Mapping the frequency of common toponyms opens window on Britain's 'deep history'.
- A place name is more than a name – it's a historical record of the name-givers.
- By examining some of the most common toponyms, Britain's 'deep history' is revealed.
- See where Danes, Welsh, and Anglo-Saxons stamped their name on the land.
Washington DC is a place named after a person who was named after a place. This is Washington Old Hall, the ancestral home of George Washington, in the northern English town of Washington.
Image: Public domain
Giving a location a name is a possessive act. It transforms an 'anywhere', a random space, into a 'somewhere', a certain place. A place with meaning, not just for the name-givers, also for later generations. Because place names are sticky. They can survive for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. And even if today's toponym, worn with use, sounds different and lost its original meaning, it still remains a 'vector of trans-generational communication'.
In isolation, each toponym is like an archaeological dig – hiding multiple layers beneath a well-trodden exterior. In context, surprising toponymical patterns emerge. As in these maps by Helen McKenzie. She's disassembled British place names to examine the frequency of some of their most common constituents. They reveal deep history hiding in plain sight, on countless road signs across the UK.
Denmark's footprint in England
The toponymic suffix -by is most prevalent in the area around the Humber.
Image: Helen McKenzie, reproduced with kind permission
Take -by (or -bie). It's one of the most common suffixes in place names throughout England, but also Scotland and Wales. Familiar examples include Grimsby and Whitby, on the North Sea coast; Derby inland, Formby on the Irish Sea coast and Lockerbie in Scotland.
There are hundreds of other examples, and they are among the most lasting relics of Scandinavian influence in Britain. By in Old Norse signified a farmstead or village. In modern Scandinavian languages, a 'by' still means village or city. In English, the word has also given rise to the terms 'by-election' and 'by-laws' – although pronounced differently than the suffix.
As the map shows, the suffix is most prevalent in the area around the Humber, and northern England in general. This is the core of what was once known as the Danelaw, a large swathe of northern and eastern England that was under Danish rule for about 80 years, until the expulsion of Eric Bloodaxe from Northumbria in the year 954.
But 'by' also occurs in Wales, as far south as Cornwall and as high north as central Scotland – a testament to the scale of Scandinavian involvement in Britain.
The valleys of Wales, and beyond
The green, green valleys of south Wales.
Image: Helen McKenzie, reproduced with kind permission
The anglicised version is 'coombe', which gives an indication of how to pronounce what looks like three consonants in a row. As the Welsh word for 'valley', it stands to reason that this toponym is most prevalent in the valley-rich south of Wales. Examples include Cwmbran, Cwmafan and Cwmfelinfach.
As for the comparative antiquity of British languages, Welsh is the much older rival of English. The post-Roman, pre-English inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic antecedent of Welsh. They were pushed west by the invading Anglo-Saxons. A telling – but disputed – piece of toponymic evidence is the Welsh word for England, Lloegr, which some say means 'lost lands'.
Better evidence are the many Celtic-influenced place names throughout England, including such well-known toponyms as Dover or Manchester. Focusing on Cwm and its anglicised variant, we find pockets throughout southern, central and northern England, as well as in Scotland.
Tons of -tuns all over Britain
The area of central England around Merseyside has the heaviest concentration of -tons and -tuns in Britain.
Image: Helen McKenzie, reproduced with kind permission
'Tun' is an old English word for enclosure that is cognate with Dutch 'tuin' ('garden') and German 'Zaun' ('fence') – for more on that, see #615 – and by way of 'ton' gave rise to 'town'. Perhaps the world's most famous example is Washington: the U.S. capital's name derives from the country's first president, whose name comes from the eponymous town in northern England. Its name, in turn, probably originated as Hwæsingatūn, the estate (tūn) of the descendants (inga) of Hwæsa – an old English first name that means "wheat sheaf".
The Anglo-Saxons planted countless tuns/tons throughout England, with the second-highest concentration in the northeast, around Washington. The highest concentration, though, is centered on the part of central England towards Merseyside (Liverpool and environs), with Bolton, Everton, Preston and Warrington some of the best known examples.
But really, there are tuns and tons all over Britain, with distant areas of Scotland and Wales the only exceptions. Note the concentration in southwest Wales: southern Pembrokeshire, once known as Little-England-beyond-Wales.
