Monday, February 24, 2014

Hi! I'm from Pagan God's Sacrificial Plain and Hootenanny Holler.

Because, in the immortal words of Allie Brosh, I surf the internet like an attention-deficient squirrel on LSD, I discovered the meaning of the name "Kokomo."  I got to this point because I was reading The Bloggess, who referenced the place, and of course I had to look it up in Wikipedia to learn all about Kokomo because I'm really weird like that.  Also I like to know random things about cities, even small cities in Indiana that I have never and probably will never visit.

I am utterly fascinated by word origins in general, but especially with place names.  I often suspect that if I weren't inextricably tied to the city of Richmond that I would probably base my choice of a city on its name and either how elegant or how bizarre it sounded.

Even though some of them are perfectly cool cities, I think the most boring names are those that commemorate a founder.  Hagerstown, Lynchburg, Martinsburg...meh.  Nice towns and all (or at least Lynchburg is...sorry Hagerstown, your ship set sail and sank) but I just can't get worked up over the names.  Philadelphia, which does in fact mean "City of Brotherly Love," is a noble idea and has a nice ring to it.  New York is an interesting choice since it ended up being about a squillion times bigger than the original York (pop. 153,000). There are in fact quite a few New Londons in the U.S., but none of them even approached being a big city. There's one in Frederick County, Maryland, that really doesn't even exist anymore. I think it now consists of two houses.  New London, indeed.  A lot of Eastern cities ended up with the names of English towns anyway--e.g., Richmond and Norfolk.  While not exactly exciting the English names have the advantage of sounding aristocratic and let's face it, Norfolk needs all the help it can get.  Newport News confuses people but it's a cool story--it's where Captain Newport landed and news from England.  And, of course, there's Baltimore, named for the title of the Calvert family--but really it refers to landholdings in Ireland and means "The Moor of Baal."  Cool. Pagan gods who demand human sacrifice.  You can never go wrong with that.  Then, given that Baltimore is an extremely dangerous city, maybe everyone decided to take the name literally.

The really bizarre ones are fun, too.  Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania is apparently named for some weird luminescent swamp gas.  I haven't quite figured out Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, but it sounds like a fun place to say you're from.  Unlike, however, Lower Squankum, New Jersey. I just can't imagine having to hold your head up in public and say, "Yes, I'm from Lower Squankum."  Of course so many New Jersey names are Godawful. Maybe that's why those folks have such a notorious chip on their collective shoulder.  Growing up in a place that is seriously named Ho-Ho-Kus probably gives you some serious issues.  Virginia isn't exactly immune; we have here the lovely town of Bumpass.  Yes, you read that right; although its denizens pronounce it "Bumpus" (Of course they do).  And supposedly it derives from the French "Bon Pas," or "good pass."  This is all well and good, but you'd think that somewhere along the line people would have realized that keeping the original French name would have looked a lot better than what the rest of the planet will read as "Bump Ass."

Oh, and Kokomo means "Black Walnut."

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