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I found an interesting word-related article in Natural History magazine, 7/07-/07:
quote:
Excerpt:
A Well of Buktu, or Tin Buktu, is part of the founding myth of Timbuktu, a thousand-year-old settlement on the southern border of the Sahara Desert. Although now it is a peripheral city of 30,000 in the modern state of Mali, its name evokes, for those familiar with its history, a luminous past as a crossroads of caravan routes and of learning, and still holds, for jaded Western tourists, the promise of a remote and exotic destination. Its name may even be a guide to fact, when fact is lost in the mists of unrecorded time. The most common version of the story of the city's origin goes like this:

Timbuktu was founded by a group of Tuareg herdsmen around the start of the eleventh century. This particular group's range was the desert between the Niger River and the oasis town of Arawan, about a week's journey north of the river. In the wet season (such as it is in the desert), they would linger in the north. In the dry season, the summer, they would bring their herds closer to the Niger to graze. They set up a camp in the dunes at a convenient spot a half-dozen miles from the river, where they dug a well. Tin means either "well" or merely "place" in the Tuareg language, Tamashek--a member of the Berber family of languages. After a few years that convenient camp became more permanent, and the nomads would leave their goods there in the charge of an old woman named Buktu. Accordingly, the Tuareg herders would refer to returning to Tin Buktu, "the place of Buktu."

Well, as a story it's tidy enough, though some traditions say buktu isn't a person's name at all, but means "woman with a large navel" in the language of the Songhai, an unrelated ethnic group centered downriver from Timbuktu. Others suggest that the woman referred to as Buktu was not a Tuareg at all, but a native Songhai. In a further refinement, the word is also translated as "woman with a large lump," which is then taken to mean navel (no doubt one of the earliest references to an "outie" in literature). All such romantic notions were scorned by the nineteenth-century German explorer and linguist Heinrich Barth, who pointed out that the Songhai word for navel ,also means a shallow depression between sand dunes, and that in origin the city's name, Timbuktu, most probably means nothing more than "the place between dunes."

Title: Space, Time, and Timbuktu., By: de Villiers, Marq, Hirtle, Sheila, Natural History, 00280712, Jul/Aug2007, Vol. 116, Issue 6


Are there a lot of places that were or might be named after human body parts? I find it interesting that it could mean "well" or "navel" or even "place between the dunes", which sort of evoked cleavage (like the Grand Tetons in the American West . . . don't you?


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Are there a lot of places that were or might be named after human body parts?

I'm sure there must be - although Assington (Suffolk), Titsey (Surrey) and Cockermouth, Cumbria are probably not.


Richard English
 
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One example that comes to mind is the Lake District fell, Old Man of Coniston, named from the fancied resemblance of the top to the head of an old man. I am sure there are thousands of others.


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I've always loved place names with good stories. We have a lovely area near here called Old Man's Cave that is reported to have had an old hermit living in it a few centuries ago. There is also a Blackhand Gorge, but it was more for a tribe of Indians, I think.


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Not a place name but a pub name.

There is a local pub which is properly called "The Swan Bank Tavern" but, as far as I am aware, no one has ever called it that. Instead it is always called "The Stump".

The story has it that it was once run by a landlord who would habitually tour the pubs of Bilston (and in those days there were about twenty in the mile of the high street) getting drunker and drunker as he went while his wife remained in his own pub doing all the work. The interesting thing about this particular landlord is that he had a wooden leg and one night when he returned he was so drunk that he fell asleep immediately sitting in front of the fire. His wife had had enough and carefully placed the end of his leg into the embers before retiring to bed. There it smouldered and eventually caught fire, waking the drunken man who ran out into the street to plunge the blazing leg into the water trough.

From this the pub became known locally as "The Blazing Stump" and later just as "The Stump" a name it has to this day although it's official name is still "The Swan Bank Tavern".
 
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And the White Swan at Netherton - always known as "Ma Pardoe's" after the redoubtable brewster who used to run the place (at one time one of only four brew-pubs in the entire UK).


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Great stories . . . particularly the Flaming Stump. Excellent!


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<Asa Lovejoy>
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Isn't this a rehash of an old thread? I don't know how to search threads here, but I'm pretty sure.
 
