The American Language

by H.L. Mencken

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Chapter VIII - Proper Names in America

§ 1

Surnames—A glance at any American city directory is sufficient to show that, despite the continued political and cultural preponderance of the original English strain, the American people have quite ceased to be authentically English in race, or even authentically British. The blood in their arteries is inordinately various and inextricably mixed, but yet not mixed enough to run a clear stream. A touch of foreignness still lingers about millions of them, even in the country of their birth. They show their alien origin in their speech, in their domestic customs, in their habits of mind, and in their very names. Just as the Scotch and the Welsh have invaded England, elbowing out the actual English to make room for themselves, so the Irish, the Germans, the Italians, the Scandinavians and the Jews of Eastern Europe, and in some areas, the French, the Slavs and the hybrid-Spaniards have elbowed out the descendants of the first colonists. It is not exaggerating, indeed, to say that wherever the old stock comes into direct and unrestrained conflict with one of these new stocks, it tends to succumb, or, at all events, to give up the battle. The Irish, in the big cities of the East, attained to a truly impressive political power long before the first native-born generation of them had grown up.[1] The Germans, following the limestone belt of the Alleghany foothills, pre-empted the best lands East of the mountains before the new [Pg269] republic was born.[2] And so, in our own time, we have seen the Swedes and Norwegians shouldering the native from the wheat lands of the Northwest, and the Italians driving the decadent New Englanders from their farms, and the Jews gobbling New York, and the Slavs getting a firm foothold in the mining regions, and the French Canadians penetrating New Hampshire and Vermont, and the Japanese and Portuguese menacing Hawaii, and the awakened negroes gradually ousting the whites from the farms of the South.[3] The birth-rate among all these foreign stocks is enormously greater than among the older stock, and though the death-rate is also high, the net increase remains relatively formidable. Even without the aid of immigration it is probable that they would continue to rise in numbers faster than the original English and so-called Scotch-Irish.[4]

Turn to the letter z in the New York telephone directory and you will find a truly astonishing array of foreign names, some of them in process of anglicization, but many of them still arrestingly outlandish. The only Anglo-Saxon surname beginning with z is Zacharias,[5] and even that was originally borrowed from the Greek. To this the Norman invasion seems to have added only Zouchy. But in Manhattan and the Bronx, even among the necessarily limited class of telephone subscribers, there are nearly 1500 persons whose names begin with the letter, and among them one finds fully 150 different surnames. The German Zimmermann, with either one n or two, is naturally the most numerous single name, and following close upon it are its derivatives, Zimmer and Zimmern. With them are many more German names: Zahn, Zechendorf, Zeffert, Zeitler, Zeller, Zellner, Zeltmacher, Zepp, Ziegfeld, Zabel, Zucker, Zuckermann, Ziegler, Zillman, Zinser and so on. They are all represented heavily, but they indicate neither the earliest nor the most formidable accretion, for underlying them are many Dutch [Pg270] names, e. g., Zeeman and Zuurmond, and over them are a large number of Slavic, Italian and Jewish names. Among the first I note Zabludosky, Zabriskie, Zachczynski, Zapinkow, Zaretsky, Zechnowitz, Zenzalsky and Zywachevsky; among the second, Zaccardi, Zaccarini, Zaccaro, Zapparano, Zanelli, Zicarelli and Zucca; among the third, Zukor, Zipkin and Ziskind. There are, too, various Spanish names: Zelaya, Zingaro, etc. And Greek: Zapeion, Zervakos and Zouvelekis. And Armenian: Zaloom, Zaron and Zatmajian. And Hungarian: Zadek, Zagor and Zichy. And Swedish: Zetterholm and Zetterlund. And a number that defy placing: Zrike, Zvan, Zwipf, Zula, Zur and Zeve.

Any other American telephone directory will show the same extraordinary multiplication of exotic patronymics. I choose, at random, that of Pittsburgh, and confine myself to the saloon-keepers and clergymen. Among the former I find a great many German names: Artz, Bartels, Blum, Gaertner, Dittmer, Hahn, Pfeil, Schuman, Schlegel, von Hedemann, Weiss and so on. And Slavic names: Blaszkiewicz, Bukosky, Puwalowski, Krzykolski, Tuladziecke and Stratkiewicz. And Greek and Italian names: Markopoulos, Martinelli, Foglia, Gigliotti and Karabinos. And names beyond my determination: Tyburski, Volongiatica, Herisko and Hajduk. Very few Anglo-Saxon names are on the list; the continental foreigner seems to be driving out the native, and even the Irishman, from the saloon business. Among the clerics, naturally enough, there are more men of English surname, but even here I find such strange names as Auroroff, Ashinsky, Bourajanis, Duic, Cillo, Mazure, Przvblski, Pniak, Bazilevich, Smelsz and Vrhunec. But Pittsburgh and New York, it may be argued, are scarcely American; unrestricted immigration has swamped them; the newcomers crowd into the cities. Well, examine the roster of the national House of Representatives, which surely represents the whole country. On it I find Bacharach, Dupré, Esch, Estopinal, Focht, Heintz, Kahn, Kiess, Kreider, La Guardia, Kraus, Lazaro, Lehbach, Romjue, Siegel and Zihlman, not to mention the insular delegates, Kalanianole, [Pg271] de Veyra, Davila and Yangko, and enough Irishmen to organize a parliament at Dublin.

In the New York city directory the fourth most common name is now Murphy, an Irish name, and the fifth most common is Meyer, which is German and chiefly Jewish. The Meyers are the Smiths of Austria, and of most of Germany. They outnumber all other clans. After them come the Schultzes and Krauses, just as the Joneses and Williamses follow the Smiths in Great Britain. Schultze and Kraus do not seem to be very common names in New York, but Schmidt, Muller, Schneider and Klein appear among the fifty commonest.[6] Cohen and Levy rank eighth and ninth, and are both ahead of Jones, which is second in England, and Williams, which is third. Taylor, a highly typical British name, ranking fourth in England and Wales, is twenty-third in New York. Ahead of it, beside Murphy, Meyer, Cohen and Levy, are Schmidt, Ryan, O'Brien, Kelly and Sullivan. Robinson, which is twelfth in England, is thirty-ninth in New York; even Schneider and Muller are ahead of it. In Chicago Olson, Schmidt, Meyer, Hansen and Larsen are ahead of Taylor, and Hoffman and Becker are ahead of Ward; in Boston Sullivan and Murphy are ahead of any English name save Smith; in Philadelphia Myers is just below Robinson. Nor, as I have said, is this large proliferation of foreign surnames confined to the large cities. There are whole regions in the Southwest in which López and Gonzales are far commoner names than Smith, Brown or Jones, and whole regions in the Middle West wherein Olson is commoner than either Taylor or Williams, and places both North and South where Duval is at least as common as Brown.