Maps reproduced with kind permission of Helen McKenzie. For a few more maps on toponymy and a lot more on other subjects (including emploment density in Hackney and otter sightings in the UK), check out Ms McKenzie's Instagram, at helen.makes.maps.
Strange Maps #1037
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The world's most isolated inhabited island also has some of the world's strangest toponyms.
- Tristan da Cunha is the world's most isolated inhabited island.
- It also has some of the world's weirdest place names.
- Is there a link? Maybe, if we stretch Darwin's theory from biology to topography.
Thriving in isolation<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MzI5My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODQxNjE0OX0.1Zt_XJCLhYcCHOFwn7uu76_EeMMbxrVLF2omyj5QHFk/img.jpg?width=980" id="8f62a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ea9d45ec4f06481c17019478420dae3b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Bird's eye view on Edinburgh-of-the-seven-seas, the capital of Tristan da Cunha." />
Bird's eye view on Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, the capital of Tristan da Cunha.
Image: The Official CTBTO Photostream, CC BY 2.0<p>As Darwin predicted, <a href="https://www.wired.com/2012/08/island-evolution-more-species/" target="_blank">islands have more species</a>. That's because isolation can help preserve biodiversity. Could it be that place names also thrive on islands, and for the same reason? </p><p><span></span>Tristan da Cunha certainly seems to offer excellent support for that theory. Located roughly halfway between South Africa and Uruguay, the tiny, volcanic island is the most isolated inhabited place on the planet. It's only reachable by ship, sailing about 10 times a year from Cape Town. </p><p><span></span>The British island in the South Atlantic also boasts some of the world's weirdest toponyms. Since there are only about 250 Tristanites on the island, that means the island must have the highest weird-place-name-per-capita ratio in the world. </p>
Almost blank<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MzI4My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTcyNzA4MX0.iClt1fgm7UVuwiGnnPJmDhlCq_Fc7x9MXAliy0690vM/img.png?width=980" id="72441" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d197008d665ebd35fdd09474cef6ae62" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Google Maps image of Tristan da Cunha" />
Almost-blank map of Tristan da Cunha.
Image: Google Maps<p>But it's not easy to sample Tristan da Cunha's toponymic delights, at least not on Google Maps. All you'll find are a pin for Queen Mary's Peak, the usually dormant volcano rising at the island's center; and the label for the island's capital, and indeed only settlement, delightfully named 'Edinburgh of the Seven Seas'. (Although the locals just refer to it as 'the settlement'). </p><p>Zooming in further will reveal two churches (St Mary's, Anglican; and St Joseph's, Catholic), one cemetery, one bar (The Albatross), one shop, and a small museum called the <a href="https://www.tristandc.com/thatchedhouse.php" target="_blank">Thatched House</a>. All of which is squeezed in between the harbor and a lava field, and connected by the island's only road, somewhat ambitiously called the M1. No street view. No other place names. </p>
Local weirdness<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I think we need to talk about Tristan da Cunha's place names. <a href="https://t.co/2H5PMmcZfc">pic.twitter.com/2H5PMmcZfc</a></p>— Dan Snow (@thehistoryguy) <a href="https://twitter.com/thehistoryguy/status/1221141987971256321?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 25, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Coming across a more detailed map of the island, British historian Dan Snow was taken aback by some of the local weirdness. He poured his findings into a Twitter thread titled <em>We need to talk about Tristan da Cunha's place names</em>. Here's what you won't find on Google Maps.</p>
Mount Minor Royal<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MzI3NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjY3NzgyMH0.0Kb-mlFJr_dOP0geJ0UT-UnAacvAR3yUjrRVqU1OAdY/img.png?width=980" id="8d20b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a868500fee2d9c7f0b0ffedcf5735d2b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Excerpt from a map of Tristan da Cunha" />
Mary and Olav, together forever on Tristan.
Image: Dan Snow (Twitter @thehistoryguy)<p><em>Conventional Mt minor royal. So far so good</em>, Mr Snow starts. Queen Mary's Peak (2,062 m, 6,765 ft) was named after Mary of Teck (1867-1953), the wife of King George V (r. 1910-1936). Just south is Mount Olav (1,969 m, 6,460 ft), named after Olav V, king of Norway (r. 1957-1991). Intriguing though: both are fairly recent royals, so the mountains must have been named rather late. More on that in a minute. </p>
'Flat' names<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MzI3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0OTAyNzg3N30.-Ky79UKp2dtUa1sIfqVOyYlYMXeS3w0u9Zu8GPoc_RU/img.jpg?width=980" id="6b267" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7d550de64c14208ff2fddf245ce72858" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Excerpt from a map of Tristan da Cunha" />
'Big Green Hill', really?
