Wyoming.

I remember reading about this years ago, but I’d forgotten it because it’s so counterintuitive: the state Wyoming, to quote that Wikipedia article, “was named after the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, with the name ultimately being derived from the Munsee word xwé:wamənk, meaning ‘at the big river flat.'” The name is so indelibly associated with a western state that my brain refuses to accept it’s originally from Pennsylvania. And the Wyoming Valley article adds a piquant detail:

During the American Revolutionary War, the Battle of Wyoming took place here on July 3, 1778, in which more than 300 Revolutionaries died at the hands of Loyalists and their Iroquois allies. The incident was depicted by the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell in his 1809 poem Gertrude of Wyoming. […] The popularity of the poem may have led to the state of Wyoming later being named after the valley.

The Gertrude of Wyoming article quotes the opening of the poem, whose first four lines are as follows:

On Susquehanna’s side, fair Wyoming!
Although the wild-flower on thy ruin’d wall,
And roofless homes, a sad remembrance bring,
Of what thy gentle people did befall;

And from this we learn (as might be expected from the accented initial syllable of the Munsee word) that the stress was originally on the first syllable, WY-oming (or possibly on the last, but that seems less likely). I wonder when it shifted to the current Wy-O-ming, with penultimate stress?

Comments

  1. Richard Hershberger says:

    “The name is so indelibly associated with a western state that my brain refuses to accept it’s originally from Pennsylvania”

    Next topic: where Conestoga wagons came from.

    In related news, I used to live in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. It had the name before the state was even a territory.

    California, Pennsylvania, on the other hand, was named for that western territory.

  2. There is also Wyoming County, NY (which is not near the Wyoming Valley), which contains the village of Wyoming, and Wyoming, Michigan, which was settled by people from Wyoming County. Likewise, there is Wyoming Co., WV, and two towns named Wyoming in separate counties of Wisconsin.

    Indiana County, Pennsylvania

    There’s also its university, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (unconnected with either IU or the U of P), which always reminds me of that anti-flyover-state-mocking T-shirt “University of Iowa, Idaho City, Ohio”.

  3. Biscia says:

    I didn’t know that but it makes perfect sense to me, having grown up not too far from Wyomissing, PA (which I recall being pronounced WY-o-missy), another Lenape toponym.

  4. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    And now, for extra credit, can anyone tell me why Pennsylvania, England, close to Bath, is so-called? The short Wikipedia article calls it “a small village”, but it’s hardly even that — not much more than a crossroads. It also says it was given the name by Quakers and named after the state, but I’m not sure I believe that: why would Quakers from the state want to name a crossroads after it?

  5. Even further east, Oregon turns out to be from a New England Algonquian word meaning “good”:

    http://www.ohs.org/research-and-library/oregon-historical-quarterly/upload/OHQ_105_2-Goddard-Love-Oregon-the-Beautiful.pdf

    (cribbing shamelessly from somebody else’s comment on my blogpost on Olathe a while back)

  6. Trond Engen says:
  7. I see Florida but I don’t see Montana — just Johan Blytts vei.

  8. David Marjanović says:

    Florida to Montana? Climate-wise?

  9. If you zoom in on the map, you’ll see it starts at something labeled Florida. Like I say, I don’t see any Montana at the end.

  10. Trond Engen says:

    Sorry, bad map. I’ll look for a better one. But trust me, it’s called Montana up there..

    Florida is pronounced with [i:] and the same stress pattern as Montana, seemingly reflecting the Spanish pronunciation rather than the English.

  11. I’ve always found it a little odd that “Florida” has initial stress in English; why wouldn’t they have borrowed the Spanish name with Spanish stress?

  12. Spelling pronunciation?

  13. Trond Engen says:

    Hat: I’ve always found it a little odd that “Florida” has initial stress in English; why wouldn’t they have borrowed the Spanish name with Spanish stress?

    Unlike Montana, Nevada and Colorado. Exactly. I’ve wondered if the Bergen pronunciation of Florida actually reflects an older pronunciation in English, Bergen was a maritime city, and it’s tjåka fullt of slang loans from sailor’s English. Bergen byleksikon says that the property was a popular recreation area for the citizens of Bergen, and that the name may have first been given already in the 18th century to one of several popular restaurants/drinking houses. This may be a little too early for English.