Moreover, the true proportions of this admixture of foreign blood are partly concealed by a wholesale anglicization of surnames, sometimes deliberate and sometimes the fruit of mere confusion. That Smith, Brown and Miller remain in first, second and third places among the surnames of New York is surely no sound evidence of Anglo-Saxon survival. The German and [Pg272] Scandinavian Schmidt has undoubtedly contributed many a Smith, and Braun many a Brown, and Müller many a Miller. In the same way Johnson, which holds first place among Chicago surnames, and Anderson, which holds third, are plainly reinforced from Scandinavian sources, and the former may also owe something to the Russian Ivanof. Miller is a relatively rare name in England; it is not among the fifty most common. But it stands thirtieth in Boston, fourth in New York and Baltimore, and second in Philadelphia.[7] In the last-named city the influence of Müller, probably borrowed from the Pennsylvania Dutch, is plainly indicated, and in Chicago it is likely that there are also contributions from the Scandinavian Möller, the Polish Jannszewski and the Bohemian Mlinár. Myers, as we have seen, is a common surname in Philadelphia. So are Fox and Snyder. In some part, at least, they have been reinforced by the Pennsylvania Dutch Meyer, Fuchs and Schneider. Sometimes Müller changes to Miller, sometimes to Muller, and sometimes it remains unchanged, but with the spelling made Mueller. Muller and Mueller do not appear among the commoner names in Philadelphia; all the Müllers seem to have become Millers, thus putting Miller in second place. But in Chicago, with Miller in fourth place, there is also Mueller in thirty-first place, and in New York, with Miller in third place, there is also Muller in twenty-fourth place.

Such changes, chiefly based upon transliterations, are met with in all countries. The name of Taaffe, familiar in Austrian history, had an Irish prototype, probably Taft. General Demikof, one of the Russian commanders at the battle of Zorndorf, in 1758, was a Swede born Themicoud. Franz Maria von Thugut, the Austrian diplomatist, was a member of an Italian Tyrolese family named Tunicotto. This became Thunichgut (=do no good) in Austria, and was changed to Thugut (=do good) to bring it into greater accord with its possessor's deserts.[8] In [Pg273] Bonaparte the Italian buon(o) became the French bon. Many English surnames are decayed forms of Norman-French names, for example, Sidney from St. Denis, Divver from De Vere, Bridgewater from Burgh de Walter, Montgomery from de Mungumeri, Garnett from Guarinot, and Seymour from Saint-Maure. A large number of so-called Irish names are the products of rough-and-ready transliterations of Gaelic patronymics, for example, Findlay from Fionnlagh, Dermott from Diarmuid, and McLane from Mac Illeathiain. In the same way the name of Phoenix Park, in Dublin, came from Fion Uisg (=fine water). Of late some of the more ardent Irish authors and politicians have sought to return to the originals. Thus, O'Sullivan has become O Suilleabháin, Pearse has become Piarais, Mac Sweeney has become Mac Suibhne, and Patrick has suffered a widespread transformation to Padraic. But in America, with a language of peculiar vowel-sounds and even consonant-sounds struggling against a foreign invasion unmatched for strength and variety, such changes have been far more numerous than across the ocean, and the legal rule of idem sonans is of much wider utility than anywhere else in the world. If it were not for that rule there would be endless difficulties for the Wises whose grandfathers were Weisses, and the Leonards born Leonhards, Leonhardts or Lehnerts, and the Manneys who descend and inherit from Le Maines.

"A crude popular etymology," says a leading authority on surnames,[9] "often begins to play upon a name that is no longer significant to the many. So the Thurgods have become Thoroughgoods, and the Todenackers have become the Pennsylvania Dutch Toothakers, much as asparagus has become sparrow-grass." So, too, the Wittnachts of Boyle county, Kentucky, descendants of a Hollander, have become Whitenecks, and the Lehns of lower Pennsylvania, descendants of some far-off German, have become Lanes.[10] Edgar Allan Poe was a member of a family long settled in Western Maryland, the founder being one Poh or Pfau, a native of the Palatinate. Major George [Pg274] Armistead, who defended Fort McHenry in 1814, when Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner," was the descendant of an Armstädt who came to Virginia from Hesse-Darmstadt. General George A. Custer, the Indian fighter, was the great-grandson of one Küster, a Hessian soldier paroled after Burgoyne's surrender. William Wirt, anti-Masonic candidate for the presidency in 1832, was the son of one Wörth. William Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was the great-grandson of a Bohemian named Paka. General W. S. Rosecrans was really a Rosenkrantz. Even the surname of Abraham Lincoln, according to some authorities, was an anglicized form of Linkhorn.[11]

Such changes, in fact, are almost innumerable; every work upon American genealogy is full of examples. The first foreign names to undergo the process were Dutch and French. Among the former, Reiger was debased to Riker, Van de Veer to Vandiver, Van Huys to Vannice, Van Siegel to Van Sickle, Van Arsdale to Vannersdale, and Haerlen (or Haerlem) to Harlan;[12] among the latter, Petit became Poteet, Caillé changed to Kyle, De la Haye to Dillehay, Dejean to Deshong, Guizot to Gossett, Guereant to Caron, Soule to Sewell, Gervaise to Jarvis, Bayle to Bailey, Fontaine to Fountain, Denis to Denny, Pebaudière to Peabody, Bon Pas to Bumpus and de l'Hôtel to Doolittle. "Frenchmen and French Canadians who came to New England," says Schele de Vere, "had to pay for such hospitality as they there received by the sacrifice of their names. The brave Bon Coeur, Captain Marryatt tells us in his Diary, became Mr. Bunker, and gave his name to Bunker's Hill."[13] But it was the German immigration that provoked the first really wholesale slaughter. A number of characteristic German sounds—for example, that of ü and the guttural in ch and g—are almost impossible to the Anglo-Saxon pharynx, and so they had to go. Thus, Bloch was changed to Block or Black, Ochs to [Pg275] Oakes, Hock to Hoke, Fischbach to Fishback, Albrecht to Albert or Albright, and Steinweg to Steinway, and the Grundwort, bach, was almost universally changed to baugh, as in Brumbaugh. The ü met the same fate: Grün was changed to Green, Führ to Fear or Fuhr, Wärner to Warner, Düring to Deering, and Schnäbele to Snavely, Snabely or Snively. In many other cases there were changes in spelling to preserve vowel sounds differently represented in German and English. Thus, Blum was changed to Bloom,[14], Reuss to Royce, Koester to Kester, Kuehle to Keeley, Schroeder to Schrader, Stehli to Staley, Weymann to Wayman, Friedmann to Freedman, Bauman to Bowman, and Lang (as the best compromise possible) to Long. The change of Oehm to Ames belongs to the same category; the addition of the final s represents a typical effort to substitute the nearest related Anglo-Saxon name. Other examples of that effort are to be found in Michaels for Michaelis, Bowers for Bauer, Johnson for Johannsen, Ford for Furth, Hines for Heintz, Kemp for Kempf, Foreman for Fuhrmann, Kuhns or Coons for Kuntz, Hoover for Huber, Levering for Liebering, Jones for Jonas, Swope for Schwab, Hite or Hyde for Heid, Andrews for André, Young for Jung, and Pence for Pentz.[15]

