Sunday 31 July 2011

truth or consequences, new mexico

The label on the Uruguayan wine bottle with dinner informed me that the country’s name “means ‘River of Painted Birds’ in the native language.” I stumbled upon a clever world map that gives an etymology of the names of nations—although I am not entirely sure how accurate some of these are and it is kind of a shame that the map does not explain who Amerigo Vespucci was or how he managed to have two continents named after him (though I suppose the terminally interested could easily look that up in their Funk & Wagnalls’). Incidentally, driving home through France, I wondered why the central region, containing Paris, was called Île-de-France (Island of France), and it turns out that this was probably because of an ancient Gaulish misunderstanding of an Germanic Old Franconian designation for the place--Liddle Franke, little land of the Franks. I think it would be a neat project to make a more local map of derivations and translations, streets and suburbs and towns--sort of like how Bad Karma got its name.