6 Mar 2020 – 21:31 GMT – 5°C Light Drizzle – Co. Longford, Ireland
Roads from Dublin to Longford, new to me, took us through many places whose names I didn’t recognise.
“Toponymy is a branch of onomastics, the study of names of all kinds. Toponymy is distinct from, though often confused with etymology, which is the study of the origins of words.”
I found this note among old digital scraps on my phone. Coincidence or what?
I always enjoyed Geography in school and it was taken to new levels in university. I loved cartography and I still love maps and books about maps.
I especially enjoyed the enthusiasm Prof JP Houghton had for toponymy. His interest in the townland names was infectious. I had grown up where The Kilruddery Hunt song ends, after the hunt passed through Killegan, Kiltiernan, Ballyman and Shankill. The kills, ballys, gorts, drums, raths and cnocs in placenames gave me a path back beyond the Act of Union in 1800, the act that created an administration that transmogrified original placenames by Anglicising them for distant bureaucrats. Names of Queens and Kings counties and towns that may have made sense to the colonialists were also a calculated insult to the indigenous people.
Names matter. Derry. Londonderry.
I learned about another place where names really matter when reading Philippe Sands “East West Street”. Lvihorod. Lwów. Lemberg. Lèmberik. Lvov. Ilyvó. Lavov. Liov. Leopolis. İlbav.
I wonder if I’ll ever meet a neural cartographer. The new 12 Tesla MRI should provide unprecedented resolution and help decoding the human brain. Let’s hope neural cartographers establish a suitable naming convention.