The American antipathy to accented letters, mentioned in the chapter on spelling, is particularly noticeable among surnames. An immigrant named Fürst inevitably becomes plain Furst in the United States, and if not the man, then surely his son. Löwe, in the same way, is transformed into Lowe (pro. low),[16] [Pg276] Lürmann into Lurman, Schön into Schon, Suplée into Suplee or Supplee, Lüders into Luders and Brühl into Brill. Even when no accent betrays it, the foreign diphthong is under hard pressure. Thus the German oe disappears, and Loeb is changed to Lobe or Laib, Oehler to Ohler, Loeser to Leser, and Schoen to Schon or Shane. In the same way the au in such names as Rosenau changes to aw. So too, the French oi-sound is disposed of, and Dubois is pronounced Doo-bóys, and Boileau acquires a first syllable rhyming with toil. So with the kn in the German names of the Knapp class; they are all pronounced, probably by analogy with Knight, as if they began with n. So with sch; Schneider becomes Snyder, Schlegel becomes Slagel, and Schluter becomes Sluter. If a foreigner clings to the original spelling of his name he must usually expect to hear it mispronounced. Roth, in American, quickly becomes Rawth; Frémont, losing both accent and the French e, become Freemont; Blum begins to rhyme with dumb; Mann rhymes with van, and Lang with hang; Krantz, Lantz and their cognates with chance; Kurtz with shirts; the first syllable of Gutmann with but; the first of Kahler with bay; the first of Werner with turn; the first of Wagner with nag. Uhler, in America, is always Youler. Berg loses its German e-sound for an English u-sound, and its German hard g for an English g; it becomes identical with the berg of iceberg. The same change in the vowel occurs in Erdmann. In König the German diphthong succumbs to a long o, and the hard g becomes k; the common pronunciation is Cone-ik. Often, in Berger, the g becomes soft, and the name rhymes with verger. It becomes soft, too, in Bittinger. In Wilstach and Welsbach the ch becomes a k. In Anheuser the eu changes to a long i. The final e, important in German, is nearly always silenced; Dohme rhymes with foam; Kühne becomes Keen.

In addition to these transliterations, there are constant translations of foreign proper names. "Many a Pennsylvania Carpenter," says Dr. Oliphant,[17] "bearing a surname that is English, from the French, from the Latin, and there a Celtic loan-word [Pg277] in origin, is neither English, nor French, nor Latin, nor Celt, but an original German Zimmermann."[18] A great many other such translations are under everyday observation. Pfund becomes Pound; Becker, Baker; Schumacher, Shoemaker; König, King; Weisberg, Whitehill; Koch, Cook;[19] Neuman, Newman; Schaefer, Shepherd or Sheppard; Gutmann, Goodman; Goldschmidt, Goldsmith; Edelstein, Noblestone; Steiner, Stoner; Meister, Master(s); Schwartz, Black; Weiss, White; Weber, Weaver; Bucher, Booker; Vogelgesang, Birdsong; Sontag, Sunday, and so on. Partial translations are also encountered, e. g., Studebaker from Studebecker, and Reindollar from Rheinthaler. By the same process, among the newer immigrants, the Polish Wilkiewicz becomes Wilson, the Bohemian Bohumil becomes Godfrey, and the Bohemian Kovár and the Russian Kuznetzov become Smith. Some curious examples are occasionally encountered. Thus Henry Woodhouse, a gentleman prominent in aeronautical affairs, came to the United States from Italy as Mario Terenzio Enrico Casalegno; his new surname is simply a translation of his old one. And the Belmonts, the bankers, unable to find a euphonious English equivalent for their German-Jewish patronymic of Schönberg, chose a French one that Americans could pronounce.

In part, as I say, these changes in surname are enforced by the sheer inability of Americans to pronounce certain Continental consonants, and their disinclination to remember the Continental vowel sounds. Many an immigrant, finding his name constantly mispronounced, changes its vowels or drops some of its consonants; many another shortens it, or translates it, or changes it entirely for the same reason. Just as a well-known Graeco-French poet changed his Greek name of Papadiamantopoulos to Moréas because Papadiamantopoulos was too much for Frenchmen, and as an eminent Polish-English novelist [Pg278] changed his Polish name of Korzeniowski to Conrad because few Englishmen could pronounce owski correctly, so the Italian or Greek or Slav immigrant, coming up for naturalization, very often sheds his family name with his old allegiance, and emerges as Taylor, Jackson or Wilson. I once encountered a firm of Polish Jews, showing the name of Robinson & Jones on its sign-board, whose partners were born Rubinowitz and Jonas. I lately heard of a German named Knoche—a name doubly difficult to Americans, what with the kn and the ch—who changed it boldly to Knox to avoid being called Nokky. A Greek named Zoyiopoulous, Kolokotronis, Mavrokerdatos or Constantinopolous would find it practically impossible to carry on amicable business with Americans; his name would arouse their mirth, if not their downright ire. And the same burden would lie upon a Hungarian named Beniczkyné or Gyalui, or Szilagyi, or Vezercsillagok. Or a Finn named Kyyhkysen, or Jääskelainen, or Tuulensuu, or Uotinen,—all honorable Finnish patronymics. Or a Swede named Sjogren, or Schjtt, or Leijonhufvud. Or a Bohemian named Srb, or Hrubka. Or, for that matter, a German named Kannengiesser, or Schnapaupf, or Pfannenbecker.

But more important than this purely linguistic hostility, there is a deeper social enmity, and it urges the immigrant to change his name with even greater force. For a hundred years past all the heaviest and most degrading labor of the United States has been done by successive armies of foreigners, and so a concept of inferiority has come to be attached to mere foreignness. In addition, these newcomers, pressing upward steadily in the manner already described, have offered the native a formidable, and considering their lower standards of living, what has appeared to him to be an unfair competition on his own plane, and as a result a hatred born of disastrous rivalry has been added to his disdain. Our unmatchable vocabulary of derisive names for foreigners reveals the national attitude. The French boche, the German hunyadi (for Hungarian),[20] and the old English froggy (for Frenchman) seem lone and feeble beside our great repertoire: [Pg279] dago, wop, guinea, kike, goose, mick, harp,[21] bohick, bohunk, square-head, greaser, canuck, spiggoty,[22] chink, polack, dutchie, scowegian, hunkie and yellow-belly. This disdain tends to pursue an immigrant with extraordinary rancor when he bears a name that is unmistakably foreign and hence difficult to the native, and open to his crude burlesque. Moreover, the general feeling penetrates the man himself, particularly if he be ignorant, and he comes to believe that his name is not only a handicap, but also intrinsically discreditable—that it wars subtly upon his worth and integrity.[23] This feeling, perhaps, accounted for a good many changes of surnames among Germans upon the entrance of the United States into the war. But in the majority of cases, of course, the changes so copiously reported—e. g., from Bielefelder to Benson, and from Pulvermacher to Pullman—were merely efforts at protective coloration. The immigrant, in a time of extraordinary suspicion and difficulty, tried to get rid of at least one handicap.[24] [Pg280]

