Literal translations of North American place names make continent sound like Middle Earth


California from ‘Cali’, as in ‘caliente, calor’ -hot in Spanish, calories, etc. and ‘fornia’ as in fornicate. – California: Land of Hot Sex


I think it’s definitely time for a Heritage Minute


The reason for this is regrettably all too common. When the first explorers traveled into the chilly hinterland they filled in the blank spaces on their maps by grabbing the nearest native, pointing at some distant landmark, speaking very clearly in a loud voice, and writing down whatever the bemused man told them. Thus were immortalized in generations of atlases such geographical oddities as “It’s Just A Mountain”, “I Don’t Know”, “What?” and, of course, “Your Finger You Fool”.



“Land of the Dormant Ones”. Sounds about right.

From Spreading Wings of the Eagle in the Land To Which the Sea Flows, living in Deep Pool of the Beautiful Land. Whole lot better then Where Whores Roam and Hole in the Ground.

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North America, or Turtle Island?

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I can’t for the life of me figure out why I’m from Ash Tree Town in The Land of the River. I can’t remember the last time I saw an ash tree in my neighborhood. Cedar, sycamore, black walnut, oak, and of course magnolia are all found around here.

“Town where people plant pear trees then cut them down when they realize how gangly they get” would seem to be a more appropriate name for where I live.


This is neat, but also a little bit silly. State names like “New York,” “New Hampshire,” and “New Jersey,” which directly reference locations in the Old World, are still “translated.” I can’t figure out where they got a definition of “York” which reads “Yew-tree Estate,” and not the location or the House of York. Likewise, “Hampshire” seems to mean “Enclosed Farmshire,” though I don’t know why. Are they just describing these locations?

Yeah - British Columbia is translated as “Dove Land of the Tattooed” i have no idea

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“Brittos” (in the original Greek), or Brittish, literally means “tattooed people”.

From Wikipedia:
The word Britain supposedly comes from the ethnic name *Brittos,[1] meaning, according to the Greek geographers, “tattooed people”. A similar etymology is from “people of forms”, with the root ancestral to the Welsh “pryd” (form, appearance, image, resemblance). The Goidelic cognate is Cruthin, which refers to an area of Ireland in the present-day counties of Down, Londonderry, and Antrim. They are both said to derive from *Qritani or *Qretani, meaning “painted people” or “tattooed people”.


Why wouldn’t they be? Those words come from the old world, but they still have literal translations. See the “British” example above.


That’s fake. There’s no Tim Hortons.

Except Toronto doesn’t mean “meeting place”. It’s most likely from tkaronto, “place where trees stand in the water” which refers to Lake Simcoe. The trail that was extended from there took the name, and it stopped at Lake Ontario, where it eventually became the name of the settlement there. If the trail had kept going around the lake, Toronto would probably be somewhere else.


I suppose you’re right, though I would argue that New Hampshire was literally named after the location Hampshire, and not after the meaning behind the words from which the name of the location is made up. So I would think that a “literal translation” of New Hampshire would be “new Hampshire.” Still, good point; I wasn’t thinking about it that way.

So, I’m in the City of the South Wind People, in the Land of the People With Dugout Canoes. A bit long for an envelope.

Anecdotal local story for you, but probably not true. I’ve always heard that the Wakarusa River got that name when settler/explorers asked local natives, while pointing to the river, “What’s this?”, thinking to learn the name of it, and said local natives replied with “wakarusa”, meaning “about crotch deep”.

Yeah, it’s probably not true, but hey, there ya go.

Also, to my relatives in Terre Haute, IN, I’ve always told them their high school mascot should be “The Highlanders”.

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I think we all know what it means when people have a “South Wind”.


Seriously, what did they get the California from? It was never a real word.

I think that they just put the names in Google Translate and then translated them back and forth until the translation didn’t change anymore…


I guess the idea is that the state was probably named for the fictitious Calafia, and she was probably named after the caliphs. In Arabic khalifa literally means successor.

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