Naming Conquered Lands

From MiddleEarth:

(Like most conquering empires, Gondor did not bother do ask the locals the name of their land, and just called it Harad, "South" in their own language.)

[Actually conquering empires tend to preserve a good number of "indigeneous" toponyms. Witness the many Celtic names in parts of the former Roman empire, or Quechua toponyms in Peru.]

Or all the Native American names on LongIsland?, and the rest of the northeastern UnitedStates as well.

These are two possible patterns. Maybe we can list some others.

An interesting pattern occurs in the Mexican toponym Guadalajara. It is named after a place in Spain, which in turn was named by the conquering Moors.

Although, there are several instances of the invaders/conquerers/visitors misunderstanding the locals and calling land features whatever "that's a nice coat you're wearing" is in the local lingo.

Similarly, there are several River Avon's in the UK. I believe that Avon is the word for river. I have visions of the following conversation:

 Roman Surveyor: What's that?
 Local: It's a river, you fool.
 Roman Surveyor (writing it down carefully): How's that spelt?

I had the above experience when bushwalking in remote parts of Papua New Guinea. My friends and I enjoyed sampling the local tropical fruits, which were often delicious things we'd never seen before. So we asked, in our best Nuigini Pidgin: Wannem nem bilong dispela samting?

Once we received an answer, we knew what to call the thing next time we saw it. Or so we thought, until we noticed that a few different things seemed to be called firoot. Eventually it dawned on us that this was an attempt by the locals to use the English name 'fruit', and that it had been said in a tone of voice that implied a trailing instance of the word 'stupid!'.


I read somewhere that Senegal means: That's my boat... and that Yucatan means: Go away.

In TerryPratchett's "TheLightFantastic?", he describes geographical regions named, in the local tongue, "Your finger, you fool". This is based on the real way many things get named when you're communicating with the locals via a pidgin or second language.


Does this explain why, in the Hitchhiker series, Belgium is so un-hoopy?
Related, in an offbeat way: when Napoleon took over the Netherlands the French authorities forced everyone to adopt surnames. Some people responded with names like Niemandszoon (nobody's son), and van 't Zelfde (of the same).


See
CategoryNaming

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