This motive constantly appears among the Jews, who face an anti-Semitism that is imperfectly concealed and may be expected to grow stronger hereafter. Once they have lost the faith of their fathers, a phenomenon almost inevitable in the first native-born generation, they shrink from all the disadvantages that go with Jewishness, and seek to conceal their origin, or, at all events, to avoid making it unnecessarily noticeable.[25] To this end they modify the spelling of the more familiar Jewish surnames, turning Levy into Lewy, Lewyt, Levitt, Levin, Levine, Levey, Levie[26] and even Lever, Cohen into Cohn, Cahn, Kahn, Kann, Coyne and Conn, Aarons into Arens and Ahrens and Solomon into Salmon, Salomon and Solmson. In the same way they shorten their long names, changing Wolfsheimer to Wolf, Goldschmidt to Gold, and Rosenblatt, Rosenthal, Rosenbaum, Rosenau, Rosenberg, Rosenbusch, Rosenblum, Rosenstein, Rosenheim and Rosenfeldt to Rose. Like the Germans, they also seek refuge in translations more or less literal. Thus, on the East Side of New York, Blumenthal is often changed to Bloomingdale, Schneider to Taylor, Reichman to Richman, and Schlachtfeld to Warfield. Fiddler, a common Jewish name, becomes Harper; so does Pikler, which is Yiddish for drummer. Stolar, which is a Yiddish word borrowed from the Russian, signifying carpenter, is often changed to Carpenter. Lichtman and Lichtenstein become Chandler. Meilach, which is Hebrew for king, becomes King, and so does Meilachson. The strong tendency to seek English-sounding equivalents for names of noticeably foreign origin changes Sher into Sherman, Michel into Mitchell, Rogowsky into Rogers, Kolinsky into Collins, Rabinovitch into Robbins, Davidovitch into Davis, Moiseyev into Macy or Mason, and Jacobson, Jacobovitch and Jacobovsky into Jackson. This last [Pg281] change proceeds by way of a transient change to Jake or Jack as a nickname. Jacob is always abbreviated to one or the other on the East Side. Yankelevitch also becomes Jackson, for Yankel is Yiddish for Jacob.[27]

Among the immigrants of other stocks some extraordinarily radical changes in name are to be observed. Greek names of five, and even eight syllables shrink to Smith; Hungarian names that seem to be all consonants are reborn in such euphonious forms as Martin and Lacy. I have encountered a Gregory who was born Grgurevich in Serbia; a Uhler who was born Uhlyarik; a Graves who descends from the fine old Dutch family of 'sGravenhage. I once knew a man named Lawton whose grandfather had been a Lautenberger. First he shed the berger and then he changed the spelling of Lauten to make it fit the inevitable American mispronunciation. There is, again, a family of Dicks in the South whose ancestor was a Schwettendieck—apparently a Dutch or Low German name. There is, yet again, a celebrated American artist, of the Bohemian patronymic of Hrubka, who has abandoned it for a surname which is common to all the Teutonic languages, and is hence easy for Americans. The Italians, probably because of the relations established by the Catholic church, often take Irish names, as they marry Irish girls; it is common to hear of an Italian pugilist or politician named Kelly or O'Brien. The process of change is often informal, but even legally it is quite facile. The Naturalization Act of June 29, 1906, authorizes the court, as a part of the naturalization of any alien, to make an order changing his name. This is frequently done when he receives his last papers; sometimes, if the newspapers are to be believed, without his solicitation, and even against his protest. If the matter is overlooked at the time, he may change his name later on, like any other citizen, by simple application to a court of record.

Among names of Anglo-Saxon origin and names naturalized long before the earliest colonization, one notes certain American peculiarities, setting off the nomenclature of the United States [Pg282] from that of the mother country. The relative infrequency of hyphenated names in America is familiar; when they appear at all it is almost always in response to direct English influences.[28] Again, a number of English family names have undergone modification in the New World. Venable may serve as a specimen. The form in England is almost invariably Venables, but in America the final s has been lost, and every example of the name that I have been able to find in the leading American reference-books is without it. And where spellings have remained unchanged, pronunciations have been frequently modified. This is particularly noticeable in the South. Callowhill, down there, is commonly pronounced Carrol; Crenshawe is Granger; Hawthorne, Horton; Heyward, Howard; Norsworthy, Nazary; Ironmonger, Munger; Farinholt, Fernall; Camp, Kemp; Buchanan, Bohannan; Drewry, Droit; Enroughty, Darby; and Taliaferro, Tolliver.[29] The English Crowninshields pronounce every syllable of their name; the American Crowninshields commonly make it Crunshel. Van Schaick, an old New York name, is pronounced Von Scoik. A good many American Jews, aiming at a somewhat laborious refinement, change the pronunciation of the terminal stein in their names so that it rhymes, not with line, but with bean. Thus, in fashionable Jewish circles, there are no longer any Epsteins, Goldsteins and Hammersteins but only Epsteens, Goldsteens and Hammersteens. The American Jews differ further from the English in pronouncing Levy to make the first syllable rhyme with tea; the English Jews always make the name Lev-vy. To match such [Pg283] American prodigies as Darby for Enroughty, the English themselves have Hools for Howells, Sillinger for St. Leger, Sinjin for St. John, Pool for Powell, Weems for Wemyss, Kerduggen for Cadogen, Mobrer for Marlborough, Key for Cains, Marchbanks for Marjoribanks, Beecham for Beauchamp, Chumley for Cholmondeley, Trosley for Trotterscliffe, and Darby for Derby, not to mention Maudlin for Magdalen.

§ 2

Given Names—The non-Anglo Saxon American's willingness to anglicize his patronymic is far exceeded by his eagerness to give "American" baptismal names to his children. The favorite given names of the old country almost disappear in the first native-born generation. The Irish immigrants quickly dropped such names as Terence, Dennis and Patrick, and adopted in their places the less conspicuous John, George and William. The Germans, in the same way, abandoned Otto, August, Hermann, Ludwig, Heinrich, Wolfgang, Albrecht, Wilhelm, Kurt, Hans, Rudolf, Gottlieb, Johann and Franz. For some of these they substituted the English equivalents: Charles, Lewis, Henry, William, John, Frank and so on. In the room of others they began afflicting their offspring with more fanciful native names: Milton and Raymond were their chief favorites thirty or forty years ago.[30] The Jews carry the thing to great lengths. At present they seem to take most delight in Sidney, Irving, Milton, Roy, Stanley and Monroe, but they also call their sons John, Charles, Henry, Harold, William, Richard, James, Albert, Edward, Alfred, Frederick, Thomas, and even Mark, Luke and Matthew, and their daughters Mary, Gertrude, Estelle, Pauline, Alice and Edith. As a boy I went to school with many Jewish boys. The commonest given names among them were Isadore, Samuel, Jonas, Isaac and Israel. These are seldom bestowed by [Pg284] the rabbis of today. In the same school were a good many German pupils, boy and girl. Some of the girls bore such fine old German given names as Katharina, Wilhelmina, Elsa, Lotta, Ermentrude and Frankziska. All these have begun to disappear.

The newer immigrants, indeed, do not wait for the birth of children to demonstrate their naturalization; they change their own given names immediately they land. I am told by Abraham Cahan that this is done almost universally on the East Side of New York. "Even the most old-fashioned Jews immigrating to this country," he says, "change Yosel to Joseph, Yankel to Jacob, Liebel to Louis, Feivel to Philip, Itzik to Isaac, Ruven to Robert, and Moise or Motel to Morris." Moreover, the spelling of Morris, as the position of its bearer improves, commonly changes to Maurice, though the pronunciation may remain Mawruss, as in the case of Mr. Perlmutter. The immigrants of other stocks follow the same habit. Every Bohemian Vaclav or Vojtĕch becomes a William, every Jaroslav becomes a Jerry, every Bronislav a Barney, and every Stanislav a Stanley. The Italians run to Frank and Joe; so do the Hungarians and the Balkan peoples; the Russians quickly drop their national system of nomenclature and give their children names according to the American plan. Even the Chinese laundrymen of the big cities become John, George, Charlie and Frank; I once encountered one boasting the name of Emil.

