The Answers: Didn’t that used to be called something else?

Thanks for playing this game.  They say geography is difficult for Americans.  I hope you proved “them” wrong.

The Answers

  1. New Amsterdam was the Dutch name for Manhattan.  The community was found at the tip of the island in the neighborhood now known as “The Battery.”  It extended northward up to Wall Street.  At that point, the Dutch settlers built a palisade to defend against the local native tribe, the Lenape.
  2. Edo was the ancient name for Tokyo.  “Edo” meant “estuary.”  The name was changed when Tokyo (meaning “Eastern Capital” – “to” is east; “kyo” is capital) became the imperial capital in 1868.
  3. When I was a kid, Dahomey existed on the map of West Africa.  In 1975, it became Benin.
  4. The Roman name for Ireland.  I hope that you were given a clue by the organization, The Ancient Order of Hibernians.
  5. The French named their colony Indochine for the peninsula upon which modern-day Vietnam sits.  Like the wonderful cuisine of that nation, their culture is the perfect mixture of Chinese and Indian influences, with a dash of French.
  6. Iberia was the Roman name for present-day Spain.
  7. Paris was once called Lutece by the Romans.  The word “Paris” is derived from the Celtic Parisii tribes that inhabited the area.
  8. The tiny settlement of York was attacked and burned by the Americans during the War of 1812.  In retaliation for this act, the British then burned Washington.  York was incorporated as the City of Toronto on March 6, 1834.
  9. Gaul was the Roman word for France.
  10. This one was tricky.  The early settlers of Cincinnati came up with the name “Losantiville”, meaning “City across from the mouth of the Licking River.”  Ville is French for cityAnti is Greek for oppositeOs is Latin for mouth.  The “L” indicated the local Licking River which flows northward through Kentucky to meet the Ohio River at that spot.
  11. Ancient Carthage was defeated by Rome in 146 B.C.E. (B.C.) during the Punic Wars.  It was later reestablished as a Roman colony before being destroyed by Muslim invasion in 698 C.E. (A.D.).  The ruins of this once-great city now sit in Tunisia.
  12. This one is complicated.  The ruling military junta of Burma renamed the country Myanmar in 1989.  This name is recognized by the United Nations and other states.   However, many nations (including the United States) still officially use the name Burma in protest against the oppressive regime in power.
  13. Asia Minor is now referred to as Turkey.  It was also called Anatolia.
  14. Peking is the older pronunciation of Beijing.  For example, the media reported that President Nixon traveled to Peking in 1972.  Like Tokyo, Beijing (“Northern Capital“) follows the Asian custom of explicitly naming capital cities as such.  Nanjing, China means “Southern Capital” and Hanoi, Vietnam means “Eastern Capital.”
  15. Scotland was called Caledonia by the Romans.
  16. Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, officially took the Turkish name, Istanbul in 1930.
  17. Portugal was described by Rome as Lusitania.  SS Lusitania was an ocean liner torpedoed by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915 off the coast of Ireland, near Kinsale.
  18. I cheated a little on this one.  St. Petersburg became Leningrad after the Bolshevik Revolution (it was Petrograd from 1914 to 1924; and Leningrad from 1924 until 1991).  After the fall of the U.S.S.R., the city changed its name back to the more popular St. Petersburg.
  19. Christiania (named for King Christian) was the capital of Norway.  In 1925, the city reclaimed its original Norwegian name of Oslo.  At various times, Norway has been united with Denmark (by choice) and with Sweden (not so much by choice).  Norway peacefully separated from Sweden on June 7, 1905.  Swedish taunting of Norway as a backward, provincial nation is tantamount to metro New Yorkers making fun of New Jersey.
  20. Chicago was once called “Fort Dearborn.”  Few people realize that the first permanent settlement there was established Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a black man.

Bonus: In October 1985, the government of the Ivory Coast requested that the nation be known in all languages by its French name, Cote d’Ivoire.

At a minimum, I hope you found these derivations interesting, if not informative.

Thanks to my friend, Don, for several more former geographical names.  These are found in the comments to the original game post.

— The Major


3 responses to this post.

  1. I did not know that about Toronto. But I do know why the British did not invade NYC in that war.


  2. Posted by stefanos on August 30, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Nice post. Two interesting facts.
    -The name Istanbul – today’s name of Byzantine Constantinople – comes, supposedly, from the greek works “is tin poli” which means “to the city”. In greek when people say “the City” they mean Istanbul.
    -Leningrad was changed back to St. Petersburg but the airport code is still LEN
    -There was another city, famous from the movie “enemy at the gates” called Stalingrad. It is today’s Volgograd.
    -The small city of Chemnitz in Germany used to be called “Karl-Marx Stadt” during the DDR times.



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