Saturday, March 25, 2023

Toponym Homonyms

In January a New Yorker called Kingsley Burnett landed in Sidney, Montana. As Kingsley emerged from the plane he was upset to discover that the temperature was 22°F and not in the 80s. You see when Kingley Burnett booked his plane ticket he thought he was embarking on a dream holiday to Sydney, Australia, not to the sleepy Montanan city.

Kingley is not the first person to book a holiday to the wrong Sydney. Back in 2017 a Dutch student, Milan Schipper, arrived in Sydney, Canada. Unfortunately when Milan bought his plane ticket he also thought he was heading to a sunny vacation in Sydney, Australia.

It is very easy to book travel tickets to the wrong location. Especially when so many locations share the exact same name. For example in the United States there are 34 different towns and cities called Springfield, 31 cities called Franklin and 29 called Clinton

If a friend asks you to meet them in Springfield on Sunday which Springfield will you travel to? Obviously you should ask them which Springfield they are talking about. However if for some reason you can't confirm the correct Springfield then you could try using The Pudding's Most Likely Town map instead.

The Pudding's Map of Places in the US with the Same Name calculates "what place someone is most likely referring to, depending on where they are". For example if you enter 'Sprinfield' into the map it shows you the location of all the towns called Springfield in the states and colors the map to show you which Springfield would be most likely the town being referred to depending on your location in the United States. 

This is determined by giving a score for each town "based on a combination of proximity, population, and Wikipedia article length, then normalized by share". For example if you are in Bent County, Colorado then the Springfield being discussed is most likely to be Springfield, Colorado.

You can enter any town name into The Pudding's map. For example if you enter 'New York' into the map you will discover that there is a New York in Texas. Therefore if you live in Anderson County in Texas and someone says lets go to 'New York' they are probably referring to the 'Little Apple' (at least that's what I hope the citizens of New York, Texas call their tiny town).

The Pudding's map also seems to cope well with international city homonyms. For example if you enter 'Paris' or 'London' into the map it reveals in most counties in the United States 'Paris' or 'London' usually refers to the French and UK capitals respectively. Only if you live in a county near the handful of US places called Paris or London are you likely being referred to a US location.

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