20 March 2017

State Names in the United States part 2

In part 1, I started the stories of the names of the states in the United States of America. This post concludes that list with more origins from the native people, British places, kings, queens, rivers and geography.

NEW HAMPSHIRE was named after the southern English county of Hampshire by Captain John Mason, an early settler who came from that county.

NEW JERSEY My home state was named after the Channel Island of Jersey by Sir George Carteret, who also used the name of his earlier home. Vice Admiral Sir George Carteret, was not an explorer but a royalist statesman. He was Treasurer of the Navy, and one of the original Lords Proprietor of the former British colony of Carolina and New Jersey.  The city of Carteret, New Jersey, as well as Carteret County, North Carolina, are also named after him.

NEW MEXICO or Nuevo México was first used by a seeker of gold mines named Francisco de Ibarra, who explored far to the north of Mexico in 1563 and reported his findings as being in "a New Mexico" hoping that this area would be as rich in resources as the southern area. Juan de Oñate officially established the name when he was appointed the first governor of the new Province of New Mexico in 1598.

NEW YORK was named after the English Duke of York and Albany (and the brother of England's King Charles II) in 1664 when the region that had been called New Amsterdam was taken from the Dutch. The state was a colony of Great Britain until it became independent on July 4, 1776.

NORTH CAROLINA and SOUTH CAROLINA are both named after Charles IX of France.  Carolina is a Latin feminine form of Charles.

NORTH DAKOTA and SOUTH DAKOTA come from "Dakota," a Sioux Indian word for friend or friend alliance. President James Buchanan signed the bill creating the Dakota Territory in 1861 which originally included the area covered today by North and South Dakota as well as Montana and Wyoming. On November 2, 1889, both North and South Dakota were admitted to the Union, becoming the 39th and 40th states.

OHIO originates from the Iroquois Indian word for a "good river." This Indian name was later translated by the French as La Belle Riviere (the Beautiful River).

OKLAHOMA is a word that was made up by the native American missionary Allen Wright. He combined two Choctaw words, "ukla" meaning person and "humá" meaning red to form the word that first appears in a 1866 Choctaw treaty. Oklahoma means "red person."

OREGON's origin is still debated. It is possibly a misreading of the river name in Wisconsin that was written as Ouaricon-sint on an 18th century map, but with the last 4 letters on the next line and therefore dropped. Most scholarship ascribes the earliest known use of the name "Oregon" to a 1765 petition by Major Robert Rogers to the Kingdom of Great Britain, seeking money to finance an expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. The petition read "the rout... is from the Great Lakes towards the Head of the Mississippi, and from thence to the River called by the Indians Ouragon...." After that, the early Oregon Country and the present day state took their names from that river, which is now known as the Columbia River.

PENNSYLVANIA King Charles II of England owed $80,000 to Admiral Sir William Penn. In 1681, as payment for the debt, the king granted what is today Pennsylvania to the admiral's son, who was also named William Penn. Penn named the territory New Wales but also suggested Sylvania (woodland) for his land. Eventually, his name and sylvania were combined to mean "Penn's Woods."

RHODE ISLAND  The first mention of the name Rhode Island or any of its variations in connection with Narragansett Bay is in the letter of Giovanni da Verrazzano, the explorer, dated July 8, 1524, in which he refers to an island near the mouth of Narragansett Bay, and likens the island to the Island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea.

TENNESSEE In the early 18th century, British traders encountered a Cherokee town named Tanasi (or "Tanase") in present-day Monroe County, Tennessee. The town was located on a river of the same name (now known as the Little Tennessee River), and appears on maps as early as 1725 in its Anglicized spelling of the Cherokee river name.

TEXAS is based on the Caddo word tejas meaning "friends" or "allies", and was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in East Texas.

UTAH  When the Mormons first came to the territory, they named the area The State of Deseret, a reference to the honeybee in The Book of Mormon  This name was the official name of the colony from 1849 to 1850. The nickname, "The Deseret State," is in reference to Utah's original name. Utah is derived from the name of the native tribe known as the Nuutsiu or Utes (which itself may come from the Apache yudah, yiuta or yuttahih, meaning “they who are higher up”), whom the Spanish first encountered in modern-day Utah in the late 1500s. In the tribe's language, ute means “Land of the Sun.”

VERMONT is an English form of the name that French explorer Samuel de Champlain gave to Vermont's Green Mountains on his 1647 map. He called them "Verd Mont" meaning "green mountain."

VIRGINIA and WEST VIRGINIA were both named to honor Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen.

