464 - The Netherlands, On A First-Name Basis
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
- Take the yellow zone, for instance. This region is dominated by short names, two syllables but preferably less, like Bart and Tim for boys, and Anne and Lisa for girls. Geographically, the short-name region is remarkably contiguous, occupying the eastern half of the province of Northern Brabant, the northern half of the province of Limburg (that dangly bit down south), extending north into the areas where the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel border Germany. \n
- Salmon-coloured areas (i.e. the extreme south of Limburg, as well as Zeelandic Flanders and areas in North and South Holland provinces), remarkably non-contiguous, are dominated by ‘international’ names, such as Linda and Melissa for girls and Dennis and Kevin for boys. \n
- The light-blue area corresponds remarkably well to the province of Friesland, in which Dutch shares official status with the local native language. Frisian, the closest living relative of English, boasts an idiosyncratic set of given names (like Nynke for girls or Eelco for boys) that have become somewhat fashionable outside of Frisia, but still nowhere as dominant as in the local landscape. \n
- The smallest and most scattered areas are the black ones, as these are the urban areas where immigrant communities tend to congregate. In these zones, first names of a ‘non-native’ (**) origin dominate (i.e. Arabic/Muslim names like Muhammad, in many urban areas the most popular name for baby boys, but also Turkish names like Ahmet, the Turkish version of the Arabic male name Ahmed, or Belgin, a girls’ name and the Turkish word for "clear"). \n
- In spite of its reputation for moral laissez-faire, the Netherlands also has a Bible Belt – a mainly rural area where Christian fundamentalism remains an important element in the public sphere. These areas practise their traditionalism also with respect to name-giving. Traditional names dominate, whether in their original Latin form (dark green; e.g. Martinus for boys, Margaretha for girls) or in their Dutch form (medium green; e.g. Jan for boys, Grietje for girls). \n
- The blue areas, dominant in the north-east of the country, denote places where ‘pre-modern’ given names, popular elsewhere decades ago, remain current; names like Suzanne and Eline for girls, Jeroen and Wouter for boys. These areas, mainly the provinces of Groningen, Drenthe and Overijssel, could be said to be a bit ‘behind the times’. \n
- Red areas would seem to coincide with affluence (or at least elitism), for the first names prevalent here are associated with socio-culturally prominent groups. These names, prominent in and around Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Haarlem among other places, are often Old Testament-y (Daniel, Sarah) come from nature (Luna), or might be French (Stéphanie, Olivier). \n
- Purple areas, prevalent in the southwest, are dominated by ‘foreign’ names in a traditionally Latin pattern (Maria, Johannes) and the lightest green areas, scattered in the centre and northeast, by traditional Dutch patterns of pre-modern names. (Linda, Mark). \n
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