Image: Dan Snow (Twitter @thehistoryguy)<p>As remarkable as some toponyms on Tristan are, many others are remarkably 'flat' – merely descriptive, in the most generic way possible. Mr. Snow zooms in on Big Point, in between Little Beach and Big Beach, and shows Big Green Hill just to the south – although the place in between, <em>Pig Bite</em>, can't but stimulate the reader's curiosity.</p>
Best capital name in the world<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MzI3Mi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTEzMDE2M30.A3HbcvJG4JkfCMSnn6-qmBeH4YKY9XVMnWVzcd-q3Ig/img.png?width=980" id="00c1f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ae6d78b5c84ed48752e437e4e73b7456" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Excerpt from a map of Tristan da Cunha" />
The island's capital is its only settlement. Nothing much to do there. Pretty name, though.
Image: Dan Snow (Twitter @thehistoryguy)<p>That would have been enough mappery for most, but Mr. Snow is reeled in by the settlement's name. <em>Best capital name in the world. By far</em>, he proclaims. </p>
Trump level crazy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MzI2OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjA1NjAwMX0.g3V3GAU-pIDDUK316XhR68EQ76bEzxCS0okbVtr5x8k/img.jpg?width=980" id="abd92" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7c716362570c50501d035e8681e9bd09" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Excerpts from a map of Tristan da Cunha" />
Tristan da Cunha's east coast is weird name central.
Image: Dan Snow (Twitter @thehistoryguy)<p>Looking further east, here are the two killer toponyms that cement Tristan's reputation as the capital of weird place names:</p><ul><li>Ridge-where-the-goat-jump-off, and</li><li>Down-where-the-minister-land(ed)-his-things</li></ul><p>These two ultra-descriptive place names are apparently used in full by the locals. They actually do roll off the tongue quite well. </p><p>So how, when and – most of all – why did those names come to be associated with places on Tristan? Incredibly, Mr. Snow's thread elicited a response from the grandson of the man who surveyed those names. </p>
"A meaningful chart"<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MzI2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMTYxNzYwMH0.0r0h4R2_a11BSkRf9-Mriqj_av3mYsXSqTle0rCcfLc/img.jpg?width=980" id="35790" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e6619f6dae4bdefe4439ef5453fcaa93" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Tristan da Cunha from the survey by Allan Crawford, 1937-38." />
Caption for this map from Allan Crawford's memoir: "Tristan da Cunha as surveyed by Allan Crawford in 1937-8. The place names were collected from islanders who helped with the survey; no deliberate names had ever been given to places; they were either natural descriptions such as Stony Beach, or they recalled events – Anchorstock was the spot where the wooden stock of an anchor was once washed ashore."
Image: Bryant Crawford (Twitter @BryantCrawford)<p><em></em><em>Blame my grandfather for using the real, day-to-day names the islanders used when he mapped it</em>, wrote Bryant Crawford. Mr. Crawford (Jr.) published a few excerpts from 'North, South, East & West', his grandad Allan B. Crawford's memoirs, which reveal the special link between Tristan and Queen Mary, and why the heck the minister landed his things on that particular beach.</p><p>"When I landed on Tristan Island for the first time in 1937, as the Surveyor of the Norwegian Scientific Exhibition, I noticed that not many of the names on the Admiralty chart corresponded with the names used by the local islander population. It was at once evident that I should record the actual names used by the inhabitants for all topographical features in order to produce a meaningful chart."</p>
Loyal to the Royals<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MzM0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDYzMzk2NX0.z_c2_FICgV0nPqB9nARD7MsAX_GUzF3pxnIWgcxPNuw/img.jpg?width=980" id="fe618" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b37d60067c20566d8da909d1d481cb9a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Tristan da Cunha from the sea, with Queen Mary's head in the clouds." />
Tristan from the sea, with Queen Mary's head in the clouds.