    David M.: Florida to Montana? Climate-wise?

    Sort of, yeah. Florida is the southernmost point on the central peninsula of Bergen, with an open view to the south through a valley, and hence sunny (to the extent that anything in Bergen is sunny). Montana is a shelf-like plateau half-way up the steep slope of the city’s highest mountain, Ulriken, and hence wintery (to the extent that anything in Bergen is wintery).

  14. Trond Engen says:

    Not a better map, but at least documentation: Skyss (the regional public transport service) journey planner.

  15. Athel

    There may be a Pennsylvania near Bath, but there’s also a Bath in Pennsylvania.

  16. Well, I grew up in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, so Wyoming always seemed like a weird, misplaced thing that ought to be nearby but wasn’t. Good to have that clarified, then!

  17. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I’ve always found it a little odd that “Florida” has initial stress in English; why wouldn’t they have borrowed the Spanish name with Spanish stress?

    As someone who knows Buenos Aires well, you are doubtless familiar with the shopping street there called Calle Florida. That was where I first learned how to say Florida in Spanish. (Nowadays I know enough Spanish not to need to be told, but that was in 1978.)

  18. Yes indeed, I remember it well!

  19. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Athel Cornish-Bowden: Pennsylvania was founded by English Quakers – if the attribution is true, I expect it was named in commemoration of that achievement, rather than by people returning from America.

  20. Takoma Park, Maryland (with the adjoining neighborhood of Takoma in Washington, DC) was named after Mount Rainier (Mount Tacoma) in Washington State. There’s also a nearby town named Mount Rainer, Maryland. I guess there was a craze in the East about the Pacific Northwest in the 1880s and 1890s?

  21. January First-of-May says:

    Takoma Park, Maryland (with the adjoining neighborhood of Takoma in Washington, DC) was named after Mount Rainier (Mount Tacoma) in Washington State.

    I was looking for a justification to have a place named Takoma somewhere around OTL Colorado, presumably named for Mount Rainier (in my somehow-still-planned Simpsons fic), and wasn’t even sure if the spelling was attested (as opposed to Tacoma).

    Mind you, 1883 is far too late for what I had in mind (I need something in the 1850s or earlier for the background to work), but at least I don’t have doubts about the spelling anymore!

  22. It seems odd to be worrying about attested spelling for Simpsons fic.

  23. Lars (the original one) says:

    I can totally see January’s problem, whenever in the past I’ve started thinking about an AH project the hobgoblin of OTL correctness of the starting point has scuttled the works. It’s not like we are making stuff up, is it now?

  24. David L says:

    I lived in Takoma Park for several years. When it and Mount Rainier were founded, they were summer getaways from the oppressive heat and humidity of Washington. Now they are close-in suburbs, of course. The names were supposed to stand for peace and tranquility. As the wiki page says, Takoma was chosen because it was taken to mean “close to heaven” or something similar.

  25. Rodger C says:

    Florida entered English in the sixteenth century, when Latin was much more familiar in England than Spanish.

  26. Ah, that must be it.

  27. Pasadena, TX, was named after Pasadena, CA, itself fancifully supposed to mean ‘Crown of the Valley’ in Chippewa. The original word, spelled <Weoquân Pâ sâ de ná>, was quietly trimmed for practical reasons. The remainder, basadinaa, is a verb meaning ‘to be a valley’.

  28. It was further truncated to provide the -dena part for the name of Altadena.

  29. January First-of-May says:

    They should have figured out the Chippewa for “to be a hill”. But it probably wouldn’t have sounded as pretty.

  30. The original Chippewa suggestions (sans diacritics) were reportedly as follows:

    Weoquanpasadena ‘crown of the valley’
    Gishkadenapasadena ‘peak of the valley’
    Tapedaegunpasadena ‘key of the valley’
    Pequadenapasadena ‘hill of the valley’

    Although I don’t know much about Chippewa, my gut feeling is that Pe quâ de ná must be the antonym of Pâ sâ de ná. 😉

  31. January First-of-May says:

    Although I don’t know much about Chippewa, my gut feeling is that Pe quâ de ná must be the antonym of Pâ sâ de ná. 😉

    That’s what I would have got from this bunch of forms too.