WASHINGTON  was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States. The state was made out of the western part of the Washington Territory, which had been ceded by Britain in 1846 in accordance with the Oregon Treaty in the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute.

WISCONSIN was originally "Meskonsing" and is the English spelling of a French version of a Miami Indian name for a river that runs 430 miles through the center of the state and is now known as the Wisconsin River. At one time the word was translated as meaning "long river," but recent scholarship has concluded that in Miami it meant, "this stream meanders through something red" and that is was a reference to the red sandstone bluffs of the Wisconsin Dells.

WYOMING is thought to be a contraction of the Native American word mecheweamiing  meaning "at the big plains" and was first used by the Delaware people as a name for the Wyoming Valley in northeastern Pennsylvania.

13 March 2017

fleurons and dingbats

A fleuron is a typographic element, or glyph, used either as a punctuation mark or as an ornament for typographic compositions.

Fleurons are stylized forms of flowers or leaves and the term derives from the Old French word floron, for flower.

Robert Bringhurst in The Elements of Typographic Style calls the forms "horticultural dingbats."

They are sometimes referred to as printers' flower, as an aldus leaf (after Italian Renaissance printer Aldus Manutius), hedera leaf ("ivy leaf"), or simply hedera symbol.

They are one of the oldest typographic ornaments. In early Greek and Latin texts, the hedera was used as an inline character to divide paragraphs.

It was also used to fill the white space that results from the indentation of the first line of a paragraph, or on a line by itself to divide paragraphs in a stylized way, to divide lists (as we ue "bullets") or for just pure ornamentation.

In more modern books, simple line breaks became more common as paragraph dividers. Fleurons became used more for ornamented borders.

Fleurons were made as with any typographic element as individual metal pieces that could be fit into the printer's compositions alongside letter and numbers. They made it easier to create ornamentation and these individual "sorts" could be used in multiples to make borders with repeating patterns of fleurons.

fleurons border of holly elements

One contemporary usage can be seen on menus that use a (red) printed chili-shaped fleuron next to an item to denote a dish that is particularly spicy.

 floral heart dingbat and rotated ones used as bullets for lists   ☙ 

A dingbat is also an ornament or spacer used in typesetting, sometimes more formally known as a "printer's ornament."

However, Wikipedia lists for the purposes of disambiguation that the word can also refer to a number of other uses including: a slang term referring to someone silly (as often applied to the TV character Edith Bunker on the program All in the Family); as a board game requiring players to solve rebuses and known in America as Whatzit?; as a type of cheap urban apartment building built between the 1950s and 1960s; and as a paddle ball in South Africa, as well as other things.

The use of “dingbat” to mean “an ornamental item of type” appeared around 1921 and is probably based on an earlier use to describe “a nameless object.” The “ding” in dingbat is probably the Dutch word “ding,” meaning “thing.” (The slang word “dingus,” meaning  a“gadget or contraption" has the same origin.) And the “bat” goes back to the Old English "bat” which was “a cudgel or war club” much like our modern day sports bat. In Middle English, "bat" was  it was also used to mean simply a lump or left-over chunk of something, so a “dingbat,” would be the rather vague "bit of a thing.”

For our purposes in this post, a dingbat is a printer's ornament, character or spacer used in typesetting which can represent any number of things.

The term continues to be used in the computer industry to describe fonts that have symbols and shapes in the same way as alphabetical or numeric characters.

Some dingbats you might use digitally are:

Unicode dingbats menu

09 March 2017

Riding Shotgun

John Wayne riding shotgun in Stagecoach
Have you ever "called shotgun” to claim the front seat as a passenger in a car? This seems to be an Americanism for when one of multiple passengers wants the front seat rather than being cramped with a lousy view in back.

The usage has its roots in a bygone era of the American West when stagecoaches were common. At least in the retelling of American history through films and television, we learned that back in the 1880s the seat next to the driver on top was given to someone with a gun.

Though shotguns offered the chance to hit one or more attackers more easily from a bouncing seat, we also have seen on the screen men with rifles and pistols riding shotgun. The term became a generic way of describing the seat and the duty.

The phrase appears in the 1939 John Ford film Stagecoach starring John Wayne who declares that “I’m gonna ride shotgun.”  Randolph Scott starred in a 1954 film titled Riding Shotgun.

Though we hope no one today who calls shotgun when getting into a car is carrying a weapon, the term has survived in slang usage.  In the 21st century, riding shotgun might require monitoring the GPS and answering phone calls and text messages for the driver, which are jobs that might actually save the driver's life.