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Odd Names on the Map by James Dawson

Maryland place names span hundreds of years and several cultures from prehistoric days to modern times. They can be descriptive, unusual, odd, quirky and even hilarious. While few Native American names mark our landscape, hundreds of them dot our waterscape. An exhausting parade running through the alphabet would begin: Accowaytecoquin, Askiminikonson, Bauchitinaughton als Pokquatanguaton, Cohongaroota and so on. Native American names generally described notable characteristics of a place and have resulted in some impressively long assemblies of shorter words. And when you add old European spellings on top of that, which were capricious even under the best of circumstances then, the result would be a cacophony of variants for just one place like Wighcocomoco, Wighkawamecq, and Wighkowomeq and several more. These were way too complicated for European tongues and pens, and the resulting Wicomico is easier for us, but that probably wouldn’t make much sense to the original settlers. Many of our early names echo political and religious turmoil

in England. The Catholic King Charles granted Maryland to the Catholic Lord Baltimore, who was nice enough to invite the Protestants in to help settle it. The Protestants repaid the favor by kicking him out and taking over the place. But at least Lord Baltimore got to keep his head, unlike King Charles. Not many names from Lord Baltimore’s days have survived on our landscape, but the few we have are big ones: Maryland was named for Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles. St. Mary’s City used to be the capital of the colony. Charles County was named for the son of Cecil, Lord Baltimore (not for the King). St. Mary’s County and Calvert County also survive. And, of


April 2016 ttimes web magazine  

Tidewater Times April 2016

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