Perhaps if we start digging into the etymological origins of the names of places we live in or move through, we might begin to appreciate the magic of this Earth and her peoples again . . . My street is called “Overhill.” I like to riff on it for my aging self as “over the hill.” And true, it is a hill. And you can go over it.
Also, the Atlas of True Names may help us re-imagine the complexity of the living Earth in terms of her bioregional edges, rather than artificial nation-states.
The Atlas of True Names reveals the etymological roots, or original meanings,
of the familiar terms on today’s maps of the World, Europe, the British Isles and the United States.
For instance, where you would normally expect to see the Sahara indicated,
the Atlas gives you “The Tawny One”, derived from Arab. es-sahra “the fawn coloured, desert”.
The ‘True Names’ of 3000 cities, countries, rivers, oceans and mountain ranges
are displayed on these four fascinating maps, each of which includes a comprehensive index of derivations.
Etymology, (OGr. etymon “true sense” and logos “speech, oration, discourse, word”)
is the study of the origin and history of words.
For the first time, the Atlas of True Names uses etymology to give us an unusual insight
into familiar geographical names – with intriguing results……
Once the names have been taken back to their roots and translated into English,
it is immediately apparent that our world has an extraordinary affinity with Middle-earth, the mythical continent where the events of Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ are played out.
Middle-earth’s evocative “Midgewater”, “Dead Marshes” and “Mount Doom”
are strikingly similar in nature to Europe’s “Swirlwater”, “Darkford” or “Smoky Bay”,
as revealed by the Atlas of True Names.
Many geographical names are clearly rooted in Man’s observation of his natural environment; the physical location of a settlement: “At the Foot of the Mountain” – Piedmont, the character of an important water course: “The Gentle One” – The Seine
or even just the local vegetation: “Under the Oaks” – Potsdam.
Unsurprisingly, countries and landscapes often derive their names from the characteristics of the people who lived there: “Great Land of the Tattooed” – Great Britain, whilst local mythology and regional rulers also frequently leave their legacy:
“Isle of the Monster’s Eye” – Peleponnese or “Illustrious Emperor” – Zaragoza.
Sometimes, it is impossible to deny the force of the Roman proverb ‘nomen est omen’.
For instance Grozny – the Chechnyan capital which, over the last years, has been destroyed in so many wars, – translates as “The Awesome”.
The Atlas of True Names restores an element of enchantment
to the world we all think we know so well.
It takes the reader on a journey into the unknown –
a unique exploration of uncharted territory
in that familiar place we all know as ‘home’.