Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States

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New York Review of Books, Jul 1, 2008 - History - 432 pages
7 Reviews
George R. Stewart’s classic study of place-naming in the United States was written during World War II as a tribute to the varied heritage of the nation’s peoples. More than half a century later, Names on the Land remains the authoritative source on its subject, while Stewart’s 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 León’s flowery Florída, Cortés’s 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 isn’t.

Names on the Land will engage anyone who has ever wondered at the curious names scattered across the American map. Stewart’s answer is always a story—one of the countless stories that lie behind the rich and strange diversity of the USA.

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User Review  - Hedgepeth - LibraryThing

A very interesting account on how some of our locations were named. Read full review

Review: Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States

User Review  - Lawrence A - Goodreads

Entertaining and edifying history of the historical processes at work in the naming of places in the United States. Now perhaps we can convert Wyoming back into a territory? Read full review


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Of the naming that was before history
How the first Spaniards gave names

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About the author (2008)

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.

Robert Krulwich is an American radio and television journalist whose specialty is explaining complex topics in depth. He has worked as a full-time employee of CBS, National Public Radio, and Pacifica. He has done assignment pieces for ABC's "Nightline" and "World News Tonight," as well as PBS's "Frontline," "NOVA," and "NOW with Bill Moyers." TV Guide called him "the most inventive network reporter in television

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