Image: Michael Clarke, CC-BY 2.0<p>"I was impressed by the islanders' loyalty towards the Royal Family, for many of the island cottages displayed their photographs, especially King George V and his consort. In fact, Queen Mary had taken a great interest in the islanders' welfare and had presented the community with a harmonium for their Church."</p><p><span></span>"In 1906, when Rev. and Mrs. Barrow arrived for a three-year chaplaincy, the weather was too rough to land at the Settlement, so they chose a beach landing in the lee. To this day, the beach is still known as 'Down where the minister land his things'. It is because the name goes with a swing that it is still in general use."</p><p><span></span>"There is already a Goat Ridge on the west side of the village, so a ridge on the south of the island is known as the 'Ridge-where-the-goat-jump-off', the sentence being used ungrammatically in full (they seldom used the past tense in speech)."</p><p><span></span>In all, Mr. Crawford noted down about 80 new toponyms for the island. A few (Hottentot Point, East Jew's Point, West Jew's Point) would today be considered insensitive – showing how much time has elapsed since the 1930s. </p>
On and off the map<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MzM2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDU2NjQ1NH0.zTZKXf-OVxUVmxtwSxSBrOfl-bqRyoj7NHHX_Exy3uM/img.jpg?width=980" id="855fa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b31432f28cad7e1f892ddc15891c0254" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="German research vessel Maria S. Merian, just off Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.\u200b" />
German research vessel Maria S. Merian, just off Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.
Image: Mison, CC BY-SA 3.0<p>Some of Tristan's other more notable place names:</p><ul><li>Not on this map: The Hill-with-a-cone-in-it-on-the-east-side-of-the-gulch-come-down-by-the-Ridge-where-the-goat-jump-off. </li><li>Blineye: a crater where a bullock was injured in one eye ('Blideye'). and hid afterwards. The area was earlier called 'Ridge-where-the-Blindeye-stop'.</li><li>Bugsby Hole: asteep mountain slope, possibly a reference to a <a href="https://853.london/2014/03/10/bugsbys-holed-why-a-bit-of-greenwichs-history-is-under-threat/" target="_blank">Bugsby Hole in London's East End</a>).</li><li>Frank's Hill: a crater where Frank Monk, a Belgian castaway from the American bark Mabel Clark was overtaken by night in 1878.</li><li>Nellie's Hump is a secondary crater of the main volcano. Its name commemorates a dog chasing a goat.</li><li>Pigbite, finally, is a ridge where over a century ago a pig chased and bit one of the islanders.</li></ul>
It's a long way to Fografiddle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY3MzI3Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjIxMzc5NX0.unZ9gVNo0Qo8OfnpxZE6cJngcnANkjKKVEjegZjE2k4/img.png?width=980" id="0c074" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="384a2130877c62adb9c972de6de76bc3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of strange toponyms on Shetland and Orkney Islands" />
The Shetland and Orkney Islands also have their fair share of topographic weirdness.
Image: Mapfodder<p>But Tristan is not the only island with weird place names. A few years ago, <em>Strange Maps</em> zoomed in on the <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/608-dull-flag-and-tongue-of-gangsta-the-laugh-out-loud-place-names-of-shetland-and-orkney" target="_blank">strange place names of Scotland's Shetland and Orkney Islands</a>. </p><p>On second thought, we may have overstepped the mark by handing the weird place name World Cup to Tristan da Cunha. Those two Scottish archipelagoes are quite far out too. But the same observation holds: strange place names seem to thrive in isolation. We're lucky to have Mr. Crawford's first-person account of their genesis on Tristan. How cool would it be to find a Viking scroll describing how the Orkney and Shetland Islands were named...</p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1010</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at</em> <a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.</p>
The 'People Map of the United States' zooms in on America's obsession with celebrity
- Replace city names with those of their most famous residents and you get a peculiar map of America's obsession with celebrity.
- The multitalented Dwayne Johnson, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dominate the West Coast.
- If you seek fame, become an actor, musician or athlete rather than a politician, entrepreneur or scientist.
Chicagoland is Obamaland<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYwNTI4NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzIxMTQ2NX0.PtE0Pe8euQ1pg0c9H9r-PXqWCi3So8pYJUlGQgxpwZ8/img.png?width=980" id="861e6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9ff319e1d59c6f05b6a810068823c3d2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Chicagoland's celebrity constellation is dominated by Barack, but with plenty of room for the Belushis, Brandos and Capones of this world.
