Saturday, November 21, 2009

What's in a name?

My wife and I were driving through Cook County and I started to see some of the names for the different nature preserves in the area.  They were really interesting...and got me to wondering how people come up with the names for different things like this.  Is it quite the literal translation that creates the name?  Were they just being creative?

It reminded me of when I was living in Medmenham, England.  This was a small place just outside another small village named Marlow.  (It was down the Thames...pretty close to Henley on the Thames...where the royal regatta was held and George Harrison lived).  One of the street names always struck me as funny - Spittle Street.  I'd joke with my friends and family about this.  Where people trying to figure out to name it...and then someone spat and the guy said, "I know..Spittle Street!"

These names struck me as similar:

Belly Deep Slough - Is the slough really only so deep that if I waded into it, it would come up to my belly?
Hidden Lake -  Not so hidden it?

I am sure others were more literal:

Little Red School House Nature Center - I assume there is a little red school house they made into a nature center here... (I'm sure the Nature Nerd would be able to tell me if this is true)
Moraine Valley - I assume the valley is a moraine...
White Oak Forest Preserve - umm...there were a lot of oaks guess would be they were white oaks.

We did have a good time walking through one of the woods down there.  Surprisingly, I never got the name of the one we actually walked through.  We did a nice hour hike that took us down through a ravine and a long a lot of switchbacks.  The forest down there is different than up by us.  Not a lot of undergrowth...but definitely a lot of fallen leaves.  It did seem to be a lot of oak trees.


  1. 1. England does have some really fun names.
    2. Yes, there is, indeed, an old red schoolhouse turned nature center there.
    3. Lake County has some ones that I have also wondered about... OK, so there's Fourth Lake, and I know there's a lake (and town):) called Third Lake, but I have never been able to find first or second lakes... Prairie Wolf Slough, named when I was a kid, still long after wolves were extirpated from IL... interesting.

  2. Maybe the last one was named in the idea, "Name it and they will come." Also how muddy are those places or were they named for the other definition of slough which might be a little more interesting.