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Originally posted by Asa Lovejoy:
Isn't this a rehash of an old thread? I don't know how to search threads here, but I'm pretty sure.


Quite possibly. I'm sure Ive told the origin of The Stump before. On the other hand, does it really matter. Things get churned around in the mix and something new eventually surfaces.
 
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quote: Are there a lot of places that were or might be named after human body parts?

Well, there's the "Finger Lakes" region in upstate New York state.

And I just checked: Down in Texas, we have the Brazos River. According to wikipedia this river, "called the Rio de los Brazos de Dios by early Spanish explorers, which can be translated as 'The River of the Arms of God,' is the 11th longest river in the United States."
 
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How about "Wounded Knee?" How about "Boca Raton?" Not a human part, but a body part.
 
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Bowlegs, Oklahoma

... and ...

Niwot, Colorado (Niwot in Arapaho language means "left hand.")
 
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Are there a lot of places that were or might be named after human body parts?

There's Squaw Valley in California, and various Squaw place names elsewhere, much to the chagrin of the Native American community. It's all based on a controversial etymology of the word, squaw.


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Why is it always an Old Man? Is it ever an Old Woman?

There is The Old Man of Hoy on Orkney; the Old Man of Storr on Skye; the Old Man of the Mountain at Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, which has fallen off the mountain, and now there is talk of restoring it, and Here's an entire page, mostly of face and head shaped rocks, which mentions "The Old Woman" in France. So I guess it is, occasionally, an old woman.

Wordmatic
 
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quote:
It's all based on a controversial etymology of the word, squaw.

Well, that brings up a whole new question. How many of our place-names, particularly in the US, are now offensive to some (or many, or all) of our people?


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<Asa Lovejoy>
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I'm reminded of Freud's comment upon touring the US: "It's a mistake!" Confused Ah, well, De Toqueville liked us...
 
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Here's a Boston Globe article on offensive place names, most involving the words "Squaw," "Cripple" and "Tit."

Wordmatic
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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Why is "Tit" objectionabe? Do we titter over a titmouse or other such birds? My father had a friend whose family name was "Titsworth." It seems to me that any protrusion is a tit, so using it as slang for a body part shouldn't make it verboten.
 
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On the scale of offensive, I don't think that "tit" is up there with ethnic slurs, but I think it's considered more over the line than "boob," for instance. Wasn't "tit" one of the words in the famous George Carlin bit about the seven words you can't say on TV?

Wordmatic
 
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quote: Wasn't "tit" one of the words in the famous George Carlin bit about the seven words you can't say on TV?

I hadn't thoughht so, but yes, it was.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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Carlin, Schmarlin! When I hear "tit" I think of a smallish, firm protrusion on a slender woman's chest. Boobs are the big, pendulous lumps that require brassieres. Well, that's how the two words affect me. Razz
 
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Just shows you're thinkin' about tits too much, Asa! To me, both words are synonyms for "breasts" regardless of size or shape. But then, I've never been particularly fixated on the subject! Big Grin

Perhaps the term "the girls" to mean breasts evolved because "tits" couldn't be said on TV. I've only ever heard "the girls" in this sense on television, not in real life. They use it on that fashion makeover show What Not to Wear when advising women on how to shop for the right blouse, jacket or bra, you know, to make the girls look their best.

WM
 
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When I was in college we used to refer to our bossoms as "the upper shelf". As in:
OOh, I've got crumbs all over my upper shelf.
or
Oh, my, she's got an ample upper shelf!
or
Good lord, she's barely got any upper shelf.


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Never heard that one; and I'm from Ohio too.

Wordmatic
 
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Maybe it was just our small group.


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quote:
Isn't this a rehash of an old thread? I don't know how to search threads here, but I'm pretty sure.
At your service, Asa; here is one old thread about geographical names. I suspect there are others, but I didn't know what to look for. There were over 800 citations of the word "names" so that's not an efficient word to look for.

BTW, to find old thread just enter a significant word into the "find" function at the top of the screen. It will bring up all posts with that word in it, and then you just search for the correct one. If you know that a certain person (maybe yourself) made the particular post, then go to "advanced search" in the find function, and enter the keyword and the name of the poster. Once you find the post (or thread) you wanted, just copy the link and paste it into your post. I hope that's clear!
 
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