Image: The Pudding<p>Seen from among the satellites, this map of the United States is populated by a remarkably diverse bunch of athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs and other persons of repute (and disrepute). </p><p><span></span>The multitalented Dwayne Johnson, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dominate the West Coast. Right down the middle, we find actors Chris Pratt and Jason Momoa, singer Elvis Presley and basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. The East Coast crew include wrestler John Cena, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, mass murderer Ted Bundy… and Dwayne Johnson, again.</p><p><span></span>The Rock pops up in both Hayward, CA and Southwest Ranches, FL, but he's not the only one to appear twice on the map. Wild West legend Wyatt Earp makes an appearance in both Deadwood, SD, and Dodge City, KS. </p><p><span></span>How is that? This 'People's Map of the United States' replaces the names of cities with those of "<a href="https://pudding.cool/2019/05/people-map/" target="_blank">their most Wikipedia'ed resident</a>: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place." </p><p><a href="https://pudding.cool/2019/05/people-map/" target="_blank">Zoom in on the map</a> to find your city.</p>
‘Cincinnati, Birthplace of Charles Manson'<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYwNTI4Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNjQ3NzUyNn0._dssTSOYaROHHOXspQCJeV1NaNpT4WsJpIMZdCcMHfc/img.png?width=980" id="f5ddf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3c1b2b3a17293ec62c9b8b93334c9514" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Keys to the city, or lock 'em up and throw away the key? A city's most famous sons and daughters of a city aren't always the most favored ones.
Image: The Pudding<p>That definition allows people to appear in more than one locality. Dwayne Johnson was born in Hayward, has one of his houses in Southwest Ranches, and is famous enough to be the 'most Wikipedia'ed resident' for both localities. </p><p><span></span>Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, IL, but his reputation is closely associated with both Deadwood and Dodge City – although he's most famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which took place in Tombstone, AZ. And yes, if you zoom in on that town in southern Arizona, there's Mr Earp again. </p><p><span></span>The data for this map was collected via the Wikipedia API (application programming interface) from the English-language Wikipedia for the period from July 2015 to May 2019. </p><p><span></span>The thousands of 'Notable People' sections in Wikipedia entries for cities and other places in the U.S. were scrubbed for the person with the most pageviews. No distinction was made between places of birth, residence or death. As the developers note, "people can 'be from' multiple places". </p><p>Pageviews are an impartial indicator of interest – it doesn't matter whether your claim to fame is horrific or honorific. As a result, this map provides a non-judgmental overview of America's obsession with celebrity. <br></p>
Royals and (other) mortals<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYwNTI5MS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDYwNzAyN30.vLmwyWIXq6_J8Tdp0wc0t8e5BNi3p__i26HTnhiUTwk/img.png?width=980" id="fe47c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="eb5332f7a5751068269d7b7d6b4f9b3f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
There's also a UK version of the People Map – filled with last names like Neeson, Sheeran, Darwin and Churchill – and a few first names of monarchs.
Image: The Pudding<p>Celebrity, it is often argued, is our age's version of the Greek pantheon, populated by dozens of major gods and thousands of minor ones, each an example of behaviors to emulate or avoid. This constellation of stars, famous and infamous, is more than a map of names. It's a window into America's soul. </p><p>But don't let that put you off. Zooming in on the map is entertaining enough. Celebrities floating around in the ether are suddenly tied down to a pedestrian level, and to real geography. And it's fun to see the famous and the infamous rub shoulders, as it were. <br></p><p>Barack Obama owns Chicago, but the suburbs to the west of the city are dotted with a panoply of personalities, ranging from the criminal (Al Capone, Cicero) and the musical (John Prine, Maywood) to figures literary (Jonathan Franzen, Western Springs) and painterly (Ivan Albright, Warrenville), actorial (Harrison Ford, Park Ridge) and political (Eugene V. Debs, Elmhurst). </p>
Freaks and angels<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYwNTI5My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzkxNDgzN30.5fbH7BHnZxKhBKGa-fO_w9nYqR2O2hXBe-EqTJcemVE/img.jpg?width=980" id="cd66f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="baf0e1bb2b6645ff1cfd92ac6cb22243" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The People Map of the U.S. was inspired by the U.S.A. Song Map, substituting song titles for place names.