The Puritan influence, in names as in ideas, has remained a good deal more potent in American than in England. The given name of the celebrated Praise-God Barebones marked a fashion which died out in England very quickly, but one still finds traces of it in America, e. g., in such women's names as Faith, Hope, Prudence, Charity and Mercy, and in such men's names as Peregrine.[31] The religious obsession of the New England colonists is also kept in mind by the persistence of Biblical names: Ezra, Hiram, Ezekial, Zachariah, Elijah, Elihu, and so on. These [Pg285] names excite the derision of the English; an American comic character, in an English play or novel, always bears one of them. Again, the fashion of using surnames as given names is far more widespread in America than in England. In this country, indeed, it takes on the character of a national habit; fully three out of four eldest sons, in families of any consideration, bear their mothers' surnames as middle names. This fashion arose in England during the seventeenth century, and one of its fruits was the adoption of such well-known surnames as Stanley, Cecil, Howard, Douglas and Duncan as common given names.[32] It died out over there during the eighteenth century, and today the great majority of Englishmen bear such simple given names as John, Charles and William—often four or five of them—but in America it has persisted. A glance at a roster of the Presidents of the United States will show how firmly it has taken root. Of the ten that have had middle names at all, six have had middle names that were family surnames, and two of the six have dropped their other given names and used these surnames. This custom, perhaps, has paved the way for another: that of making given names of any proper nouns that happen to strike the fancy. Thus General Sherman was named after an Indian chief, Tecumseh, and a Chicago judge was baptized Kenesaw Mountain[33] in memory of the battle that General Sherman fought there. A late candidate for governor of New York had the curious given name of D-Cady.[34] Various familiar American given names, originally surnames, are almost unknown in England, among them, Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Columbus and Lee. Chauncey forms a curious addition to the list. It was the surname of the second president of Harvard College, and was bestowed upon their offspring by numbers of his graduates. It then got into [Pg286] general use and acquired a typically American pronunciation, with the a of the first syllable flat. It is never encountered in England.

In the pronunciation of various given names, as in that of many surnames, English and American usages differ. Evelyn, in England, is given two syllables instead of three, and the first is made to rhyme with leave. Irene is given two syllables, making it Irene-y. Ralph is pronounced Rafe. Jerome is accented on the first syllable; in America it is always accented on the second.[35]

§ 3

Geographical Names—"There is no part of the world," said Robert Louis Stevenson, "where nomenclature is so rich, poetical, humorous and picturesque as in the United States of America." A glance at the latest United States Official Postal Guide[36] or report of the United States Geographic Board[37] quite bears out this opinion. The map of the country is besprinkled with place names from at least half a hundred languages, living and dead, and among them one finds examples of the most daring and elaborate fancy. There are Spanish, French and Indian names as melodious and charming as running water; there are names out of the histories and mythologies of all the great races of man; there are names grotesque and names almost sublime. No other country can match them for interest and variety. When there arises among us a philologist who will study them as thoroughly and intelligently as the Swiss, Johann Jakob Egli, studied the place names of Central Europe, his work will be an invaluable contribution to the history of the nation, and no less to an understanding of the psychology of its people.

The original English settlers, it would appear, displayed little imagination in naming the new settlements and natural features [Pg287] of the land that they came to. Their almost invariable tendency, at the start, was to make use of names familiar at home, or to invent banal compounds. Plymouth Rock at the North and Jamestown at the South are examples of their poverty of fancy; they filled the narrow tract along the coast with new Bostons, Cambridges, Bristols and Londons, and often used the adjective as a prefix. But this was only in the days of beginning. Once they had begun to move back from the coast and to come into contact with the aborigines and with the widely dispersed settlers of other races, they encountered rivers, mountains, lakes and even towns that bore far more engaging names, and these, after some resistance, they perforce adopted. The native names of such rivers as the James, the York and the Charles succumbed, but those of the Potomac, the Patapsco, the Merrimack and the Penobscot survived, and they were gradually reinforced as the country was penetrated. Most of these Indian names, in getting upon the early maps, suffered somewhat severe simplifications. Potowánmeac was reduced to Potomack and then to Potomac; Unéaukara became Niagara; Reckawackes, by the law of Hobson-Jobson, was turned into Rockaway, and Pentapang into Port Tobacco.[38] But, despite such elisions and transformations, the charm of thousands of them remained, and today they are responsible for much of the characteristic color of American geographical nomenclature. Such names as Tallahassee, Susquehanna, Mississippi, Allegheny, Chicago, Kennebec, Patuxent and Arkansas give a barbaric brilliancy to the American map. Only the map of Australia, with its mellifluous Maori names, can match it.

The settlement of the American continent, once the eastern coast ranges were crossed, proceeded with unparalleled speed, and so the naming of the new rivers, lakes, peaks and valleys, and of the new towns and districts no less, strained the inventiveness of the pioneers. The result is the vast duplication of names that shows itself in the Postal Guide. No less than eighteen imitative [Pg288] Bostons and New Bostons still appear, and there are nineteen Bristols, twenty-eight Newports, and twenty-two Londons and New Londons. Argonauts starting out from an older settlement on the coast would take its name with them, and so we find Philadelphias in Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, Richmonds in Iowa, Kansas and nine other western states, and Princetons in fifteen. Even when a new name was hit upon it seems to have been hit upon simultaneously by scores of scattered bands of settlers; thus we find the whole land bespattered with Washingtons, Lafayettes, Jeffersons and Jacksons, and with names suggested by common and obvious natural objects, e. g., Bear Creek, Bald Knob and Buffalo. The Geographic Board, in its last report, made a belated protest against this excessive duplication. "The names Elk, Beaver, Cottonwood and Bald," it said, "are altogether too numerous."[39] Of postoffices alone there are fully a hundred embodying Elk; counting in rivers, lakes, creeks, mountains and valleys, the map of the United States probably shows at least twice as many such names.

A study of American geographical and place names reveals eight general classes, as follows: (a) those embodying personal names, chiefly the surnames of pioneers or of national heroes; (b) those transferred from other and older places, either in the eastern states or in Europe; (c) Indian names; (d) Dutch, Spanish and French names; (e) Biblical and mythological names; (f) names descriptive of localities; (g) names suggested by the local flora, fauna or geology; (h) purely fanciful names. The names of the first class are perhaps the most numerous. Some consist of surnames standing alone, as Washington, Cleveland, Bismarck, Lafayette, Taylor and Randolph; others consist of surnames in combination with various old and new Grundwörter, as Pittsburgh, Knoxville, Bailey's Switch, Hagerstown, Franklinton, Dodge City, Fort Riley, Wayne Junction and McKeesport; and yet others are contrived of given names, either alone or in combination, as Louisville, St. Paul, Elizabeth, Johnstown, Charlotte, Williamsburg and Marysville. The number of towns in the United States bearing women's given names is enormous. [Pg289] I find, for example, eleven postoffices called Charlotte, ten called Ada and no less than nineteen called Alma. Most of these places are small, but there is an Elizabeth with 75,000 population, an Elmira with 40,000, and an Augusta with nearly 45,000.

