Monday, July 19, 2021

Street Names & Naming Cultures

Back in 2013 Noah Veltman released his inspired interactive map, the History of San Francisco Place Names.Noah's map provides a fascinating insight into the history of San Francisco street names (click on any of the streets on this map and you can discover how it got its name and who or what it was named for). 

The History of San Francisco Place Names includes an option which allows you to filter the map to view street names in various categories. For example, if you select 'military' you can view all the streets in the city named after soldiers or battles highlighted on the map. 

Noah's map inspired me to create my own Streets of London interactive map, which takes a look at the etymological history of road names in the City of London. This map was also partly inspired by my favorite quiz question 'How many roads are there in London?'. The answer being that there are no roads in the City of London.

There are however a lot of streets, alleys and lanes. The reason that there are no roads in the City of London is that most of the city's streets pre-date our modern use of the word 'road'. The meaning of the word 'road' to indicate a byway did not emerge until the late 16th Century - a long time after most of the roads in the City of London were established and were already named. 

Thanks to Noah I now have a fascinating interest in toponyms. In how places and streets are named, where those names come from and what those names mean. In recent years this interest has been piqued most often by the work of geochicas (and others) to explore how the naming of streets in cities around the world nearly always favors men over women.

The creators of Streetonomics obviously share my interest in toponyms. Streetonomics is a new interactive mapping website which "studies human behavior and cultural trends through the quantitative analysis of street names". 

In simpler terms Streetonomics has created a series of interactive map which allow you to explore and discover more about the people who have streets named after them in New York, Paris, Vienna and London. On these four interactive city maps all the streets which have been named for individuals are shown using different colors. You can click on any of streets on the map to view who the street was named for and learn more about who that person was.

The Streetonomics individual maps for each city include a number of filters which allow you to explore which streets in the city have been named for men and which have been named for women. You can also explore which streets have been named for people from different periods in history, frrm different occupations, and from their country of origin.

If I have piqued your interest in the names of streets and places then you might want to explore the maps posted under the toponym tag on Maps Mania.

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