I’ve mentioned before that I’m always fascinated by the statistics of this blog, particularly the demographics of my visitors (i.e. you). I discovered recently that via Facebook, I can see some of the cities or particular regions that frequent visitors come from. That’s really interesting, but also kind of scary as I might recognise who some people are based on those places, and then know if they’re reading or not in a particular week.
I’m therefore not going to look at that report too much, but I did notice an interesting name crop up: Mechanicsville, Georgia (U.S).
The name struck me as interesting because of how straightforward and simply descriptive it is. I can’t find anything online as to why this neighbourhood in Atlanta was so named, but presumably it’s the same reason as Mechanicsville, Virginia: the area was home to many mechanical workers.
These sort of names often seem uniquely American to me, but in a way most town names are similarly descriptive, named after the local geography or the main work carried out there. The thing is, in Europe we don’t often notice this because the names are often based on older forms of the native tongue. A lot of English town names are based on Old or Middle English for example, and many place names here in Ireland are Anglicisations of original prosaic Irish-language names. There are a few villages here called Stradbally, for example. But Stradbally is an anglicisation of sráidbhaile, which is the Irish for village or one-street town. Of course I already mentioned that when I wrote about Muckanaghederdauhaulia, the longest place name in Ireland, which is an anglicisation of Muiceaneach idir Dhá Sháile, meaning pig-shaped hill between two seas.
So while it is strange to see such seemingly prosaic placenames in modern English, they’re just continuing a convention that’s existed for a lot longer than either the Unites States or modern English themselves.