Native Names, the Interactive Map. Graphic: Oliver Uberti, National Geographic
A lot of places in the United States have their names derived from Native American words (I'm looking at you, Punxsutawney!). But do you know what they actually mean?
Our friends over at National Geographic have put together this really spiffy interactive map of the United States, with the translated meaning of the towns, lakes, and other localities.
Here are my personal favorites:
- Malibu, CA: It makes a loud noise all the time over there
- Topeka, KS: Good place to dig potatoes
- Chicago, IL: At the skunk place
- Yosemite, CA: They are killers
But the strangest one has got to be Loleta, a small town in Northern California. It means "let's have intercourse."
Of course, the town founders claimed that the name means "pleasant place at the end of the tide water" but not according to William Bright, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Anthropology at UCLA, who wrote in his book Native American Placenames of the United States:
LOLETA (Calif., Humboldt Co.). In 1893, a resident, Mrs. Rufus F. Herrick, chose the present name, supposed to be from the local Wiyot Indian language. The Indian name was in fact katawóio't, but an elderly Indian played a joke on Mrs. Herrick by telling her that the name was hós wiwítak 'let's have intercourse!' - the latter part of which she interpreted in baby-talk fashion as Loleta (Teeter 1958).
What are your favorites?