What Does Your State's Name Really Mean?

by  Yahoo! Travel | Jan 14, 2015
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Google maps / RobertCorse/iStock

By Greg Keraghosian for Yahoo! Travel

Images courtesy: Atlas of True Names

Fans of Ron Burgundy and Anchorman can rejoice at the knowledge of what San Diego’s name really means: St. Heelholder.

That is, according to the Atlas of True Names, created by cartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Peust. Part science and part entertainment, their map displays the cities, countries, oceans, and mountain ranges in their original, etymological names. So, if you live in Missouri, you actually live in the Land of the People with Dugout Canoes.

The Veronica Corningstones of the world may call foul at some of these names, which don’t take into account literal translations. San Diego does mean Saint Diego, but the authors took things a few steps further and converted Diego into the original name James, which converts to the Biblical name Jacob. And in the Bible, Jacob was born holding his twin brother Esau’s heel.

While many names are head-scratchers, others make perfect sense: India, which brought yoga to the West, is named Land of the Flow, for instance.

Related: These 19 Maps Will Change How You See America

Hormes and Peust themselves concede that the Lord of the Rings-esque translations are not the final word in a place’s original name. “Please accept the Atlas of True Names just as an invitation to the world as a strange, romantic continent,” they say.

Related: Pizza vs. Taco? Salsa vs. Sriracha? America’s Most Popular Foods, State By State

So with a huge grain of salt, here are some original meanings to places, according to the atlas:

Chicago: Stink Onions

Illinois: Land of Those Who Speak Normally

Great Britain: Great Land of the Tattooed

China: Riceland

New York: New Yew-Tree Estate

Related: Google Maps’ New Conquest: Street View Takes You to Ancient Egypt

Mexico: Navel of the Moon

Cincinnati: Curlyland

Louisiana: Land of the Famous Warrior

Panama: Abundance of Fish

Pakistan: Land of Five Rivers, Horseman and Turtles

Atlantic Ocean: Sea of Weeds

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