Image: Dorothy<p>It would be interesting to compare 'the most Wikipedia'ed' sons and daughters of America's cities with the ones advertised at the city limits. When you're entering Aberdeen, WA, a sign invites you to 'come as you are', in homage to its most famous son, Kurt Cobain. It's a safe bet that Indian Hill, OH will make sure you know Neil Armstrong, first man on the Moon, was one of theirs. But it's highly unlikely that Cincinnati, a bit further south, will make any noise about Charles Manson, local boy done bad.</p><p>Inevitably, the map also reveals some bitterly ironic neighbors, such as Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe, captured near Oroville, CA. He died in 1916 as "the last wild Indian in North America". The most 'pageviewed' resident of nearby Colusa, CA is Byron de la Beckwith, Jr., the white supremacist convicted for the murder of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers.</p><p><span></span>As a sampling of America's interests, this map teaches that those aiming for fame would do better to become actors, musicians or athletes rather than politicians, entrepreneurs or scientists. But also that celebrity is not limited to the big city lights of LA or New York. Even in deepest Dakota or flattest Kansas, the footlights of fame will find you. Whether that's good or bad? The pageviews don't judge...</p>
Despite itself, this collection of awful cartography may just make a few useful observations.
- Since 2016, Terrible Maps has been collecting, well… terrible maps.
- They're awful, pointless and stupid, but also funny (and sometimes even instructive).
- Here are 10 examples. Dive into the Twitter account for hundreds more.
All directions north<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk5NjY2My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzUwNTAwMH0.UVCEIkMIwtnaz-InvNlhKPGiAYZUPuW8IVbGHnDSbBs/img.jpg?width=980" id="684dd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b5623245a4324197236fc3270566e667" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>You can't go further south than the South Pole, which means that any other point is north again. Wait, does that mean you can't go east or west from the South Pole? </p>
Iggy Coke?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk5NjY3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzEzMzU5N30.V2E9ZH2tzTGdIDqiDHwHZorV17Ilm25XAACEsMUXEPg/img.jpg?width=980" id="b787b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="62245445b531fb01a1c3009d62224b03" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Iggy Pop is a mercurial character. To some, he's <em>The Passenger,</em> a rock 'n roll legend; to others, he's a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Cvrz-Ynor4" target="_blank">car insurance salesman</a>. This map grafts his persona on the map of the US that shows the border between people who call a carbonated drink 'pop', and those for whom that's a 'soda'. (see also #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/308-the-pop-vs-soda-map" target="_blank">308</a>)</p>
Moon on Flag and Flag on Moon<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk5NjY4MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTI0NzE3NX0.ZITPfemfRuR2KAM5qEkDjWlstVPnSdgKLaWlWTdfStE/img.jpg?width=980" id="99ec9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f239220924f723723e9e45a8b344b54b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>The Moon is frequently used in Islamic iconography: on top of mosques, and on the flags of several majority-Muslim nations, but also Croatia and Moldova (in red on this map). But while 13 countries have the moon on their flag, there is just one country with its flag on the moon. That's right: USA! USA!</p>
Ding Dong, TX<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk5NjY4Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTM4NjgyNH0.nCNzAW6EtzeRQWlsAro4eg3rfYcpkBOtIY99zheXjkg/img.jpg?width=980" id="297a2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="35cc1ba1cc864c774d18083bb045cf28" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Most people with have heard of Boring, Oregon. Here are some of America's other odd town names – one per state – that you might not have been aware of. Jackpot, NV and Okay, OK: yes, we see how those names came about. But Ding Dong, TX? Chugwater, WY? Booger Hole, WV? </p>
Moose maps<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk5NjY5Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNTg4NjUxNH0.xMDES2-lpjH2ReEbUAV-juM6zrlg0YubpHtiwZo75N8/img.jpg?width=980" id="d40a3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f1737e02ccfc5cf42bc3c01468bb5b22" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Alaska is the biggest state in the U.S. But why is Maine second, Idaho third? The animal at the bottom is the key, and the legend of the map: each state is sized for their moose population. Even Nevada has a few.</p>