The names of the second class we have already briefly observed. They are betrayed in many cases by the prefix New; more than 600 such postoffices are recorded, ranging from New Albany to New Windsor. Others bear such prefixes as West, North and South, or various distinguishing affixes, e. g., Bostonia, Pittsburgh Landing, Yorktown and Hartford City. One often finds eastern county names applied to western towns and eastern town names applied to western rivers and mountains. Thus, Cambria, which is the name of a county but not of a postoffice in Pennsylvania, is a town name in seven western states; Baltimore is the name of a glacier in Alaska, and Princeton is the name of a peak in Colorado. In the same way the names of the more easterly states often reappear in the west, e. g., in Mount Ohio, Colo., Delaware, Okla., and Virginia City, Nev. The tendency to name small American towns after the great capitals of antiquity has excited the derision of the English since the earliest days; there is scarcely an English book upon the states without some fling at it. Of late it has fallen into abeyance, though sixteen Athenses still remain, and there are yet many Carthages, Uticas, Syracuses, Romes, Alexandrias, Ninevahs and Troys. The third city of the nation, Philadelphia, got its name from the ancient stronghold of Philadelphus of Pergamun. To make up for the falling off of this old and flamboyant custom, the more recent immigrants have brought with them the names of the capitals and other great cities of their fatherlands. Thus the American map bristles with Berlins, Bremens, Hamburgs, Warsaws and Leipzigs, and is beginning to show Stockholms, Venices, Belgrades and Christianias.

The influence of Indian names upon American nomenclature is quickly shown by a glance at the map. No less than 26 of the states have names borrowed from the aborigines, and the same thing is true of most of our rivers and mountains. There was an effort, at one time, to get rid of these Indian names. Thus [Pg290] the early Virginians changed the name of the Powhatan to the James, and the first settlers in New York changed the name of Horicon to Lake George. In the same way the present name of the White Mountains displaced Agiochook, and New Amsterdam, and later New York, displaced Manhattan, which has been recently revived. The law of Hobson-Jobson made changes in other Indian names, sometimes complete and sometimes only partial. Thus, Mauwauwaming became Wyoming, Maucwachoong became Mauch Chunk, Ouabache became Wabash, Asingsing became Sing-Sing, and Machihiganing became Michigan. But this vandalism did not go far enough to take away the brilliant color of the aboriginal nomenclature. The second city of the United States bears an Indian name, and so do the largest American river, and the greatest American water-fall, and four of the five great Lakes, and the scene of the most important military decision ever reached on American soil.

The Dutch place-names of the United States are chiefly confined to the vicinity of New York, and a good many of them have become greatly corrupted. Brooklyn, Wallabout and Gramercy offer examples. The first-named was originally Breuckelen, the second was Waale Bobht, and the third was De Kromme Zee. Hell-Gate is a crude translation of the Dutch Helle-Gat. During the early part of the last century the more delicate New Yorkers transformed the term into Hurlgate, but the change was vigorously opposed by Washington Irving, and so Hell-Gate was revived. The law of Hobson-Jobson early converted the Dutch hoek into hook, and it survives in various place-names, e. g., Kinderhook and Sandy Hook. The Dutch kill is a Grundwort in many other names, e. g., Catskill, Schuylkill, Peekskill, Fishkill and Kill van Kull; it is the equivalent of the American creek. Many other Dutch place-names will come familiarly to mind: Harlem, Staten, Flushing, Cortlandt, Calver Plaat, Nassau, Coenties, Spuyten Duyvel, Yonkers, Hoboken and Bowery (from Bouvery).[40] Block Island was originally Blok, and Cape May, according to Schele de Vere, was Mey, both Dutch. [Pg291] A large number of New York street and neighborhood names come down from Knickerbocker days, often greatly changed in pronunciation. Desbrosses offers an example. The Dutch called it de Broose, but in New York today it is commonly spoken of as Dez-bros-sez.

French place-names have suffered almost as severely. Few persons would recognize Smackover, the name of a small town in Arkansas, as French, and yet in its original form it was Chemin Couvert. Schele de Vere, in 1871, recorded the degeneration of the name to Smack Cover; the Postoffice, always eager to shorten and simplify names, has since made one word of it and got rid of the redundant c. In the same way Bob Ruly, a Missouri name, descends from Bois Brulé. "The American tongue," says W. W. Crane, "seems to lend itself reluctantly to the words of alien languages."[41] This is shown plainly by the history of French place-names among us. A large number of them, e. g., Lac Superieur, were translated into English at an early day, and most of those that remain are now pronounced as if they were English. Thus Des Moines is dee-moyns, Terre Haute is terry-hut, Beaufort is byu-fort, New Orleans is or-leens, Lafayette has a flat a, Havre de Grace has another, and Versailles is ver-sales. The pronunciation of sault, as in Sault Ste. Marie, is commonly more or less correct; the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad is popularly called the Soo. This may be due to Canadian example, or to some confusion between Sault and Sioux. The French Louis, in St. Louis and Louisville, is usually pronounced correctly. So is the rouge in Baton Rouge, though the baton is commonly boggled. It is possible that familiarity with St. Louis influenced the local pronunciation of Illinois, which is Illinoy, but this may be a mere attempt to improve upon the vulgar Illin-i.[42]

For a number of years the Geographic Board has been seeking [Pg292] vainly to reestablish the correct pronunciation of the name of the Purgatoire river in Colorado. Originally named the Rio de las Animas by the Spaniards, it was renamed the Rivière du Purgatoire by their French successors. The American pioneers changed this to Picketwire, and that remains the local name of the stream to this day, despite the effort of the Geographic Board to compromise on Purgatoire river. Many other French names are being anglicized with its aid and consent. Already half a dozen Bellevues have been changed to Belleviews and Bellviews, and the spelling of nearly all the Belvédères has been changed to Belvidere. Belair, La., represents the end-product of a process of decay which began with Belle Aire, and then proceeded to Bellaire and Bellair. All these forms are still to be found, together with Bel Air. The Geographic Board's antipathy to accented letters and to names of more than one word[43] has converted Isle Ste. Thérèse, in the St. Lawrence river, to Isle Ste. Therese, a truly abominable barbarism, and La Cygne, in Kansas, to Lacygne, which is even worse. Lamoine, Labelle, Lagrange and Lamonte are among its other improvements; Lafayette, for La Fayette, long antedates the beginning of its labors.

The Spanish names of the Southwest are undergoing a like process of corruption, though without official aid. San Antonio has been changed to San Antone in popular pronunciation and seems likely to go to San Tone; El Paso has acquired a flat American a and a z-sound in place of the Spanish s; Los Angeles presents such difficulties that no two of its inhabitants agree upon the proper pronunciation, and many compromise on simple Los, as the folks of Jacksonville commonly call their town Jax. Some of the most mellifluous of American place-names are in the areas once held by the Spaniards. It would be hard to match the beauty of Santa Margarita, San Anselmo, Alamogordo, Terra Amarilla, Sabinoso, Las Palomas, Ensenada, Nogales, San Patricio and Bernalillo. But they are under a severe and double assault. Not only do the present lords of the soil debase them in speaking them; in many cases they are formally displaced by native names of the utmost harshness and banality. Thus, [Pg293] one finds in New Mexico such absurdly-named towns as Sugarite, Shoemaker, Newhope, Lordsburg, Eastview and Central; in Arizona such places as Old Glory, Springerville, Wickenburg and Congress Junction, and even in California such abominations as Oakhurst, Ben Hur, Drytown, Skidoo, Susanville, Uno and Ono.

