Robert Krulwich on place names
National Public Radio’s science correspondent, Robert Krulwich, has done a couple of stories over the past few days on geographic place names, inspired by Mark Monmonier’s latest book, From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame.
In the story “Congratulations, Here’s Your Mountain!” Krulwich explores the historic role that postmasters played in naming the town in which their post office was located. Krulwich shows how a similar practice continues today, such as Antarctica’s Mount Payne, which is named for Roger Payne, retired executive secretary to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.
Krulwich also relates, in “An American Story: Give Me Back My ‘H!’” the attempt by that same Board on Geographic Names, in the year after it was created in 1890, to standardize the spelling of place names. The Board replaced centre with center and shortened the suffix burgh to burg. The Board could not withstand the tenacity of the citizens of the Iron City, however, and reversed itself in 1911, allowing Pittsburg to once again become Pittsburgh.
You can read an excerpt from the book. Mark also contributed an essay to this blog.