Ages of the world<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk5NjY5Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NzcwNjAxOH0.gPTHrDksAnAPkDIa9ynoYANRDnx1LSr4WvyI_bVCHrw/img.jpg?width=980" id="4a828" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="39b2eb9475a0ea1be27b0c22f56040ce" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>This map is a compound of the situation on the ground, and the prejudices of the mapmaker. Much of Africa, South America and the Arctic is living in the Stone Age. The interior of Australia, the north of Africa and elsewhere: colonial times. Russia, most of the US and China: the 1900s. The UK, the inhabited parts of Canada, Southern Europe, New Zealand: the present. Germany, Scandinavia, Japan, northeastern US, coastal China: the future. If you want to experience all at once: go to India. </p>
Airus Forcus Romanus<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk5NjcwMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NzIwOTE4MH0.QZLZF7BQspkLsuL_XaJDLlyeBFfFynV744whVM4c5D4/img.jpg?width=980" id="75ce3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="862cb24ab05329ea3ac4d80598e487d0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Take any outline map and think of a legend that doesn't require you to alter it. Like this map of Roman Air Force bases in the second century AD. Also in this series: Electricity consumption in Europe in 1507. Countries arranged by geographical location. Knowledge of Cherokee in the EU. Popes per square mile. Alcoholism in Russia. Map of Earth if there was no land (i.e. blank). Saudi Arabia mapped only by its rivers (also blank). Map of Europe showing population per capita (a '1' in each country). <br></p>
World Map of Bill Gates<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk5NjcwMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTk4NTIxOX0.9d4zXgx5ytsxWkz5iP5G79Nhuk1sCZkwQTpwkL5TWjU/img.jpg?width=980" id="a1501" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a0d6741b162c1b90efb0327699618ae4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Bill Gates is rich. Very rich. How rich? Richer than each of the countries on this map that have his grinning face superimposed on them. <br></p>
Brexit vs. Mad Cow Disease<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk5NjcxMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDMyMjYxNH0.kj755m2RBLeRVxffRIsGL8zCLgpjQexIxKV9ZIHvGmE/img.jpg?width=980" id="38792" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="35eacc26b84d94c4085773df06db8409" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Left, in blue: UK areas that voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. Right, in dark grey: areas affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, a.k.a. 'Mad Cow Disease') during the 1992 outbreak. The correspondence between both maps is perfect. The message: the people who voted for Brexit were crazy, suffering from residual BSE. But the perfect correspondence is not that surprising: the second map is a black and white version of the first, with a different date slapped on. Point made. Fake data. Terrible map!<br></p>
Gubernatorial eye colour map<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk5Njc0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Mzg1OTc4Nn0.0I2qmRqtAb7b1aGXDrsxwog8WJenelkvyr-SnL_kkO4/img.jpg?width=980" id="517a3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8c32573cd8870b2d33a565475adc7f3e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>A large, contiguous part of the US is ruled by blue-eyed governors: from Washington state all the way down to Florida. There are two blue-eyed islands in the northeast (Delaware-New Jersey and Massachusetts-New Hampshire). Virginia is the only state with a green-eyed governor. All the other states are ruled by brown-eyed top executives. Mind you, this map predates the mid-terms. Someone update this one, please!<br></p>
The Centennial State has 697 sides‚ not four.
- Colorado looks like a rectangle. It isn't.
- The Centennial State has not four, but 697 sides. That makes it a hexahectaenneacontakaiheptagon.
- Does that make Wyoming the only real rectangular state? Well, about that…
Four Corners (and four more)<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4NTUzNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMTc2NDE1OH0.MNrEAkubidhWR3QfBZ1xaxpYWs82jsTSchSyrmwgelA/img.jpg?width=980" id="48319" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7696f7c974ff9e7d2a9c8801216c98fb" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Four Corners. Clockwise from top left: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona. Image source: Getty Creative<p>Located in a dusty, desolate corner of the desert, the Four Corners monument seems very far from the middle of anything. Yet this is the meeting point of four states: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. It is the only quadripoint in the United States (4). The monument's exact location is at 36°59'56″N, 109°02'43″W. </p><p>However, it's not where Congress had decreed the four states to meet. That point is about 560 feet (170 m) northwest of the quadripoint's current location, at 37°N, 109°02'48″W. Did you drive all the way through the desert to miss the actual point by a few hundred feet?<br></p><p>No, you didn't: in 1925, the Supreme Court ruled that the borders as surveyed were the correct ones. But perhaps the original quadripoint deserves a small marker of its own, if only to provide the site with an extra attraction. Or why not go for three? Some sources say the original point deviates by 1,807 feet (551 m).</p>
