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Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States (New York Review Books Classics)by George R. Stewart
Synopses & Reviews
George R. Stewarts classic study of place-naming in the United States was written during World War II as a tribute to the varied heritage of the nations peoples. More than half a century later, Names on the Land remains the authoritative source on its subject, while Stewarts intimate knowledge of America and love of anecdote make his book a unique and delightful window on American history and social life.
Names on the Land is a fascinating and fantastically detailed panorama of language in action. Stewart opens with the first European names in what would later be the United States—Ponce de Leóns flowery Florída, Cortéss semi-mythical isle of California, and the red Rio Colorado—before going on to explore New England, New Amsterdam, and New Sweden, the French and the Russian legacies, and the unlikely contributions of everybody from border ruffians to Boston Brahmins. These lively pages examine where and why Indian names were likely to be retained; nineteenth-century fads that gave rise to dozens of Troys and Athens and to suburban Parksides, Brookmonts, and Woodcrest Manors; and deep and enduring mysteries such as why “Arkansas” is Arkansaw, except of course when it isnt.
Names on the Land will engage anyone who has ever wondered at the curious names scattered across the American map. Stewarts answer is always a story—one of the countless stories that lie behind the rich and strange diversity of the USA.
This beloved classic about place-naming in the United States was written during World War II in a conscious effort to pay tribute to the heritage of the nation's peoples. George R. Stewart's love of the surprising story, and his focus not just on language but on how people interact with their environment, make Names on the Land a unique window into the history and sociology of America.
From the first European names in what would later be the United States-Ponce de Leon's flowery Florida, Cortez's semi-mythical isle of California, and the red river Rio Colorado-to New England, New Amsterdam, and New Sweden; the French and the Russians; border ruffians and Boston Brahmins: Names on the Land is no dry dictionary but a fascinating panorama of language in action, bursting at the seams with revealing details. In lively, passionate writing, Stewart explains where Indian names were likely to be kept, and why; the fad that gave rise to dozens of Troys and to Athens, Georgia, as well as suburban Parksides, Brookmonts, and Woodcrest Manors; why Brooklyn is Dutch but looks English and why Arkansas is Arkansaw, except of course when it isn't.
His book has delighted generations of road-trippers, armchair travelers, and anyone who ever wondered how their hometown, or (more likely) the next town over, could be called that. Stewart's answer is always a story-one of the countless stories that lie behind the rich and strange diversity of America.
About the Author
George R. Stewart (1895—1980) was born in Pennsylvania and educated at Princeton. He received his Ph.D. in English literature from Columbia University in 1922, and joined the English faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1924. He was a toponymist, founding member of the American Name Society, and a prolific and highly successful writer of novels and of popular nonfiction, especially dealing with U.S. history and with the American West.
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