Afternoon Obsession: Map With Original Place Names for American States

Hello from Sibling Love, Land of the Main Hill Wood! According to cartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Peust, responsible for this recently published, slightly bewildering map of U.S. state names, we’ve been off the etymological track. So much for “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.” What a sonorous ring we’ve missed! Better yet, if you’re hitting the Shore for July 4th, make sure to check in at the New Isle of Spears (New Jersey).

Though the names may seem iffy to anyone who took U.S. history, Hormes and Peust have some cred. Check out etymology dictionaries, and you’ll find that the name “Louisiana,” supposedly a representation of monarchial ownership, has etymological roots that lead to “Land of the Famous Warrior.” And if you die-hard Pennsylvanians out there worry that “Main Hill Wood” stiffs our William Penn, have no fear. Penn + silvania means “Penn’s woods.” But “Penn” harks from Pennaeth, Welsh for “head,” somehow bringing us to “Land of the Main Hill Wood.”

At least we’re not Montana. “Mountain Area” seems like a bit of a copout.