Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

23 Nifty United States doesn't have the same ring

Montana: From the Spanish montaña for mountain. 
Nebraska: After the Platte river, which at the time was called the Nevada river, from the Omaha Omaha ni braska, meaning river flat
Nevada: Snow covered after the Sierra Nevada mountains, whose name in Spanish means snow covered mountains. Because when I think Nevada, I think snow.
New Hampshire: After Old Hampshire (aka Hampshire County, England).
New Jersey: Rumor has it that founder Sir George de Carteret was really pumped about his lovely new shirt. It makes me really sad that I just wrote that, and sadder that I'm not deleting it. Named after Jersey island, Sir George's hometown.
New Mexico: Named for Mexico, which may or may not be named for Mextli, an Aztec god.
New York: After the duke of York. Who had ten thousand men.
North Carolina: After King Charles I, from the proper Latin name Carolus.
South Carolina: Named after the lesser known King South Charles.
North Dakota, South Dakota: A Sioux word for Friend, after the Dakota Indians. You're our friends. Now GTFO.
Ohio: We're seriously only on the letter O? 
Oklahoma: From the Choctaw Indian words - okla meaning people and homa meaning red.
Oregon: Another freaking river, long story short. May be, according to Wikipedia, a reference to an Indian word, ulâkân, for a kind of smelt. Not buying it.
Pennsylvania: Penn's Woods, from a combination of the Latin sylvania. Pennsylvania was not, in fact, named for William Penn, the founder of the state, but for Penn's father. Penn didn't even pick the name; King Charles did. The Online Etymology Dictionary claims Penn the younger wanted to call it New Wales, while State Symbols USA claims Penn wanted to call it Sylvania. 
Rhode Island and Providence Plantation: I did a full post on the origin of this state's name here. Long story short, it's called Rhode Island because it's kind of the same shape as the island of Rhodes.
Tennessee: From ta'nasi, the name of a Cherokee village.
Texas: From a Spanish word Tejas (originally pronounced ta-shas) for friend, which in turn comes from the Caddo word taysha. The original meaning of the word is reflected in the state's motto, which is simply Friendship. Bonus Fact: The unofficial state motto, "Don't mess with Texas," was originally an ad slogan for an anti-littering campaign. 
Utah: Named for the Ute or Uto-Aztecan tribe. May come from an Apache word yudah, meaning high, possibly in reference to the fact that the tribe lived high up in the mountains.
Vermont: From the French vert, meaning green, and mont, meaning mountain. 
Virginia/West Virginia: Named for Queen Elizabeth, who was said to have been the virgin queen, because she never married. Elizabeth did have some romantic liaisons, and it may be safe to say she consummated one or two, but there was no direct evidence to that effect - only rumors and innuendo. I read somewhere that the reason Elizabeth never married might have had something to do with her dad's fondness for murdering his wives, which certainly makes some sense.
Washington: After George Washington, believe it or not.
Wisconsin: Man, American's like naming their states after Native American names for the rivers there.
Wyoming: From a Delaware Indian word for big river flat.

I've got to say, this has to be the least fun I've ever had researching a blog post. The lack of interesting etymologies makes me sad.


Cap'n Ergo "XL+II" Jinglebollocks said...

"Because when I think Nevada, I think snow.". well, of course! Why else would it be named that, silly!!

"New York: After the duke of York"-- pity it wasn't Earl, then the song would've been better.

"Ohio: We're seriously only on the letter O?"-- it's because you have a drive to be thourough, dear...

Virgina: "only rumors and innuendo"-- actually, it's more likely to have been inherendo, but let's not be crude about royalty.

Anonymous said...

So we don't get an explanation for Ohio? Or is there just not one? How can I properly mock my birthplace if I don't know that it's named after something stupid? ;)

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

@ Megi - another freaking river.