The early Spaniards were prodigal with place-names testifying to their piety, but these names, in the overwhelming main, were those of saints. Add Salvador, Trinidad and Concepcion, and their repertoire is almost exhausted. If they ever named a town Jesus the name has been obliterated by Anglo-Saxon prudery; even their use of the name as a personal appellation violates American notions of the fitting. The names of the Jewish patriarchs and those of the holy places in Palestine do not appear among their place-names; their Christianity seems to have been exclusively of the New Testament. But the Americans who displaced them were intimately familiar with both books of the Bible, and one finds copious proofs of it on the map of the United States. There are no less than seven Bethlehems in the Postal Guide, and the name is also applied to various mountains, and to one of the reaches of the Ohio river. I find thirteen Bethanys, seventeen Bethels, eleven Beulahs, nine Canaans, eleven Jordans and twenty-one Sharons. Adam is sponsor for a town in West Virginia and an island in the Chesapeake, and Eve for a village in Kentucky. There are five postoffices named Aaron, two named Abraham, two named Job, and a town and a lake named Moses. Most of the St. Pauls and St. Josephs of the country were inherited from the French, but the two St. Patricks show a later influence. Eight Wesleys and Wesleyvilles, eight Asburys and twelve names embodying Luther indicate the general theological trend of the plain people. There is a village in Maryland, too small to have a postoffice, named Gott, and I find Gotts Island in Maine and Gottville in California, but no doubt these were named after German settlers of that awful name, and not after the Lord God directly. There are four Trinities, to say nothing of the inherited Spanish Trinidads. [Pg294]

Names wholly or partly descriptive of localities are very numerous throughout the country, and among the Grundwörter embodied in them are terms highly characteristic of America and almost unknown to the English vocabulary. Bald Knob would puzzle an Englishman, but the name is so common in the United States that the Geographic Board has had to take measures against it. Others of that sort are Council Bluffs, Patapsco Neck, Delaware Water Gap, Curtis Creek, Walden Pond, Sandy Hook, Key West, Bull Run, Portage, French Lick, Jones Gulch, Watkins Gully, Cedar Bayou, Keams Canyon, Parker Notch, Sucker Branch, Fraziers Bottom and Eagle Pass. Butte Creek, in Montana, is a name made up of two Americanisms. There are thirty-five postoffices whose names embody the word prairie, several of them, e. g., Prairie du Chien, Wis., inherited from the French. There are seven Divides, eight Buttes, eight town-names embodying the word burnt, innumerable names embodying grove, barren, plain, fork, center, cross-roads, courthouse, cove and ferry, and a great swarm of Cold Springs, Coldwaters, Summits, Middletowns and Highlands. The flora and fauna of the land are enormously represented. There are twenty-two Buffalos beside the city in New York, and scores of Buffalo Creeks, Ridges, Springs and Wallows. The Elks, in various forms, are still more numerous, and there are dozens of towns, mountains, lakes, creeks and country districts named after the beaver, martin, coyote, moose and otter, and as many more named after such characteristic flora as the paw-paw, the sycamore, the cottonwood, the locust and the sunflower. There is an Alligator in Mississippi, a Crawfish in Kentucky and a Rat Lake on the Canadian border of Minnesota. The endless search for mineral wealth has besprinkled the map with such names as Bromide, Oil City, Anthracite, Chrome, Chloride, Coal Run, Goldfield, Telluride, Leadville and Cement.

There was a time, particularly during the gold rush to California, when the rough humor of the country showed itself in the invention of extravagant and often highly felicitous place-names, but with the growth of population and the rise of civic spirit they have tended to be replaced with more seemly coinages. [Pg295] Catfish creek, in Wisconsin, is now the Yahara river; the Bulldog mountains, in Arizona, have become the Harosomas; the Picketwire river, as we have seen, has resumed its old French name of Purgatoire. As with natural features of the landscape, so with towns. Nearly all the old Boozevilles, Jackass Flats, Three Fingers, Hell-For-Sartains, Undershirt Hills, Razzle-Dazzles, Cow-Tails, Yellow Dogs, Jim-Jamses, Jump-Offs, Poker Citys and Skunktowns have yielded to the growth of delicacy, but Tombstone still stands in Arizona, Goose Bill remains a postoffice in Montana, and the Geographic Board gives its imprimatur to the Horsethief trail in Colorado, to Burning Bear creek in the same state, and to Pig Eye lake in Minnesota. Various other survivors of a more lively and innocent day linger on the map: Blue Ball, Ark., Cowhide, W. Va., Dollarville, Mich., Oven Fork, Ky., Social Circle, Ga., Sleepy Eye, Minn., Bubble, Ark., Shy Beaver, Pa., Shin Pond, Me., Rough-and-Ready, Calif., Non Intervention, Va., Noodle, Tex., Nursery, Mo., Number Four, N. Y., Oblong, Ill., Stock Yards, Neb., Stout, Iowa, and so on. West Virginia, the wildest of the eastern states, is full of such place-names. Among them I find Affinity, Annamoriah (Anna Maria?), Bee, Bias, Big Chimney, Billie, Blue Jay, Bulltown, Caress, Cinderella, Cyclone, Czar, Cornstalk, Duck, Halcyon, Jingo, Left Hand, Ravens Eye, Six, Skull Run, Three Churches, Uneeda, Wide Mouth, War Eagle and Stumptown. The Postal Guide shows two Ben Hurs, five St. Elmos and ten Ivanhoes, but only one Middlemarch. There are seventeen Roosevelts, six Codys and six Barnums, but no Shakespeare. Washington, of course, is the most popular of American place-names. But among names of postoffices it is hard pushed by Clinton, Centerville, Liberty, Canton, Marion and Madison, and even by Springfield, Warren and Bismarck.

The Geographic Board, in its laudable effort to simplify American nomenclature, has played ducks and drakes with some of the most picturesque names on the national map. Now and then, as in the case of Purgatoire, it has temporarily departed from this policy, but in the main its influence has been thrown against the fine old French and Spanish names, and against the [Pg296] more piquant native names no less. Thus, I find it deciding against Portage des Flacons and in favor of the hideous Bottle portage, against Cañada del Burro and in favor of Burro canyon against Canos y Ylas de la Cruz and in favor of the barbarous Cruz island. In Bougére landing and Cañon City it has deleted the accents. The name of the De Grasse river it has changed to Grass. De Laux it has changed to the intolerable Dlo. And, as we have seen, it has steadily amalgamated French and Spanish articles with their nouns, thus achieving such forms as Duchesne, Eldorado, Deleon and Laharpe. But here its policy is fortunately inconsistent, and so a number of fine old names has escaped. Thus, it has decided in favor of Bon Secours and against Bonsecours, and in favor of De Soto, La Crosse and La Moure, and against Desoto, Lacrosse and Lamoure. Here its decisions are confused and often unintelligible. Why Laporte, Pa., and La Porte, Iowa? Why Lagrange, Ind., and La Grange, Ky.? Here it would seem to be yielding a great deal too much to local usage.

