Friday, August 08, 2014

Positioning the Lake



Jim Sofonia from Traverse City, Michigan, asked, “Can you explain why some lakes are Name Lake, and others are Lake Name? Examples include Lime Lake  and Lake Ann.”

Generally, larger lakes tend to have the word lake first: Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Ontario, etc. Smaller lakes tend to have it last: Little Traverse Lake, Green Lake, Duck Lake. But it’s not totally uniform: Lake Macatawa, Lake Bellaire, and Lake Cadillac are not part of the Great Lakes. Also, if the lake name came into English from the French, the word lake is likely to be in the first position.

The same question came up five years ago, and I think that a portion of that answer is worth repeating.
*          *          *          *          *

I decided to go to those who know: the U.S. Geological Survey. They forwarded my inquiry to the Geographic Names Office, and they were kind enough to reply.

“Actually, there is no rule in the geographic naming process that determines whether the generic term appears in position one or position two (before or after the specific part of the name). This is true for Lake as well; it can appear first as in Lake Superior or last as in Great Salt Lake. We can comment that it seems more often than not that the generic Lake seems to appear in position one for very large bodies of water, but as in the example above, this cannot be presumed, and we reiterate, there is no rule.”

I also asked whether the naming process might simply depend on the whim of the cartographer. This elicited an emphatic denial:

“Regarding whether it is ‘simply the whim of the map maker who names it,’ we can say with authority and certainty that it is definitely not. Firstly, map makers (and more specifically map editors) do not ever name anything—at least those making maps or charts for the Federal government and also those who do so for State and local jurisdictions—although occasionally local authorities might not be aware fully of the existing procedures. It is, in fact, the interdepartmental United States Board on Geographic Names (the first - 1890 - of now almost 50 such organizations worldwide) that is the sole authority for the Federal Government of the United States regarding approval of geographic names and their application on products of the Federal Government, both conventional and digital.
Further, the States and local jurisdictions generally follow the lead and policies of the U.S. Board (as do most commercial map makers). All 50 States plus the two Commonwealths and the three Territories have what are generically referenced as State Names Authorities, each of which works closely with the U.S. Board to standardize (not regulate) geographic names.

 An example of non-regulation is that there is no rule to determine whether the generic Lake appears in position one or position two. In the United States, the policy of paramount importance is that of local use and acceptance, so it is usually determined by perception and recommendation from local governments and quasi-official organizations as well as the various State Names Authorities. Other countries have other problems, and therefore may have requirements regarding standardizing geographic name usage.”

For Lou Yost
Manager of the Geonames Database

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Sunday, August 03, 2014

Speakeasy


Carol from Old Mission asked about the word speakeasy. A speakeasy was the name given to a club or establishment that sold liquor illegally during Prohibition (1920 – 1933).

The import of the word is harder to pin down. One theory is that patrons of a speakeasy were instructed to speak quietly when inside so that neighbors and the police wouldn’t know what was going on. I don’t buy in to this one because I’ve never been in a quiet room occupied by people who were drinking. In addition, neighbors always know when shenanigans are going on in an adjoining building. Strangers lining up one by one or two by two all through the night would certainly attract attention. It would soon become an open secret.

A second theory is that to enter a speakeasy, patrons needed to know a password, and that they needed to say the password in a guarded tone to the doorman (Kaiser Wilhelm sent me) to prevent passersby from hearing it.

A third theory is that patrons never talked about it openly except with very good friends because it was a secret that no one wanted to jeopardize. Easy in that case would signify covertly.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Friday, July 25, 2014

Hot to Trot


Frank from Elk Rapids asked about the phrase hot to trot.

There are many meanings derived from the original meaning of hot – characterized by a high temperature or sensation of heat. The hot in hot to trot signifies burning with desire, eager, keen to get started.

The word trot betrays the origin of the phrase. Horses trot. In the standard horse race, the horses begin by lining up at rest side by side. You will often see the jockey forcibly restraining the horse lest it try to take off before the starting signal or the opening of the gate. An eager horse is said to be chomping at the bit. The fact that hot and trot rhyme no doubt contributed to the popularity of the phrase.

Other extended uses of hot include angry, spicy in nature, sexually aroused, dangerous, topical, forceful, stolen, electrified, radioactive, fresh, intense, exciting, rapid, and fashionable.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jolly Roger


A listener asked why the flag flown on a pirate ship was called a Jolly Roger. The Oxford English Dictionary brands this popular story as folk etymology: Their red flag was called Joli Rouge (pretty red) by the French, and may have been corrupted into English as Jolly Roger. 

The principal reason for doubting this explanation is that the traditional pirate’s flag was always black.

As for the semantic motivation, the first element (Jolly) may refer to the appearance of the skull, the conventional emblem adorning the flag, with the skull's mouth humorously being taken as showing a broad grin.” [OED]

With the second element (Roger), the OED offers two possibilities.

(1) Roger was the stereotypical name of a male person of a particular class, such as a manservant.
            1631:  J. Weever Ancient Funerall Monuments,   “The seruant obeyed,
            and (like a good trustie Roger) performed his Masters commandement.”

(2) Old Roger was a humorous or familiar name for the devil, and pirates were considered anything but godly.
           
1725: New Canting Dictionary, Old Roger, the Devil.


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.




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