That would be Stink Onions, or Chicago, USA. Stories lie behind every name, and for Chicago, its name is a result of the wild onion, or wild garlic, that used to grow in abundance in the area, called “chicagoua”. The true literal meaning of places in the US, in addition to Chicago, are now captured in a map designed by cartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Peust.
Names and their meanings swing wildly between the literal and the poetic – Mississippi is the “Land of the Great River”, while New Mexico is the “New Navel of the Moon”. Then there are those that are almost discriminatory – Missouri is the “Land of the People with Dugout Canoes”, and I’ll leave you to find out which is the “Land of Those Who Speak Normally”.
For those interested, the map is for sale over here. Pair it with Names on the Land, George R. Stewart’s classic study of place naming in the United States, and How the States Got Their Shapes, by Mark Stein. Just two of the many books on my reading list.
As Jean Baudrillard mentioned in his prose essay, America,” Americans may have no identity, but they do have wonderful teeth.” I’m not sure about the lack of identity, but it is true that Americans make me feel bad about my dental care/lack thereof. This blog is a record of my time in this strange, wonderful land.