The Board proceeds to the shortening and simplification of native names by various devices. It deletes such suffixes as town, city and courthouse; it removes the apostrophe and often the genitive s from such names as St. Mary's; it shortens burgh to burg and borough to boro; and it combines separate and often highly discreet words. The last habit often produces grotesque forms, e. g., Newberlin, Boxelder, Sabbathday lake, Fallentimber, Bluemountain, Westtown, Threepines and Missionhill. It apparently cherishes a hope of eventually regularizing the spelling of Allegany. This is now Allegany for the Maryland county, the Pennsylvania township and the New York and Oregon towns, Alleghany for the mountains, the Colorado town and the Virginia town and springs, and Allegheny for the Pittsburgh borough and the Pennsylvania county, college and river. The Board inclines to Allegheny for both river and mountains. Other Indian names give it constant concern. Its struggles to set up Chemquasabamticook as the name of a Maine lake in place of Chemquasabamtic and Chemquassabamticook, and Chatahospee as the name of an Alabama creek in place of Chattahospee, [Pg297] Hoolethlocco, Hoolethloces, Hoolethloco and Hootethlocco are worthy of its learning and authority.[44]

The American tendency to pronounce all the syllables of a word more distinctly than the English shows itself in geographical names. White, in 1880,[45] recorded the increasing habit of giving full value to the syllables of such borrowed English names as Worcester and Warwick. I have frequently noted the same thing. In Worcester county, Maryland, the name is usually pronounced Wooster, but on the Western Shore of the state one hears Worcest-'r.[46] Norwich is another such name; one hears Nor-wich quite as often as Norrich.[47] Yet another is Delhi; one often hears Del-high. White said that in his youth the name of the Shawangunk mountains, in New York, was pronounced Shongo, but that the custom of pronouncing it as spelled had arisen during his manhood. So with Winnipiseogee, the name of a lake; once Winipisaukie, it gradually came to be pronounced as spelled. There is frequently a considerable difference between the pronunciation of a name by natives of a place and its pronunciation by those who are familiar with it only in print. Baltimore offers an example. The natives always drop the medial i and so reduce the name to two syllables; the habit identifies them. Anne Arundel, the name of a county in Maryland, [Pg298] is usually pronounced Ann 'ran'l by its people. Arkansas, as everyone knows, is pronounced Arkansaw by the Arkansans, and the Nevadans give the name of their state a flat a. The local pronunciation of Illinois I have already noticed. Iowa, at home, is often Ioway.[48] Many American geographical names offer great difficulty to Englishmen. One of my English acquaintances tells me that he was taught at school to accent Massachusetts on the second syllable, to rhyme the second syllable of Ohio with tea, and to sound the first c in Connecticut. In Maryland the name of Calvert county is given a broad a, whereas the name of Calvert street, in Baltimore, has a flat a. This curious distinction is almost always kept up. A Scotchman, coming to America, would give the ch in such names as Loch Raven and Lochvale the guttural Scotch (and German) sound, but locally it is always pronounced as if it were k.

Finally, there is a curious difference between English and American usage in the use of the word river. The English invariably put it before the proper name, whereas we almost as invariably put it after. The Thames river would seem quite as strange to an Englishman as the river Chicago would seem to us. This difference arose more than a century ago and was noticed by Pickering. But in his day the American usage was still somewhat uncertain, and such forms as the river Mississippi were yet in use. Today river almost always goes after the proper name.

§ 4

Street Names—"Such a locality as 'the corner of Avenue H and Twenty-third street,'" says W. W. Crane, "is about as distinctively American as Algonquin and Iroquois names like Mississippi and Saratoga."[49] Kipling, in his "American Notes,"[50] gives testimony to the strangeness with which the [Pg299] number-names, the phrase "the corner of," and the custom of omitting street fall upon the ear of a Britisher. He quotes with amazement certain directions given to him on his arrival in San Francisco from India: "Go six blocks north to [the] corner of Geary and Markey [Market?]; then walk around till you strike [the] corner of Gutter and Sixteenth." The English always add the word street (or road or place or avenue) when speaking of a thoroughfare; such a phrase as "Oxford and New Bond" would strike them as incongruous. The American custom of numbering and lettering streets is almost always ascribed by English writers who discuss it, not to a desire to make finding them easy, but to sheer poverty of invention. The English apparently have an inexhaustible fund of names for streets; they often give one street more than one name. Thus, Oxford street, London, becomes the Bayswater road, High street, Holland Park avenue, Goldhawke road and finally the Oxford road to the westward, and High Holborn, Holborn viaduct, Newgate street, Cheapside, the Poultry, Cornhill and Leadenhall street to the eastward. The Strand, in the same way, becomes Fleet street, Ludgate hill and Cannon street. Nevertheless, there is a First avenue in Queen's Park, and parallel to it are Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth avenues—all small streets leading northward from the Harrow road, just east of Kensal Green cemetery. I have observed that few Londoners have ever heard of them. There is also a First street in Chelsea—a very modest thoroughfare near Lennox gardens and not far from the Brompton Oratory.

Next to the numbering and lettering of streets, a fashion apparently set up by Major Pierre-Charles L'Enfant's plans for Washington, the most noticeable feature of American street nomenclature, as opposed to that of England, is the extensive use of such designations as avenue, boulevard, drive and speedway. Avenue is used in England, but only rather sparingly; it is seldom applied to a mean street, or to one in a warehouse district. In America the word is scarcely distinguished in meaning from street.[51] Boulevard, drive and speedway are almost [Pg300] unknown to the English, but they use road for urban thoroughfares, which is very seldom done in America, and they also make free use of place, walk, passage, lane and circus, all of which are obsolescent on this side of the ocean. Some of the older American cities, such as Boston and Baltimore, have surviving certain ancient English designations of streets, e. g., Cheapside and Cornhill; these are unknown in the newer American towns. Broadway, which is also English, is more common. Many American towns now have plazas, which are unknown in England. Nearly all have City Hall parks, squares or places; City Hall is also unknown over there. The principal street of a small town, in America, is almost always Main street; in England it is as invariably High street, usually with the definite article before High.

I have mentioned the corruption of old Dutch street and neighborhood names in New York. Spanish names are corrupted in the same way in the Southwest and French names in the Great Lakes region and in Louisiana. In New Orleans the street names, many of them strikingly beautiful, are pronounced so barbarously by the people that a Frenchman would have difficulty recognizing them. Thus, Bourbon has become Bur-bun, Dauphine is Daw-fin, Foucher is Foosh'r, Enghien is En-gine, and Felicity (originally Félicité) is Fill-a-city. The French, in their days, bestowed the names of the Muses upon certain of the city streets. They are now pronounced Cal´-y-ope, Terp´-si-chore, Mel-po-mean´, You-terp´, and so on. Bon Enfants, apparently too difficult for the native, has been translated into Good Children. Only Esplanade and Bagatelle, among the French street names of the city, seem to be commonly pronounced with any approach to correctness.


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