The La Sal/Paradox deviation<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4NTU0OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzE2OTgwMH0.9XVYZO7hg6XqgAxgca0SLeCTqpvjg1f8irukCcTh6uo/img.jpg?width=980" id="06c1b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3677451a6ead8ec19cf3bf322cf65847" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Paradox Valley in Colorado, near the (crooked) border with Utah. Image source: Wikimedia Commons/Tony Webster, CC BY 2.0<p><br>In 1879, a survey party marched north from Four Corners, placing markers at every mile. The surveyors eventually reached the Wyoming border, but not where they thought they'd end up. Later surveys, in 1885 and 1893, found out where the original surveyors had gone wrong, but by that time the border as surveyed had become the official one. Changing it would have required both Colorado and Utah to agree on a solution, and Congress to approve it. <br></p><p>The biggest error occurs just south of the road connecting La Sal, Utah to Paradox, Colorado. Across an eight-mile stretch, the surveyors strayed westward before regaining true north. The resulting deviation is 3860 feet (1.18 km).</p>
Things go south after Edith<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4NTU0Mi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1OTgwMDk3Nn0.ZALYN-DAihtBkNZ9iYKmGEf_FPLWZ_svgcFaYkN2Sj4/img.png?width=980" id="a43c8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="da8b6c51bb6b224cd8b8d6cd82264c14" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Border deviation near Edith, CO. Image source: Google Maps/Ruland Kolen
I<p>West to east, Colorado's border with New Mexico starts out fairly straight. However, just east of Edith, the border swerves southeast for about 3,400 feet (1 km) before resuming its course due east, now 2,820 feet (860 m) further south than before. <br></p><p>Why? It seems that for once, the surveyors have given in to the dictates of topography: the deviation follows a small valley oriented northwest-southeast. <br></p>
Panhandling into Oklahoma<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4NTU1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjk1Mzc1Nn0.iG-7h4d2STJ9dj2ccokAOj-p7wUFNpMNWF3H9wFyD-8/img.jpg?width=980" id="a4258" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="33b9a2e5698845601af1bf26d268eabb" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Colorado border swerves south, eating into the Oklahoma Panhandle. Image source: FascinatingMaps.com<p>Almost at the end of their surveying mission, it seems the party lost the plot again. In the last 53 miles (85 km) before the border turns north, the stretch where Colorado rubs against Oklahoma, the line again swerves to the south, by as much as 1,770 feet (540 m).<br></p><p>Don't blame the terrain: appropriately for a place so close to the Oklahoma Panhandle, it's as flat as a pancake. Perhaps the surveyors were confused by the very featurelessness of the place. </p>
Colorado is a 697-sider<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4NTU1NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NzgxNTcwNn0.beuSOHghzx-T66GIq0SUQRXylHRausZFeuX1xOE7h20/img.png?width=980" id="c71d9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="62f84ee1aed61bb870a2292e98a8ed96" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Each dot is a twist in Colorado's supposedly straight borders. Image source: FascinatingMaps.com<p>These are just four of the biggest, most easily spotted surveying errors. In total, Colorado's borders have hundreds twists and turns — most much smaller than the Big Four. Here they are: every dot on is a border deviation, as indicated on the OpenStreetMap of Colorado. <br></p><p>Accordingly, the state has not just four sides, but a total of 697 sides. So if Colorado is not a rectangle, what is it? Well, not a pentagon, (Greek for 5-sider), hexagon (6-sider) or a heptagon (7-sider), but a — hold on to something — <em>hexahectaenneacontakaiheptagon</em> (697-sider). </p>
Don't get your hopes up, Wyoming<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4NTU1OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjMzMzMzOX0.G0Lj4Y5jOrkjJhuOQDwLE0ZloP7nqkevmGlM9McqsJ8/img.png?width=980" id="0d6d6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e95f43257e5c98aa8acaf5d76c189644" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Wyoming: just as fallible as Colorado — but more willing to admit its mistakes. Image source: FascinatingMaps.com<p>With Colorado thoroughly disqualified to as one of America's two truly rectangular states, does that leave Wyoming holding the crown all on its own? Nope. Turns out the surveyors who plotted the Equality State's outline were just as fallible as the Colorado set. <br></p><p>This map shows a few larger ones of the many deviations in on all four sides of Wyoming. Interestingly, the deviations shown come in pairs, whereby the second ones seem to correct the deviation of the first ones. <br></p><p>So, while Wyoming is just as imperfect as Colorado, it does seem that at least it is better at admitting (and correcting) its mistakes than its southern neighbor.</p>