Friday, July 07, 2006

What's in a name?

Probably a lot. That's why some places are wiped off the map, says Mark Monmonier in his book, From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow.

Mark says: "'Nigger's were abolished in the US in 1962. 'Squaw's and 'Jap's went in the decade following. The erasure of 'Dago's, 'Chink's and 'Wop's has been a more piecemeal affair. In From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow, Mark Monmonier reads map names to diagnose the racial, political and moral tensions which enmesh them. A toponym (the name of any feature that appears on a map), he argues, is both a legacy and an argument waiting to happen."

Name of places do fascinate me. If you go into the heartland of India, or for that matter, any other country, you will notice how the names of the places are linked with local language and folk lore. These days in the metros, however, you will find more anglicised names than ever before. In Delhi's suburb Gurgaon, for example, you will find a lot of apartment buildings named as Ridgewood and Hill View Apartments in Pocket so and so and Zone so and so.

Sometimes, even your name could have a geographical existence. I was really surprised to find out that my name stood for two different places in different parts of the world: Zafar in Oman and Anjum in the Netherlands. Interesting, isn't it?

1 comment:

Dean said...

An excerpt from From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame by Mark Monmonier is available on the University of Chicago Press website. Read the whole story of places like Whorehouse Meadow, Brassiere Hills, and the town of Dildo: