of their relation to the land and breaking away from European cultural ties.

Originally published June 13, 2007

Update: Montana fixed and is now Spanish

Neatorama has an article listing the origin of state names.

Catholicgauze decided the article needed a good map to see if there are any spatial trends. Above are my mapped results. The most of the interior states are named after Indian words. There are only two areas which buck the trend of Indian names. The Atlantic Coast states are mostly named after places or people from Europe or based European cultures in the case of Washington. In the Southwest, four of the six states name origins come from Spanish.

Here's my hypothesis why. Most of the European-origin states were colonized before the time of American Independence while most of the Indian-origin states were settled later by American pioneers. Could the reason for this be that Americans, even though they violated and remade countless treaties, saw naming the lands this way as recognizing the Indians presence on the landscape? Any thoughts?


Will said...

I agree. Don't forget that Indiana reflects the Indian prescense as well even though it is English/Sanskrit in origin. Come to think of it, at least part of New Mexico is indigenousas well.

Deaner said...

West Virginia was given its name through divine intervention... remember that :)