    So that would have been *Pequadena, right?
    I think that actually sounds better than Altadena, surprisingly enough; definitely recommending this for an AH story (if it ever comes up)

  32. I think that actually sounds better than Altadena, surprisingly

    Me too!

  33. God bless the wonderful online dictionary of Ojibwe/Chippewa! It makes everything crystal-clear by showing the morphological composition of longer words.

    basadinaa ‘(it is a) valley’: /bas-/ cleft, depression; /-adin-/ hill; /-aa/ it is in a state or condition
    bikwadinaa ‘(it is a) knoll, hill’: /bikw-/ lump, bump; /-adin-/ hill; /-aa/ it is in a state or condition

    Ojibwe has no adjectives to be used attributively, so instead of saying “wide river” the Ojibwe speakers say “the river, it is wide”, turning the whole thing into an intransitive verb. What we gloss as ‘valley’ and ‘hill’ are actually two-root compounds conveying the idea of the ground being low or high. A valley or a hill are conceptualised as STATES, not OBJECTS.

    Of course the question remains why Dr Elliott, the president of the Indiana Colony, was crazy enough to look for inspiration among the Ojibwe people in Minnesota to name a place in South California, but it’s clear that his Ojibwe informants did a very good job. Pasadena/Basadinaa makes good sense as the closest thing Ojibwe has to the English word ‘valley’.

    P.S. I agree Altadena should be renamed Pequadena (with a long “ee” in the first syllable).

  34. CuConnacht says:

    I would not trust the Scot Campbell’s pronunciation of Wyoming to be identical to that of contemporary Pennsylvanians. He may have known the name only from reading and guessed at the stress.

  35. Hmm, good point.

  36. The “Ballad of the Wyoming Massacre” (ca. 1780) by a certain Uriah Terry (born 1728 on Long Island, but a Wyoming Valley resident at the time of the battle) begins with these lines:

    Kind Heaven, assist the trembling muse,
    While she attempts to tell
    Of poor Wyoming’s overthrow
    By savage sons of hell.

    According to the ballad, the Patriots’ militia marched just four miles from Forty Fort (where Terry lived) before they were ambushed by the British and the Seneca. Forty Fort surrendered the next morning. So here we have a virtual eyewitness of the massacre who evidently stressed the penult in Wy-Oh-ming, PA.

  37. Yup, that looks like confirmation of CuConnacht’s point. Nice find!

  38. January First-of-May says:

    I would not trust the Scot Campbell’s pronunciation of Wyoming to be identical to that of contemporary Pennsylvanians. He may have known the name only from reading and guessed at the stress.

    It certainly does appear that Campbell’s poem has last-syllable stress here (though I’m not confident enough about poetic stress patterns to be entirely sure that it isn’t first-syllable stress).

  39. There are four occurrences of Wyoming in “Gertrude”:

    On Susquehanna’s side, fair Wyoming!

    Delightful Wyoming! beneath thy skies…

    And scarce had Wyoming of war or crime…

    Sweet Wyoming! the day when thou art doom’d…

    All scan well with initial stress. In the same poem Campbell rhymes talk with tomahawk and galaxy with harmony, which shows that he treated a post-posttonic syllable as strong enough to rhyme.

  40. Lars (the original one) says:

    Geschlecht — ODS (Ordbog over det danske Sprog) claims (s.v. Slægt which is borrowed from the former) that this shows the same sense development as slag/slags: ‘hit’ > ‘punchmark’ (for coins and goods) > ‘brand’ > ‘sort’ and then specifically to ‘family’. Nothing to do with dubbing or slaps to the face.

    Oh, Kluge 1901 hypothesizes an unattested Pre-OHG sense of slahan as ‘beget’ and derives the sense ‘family’ = ‘descendants’ for its attested participle gislaht in OHG. Maybe that’s a better idea. In any case OHG predates the whole chivalry thing by a few hundred years.

  41. David Marjanović says:

    Both of these make sense, though in the second idea we have to assume a strange detour through dysphemism.

  42. But the ritual of “dubbing somebody a rider” with a slap or tap is older than the Late Medieval formal chivalry codes, and was certainly an established custom by the 11th c. We know for example, that William the Conqueror ceremonially and publicly dubbade his sunu Henric to ridere at Westminster (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle). Old French aduber and its Romance cognates are probably of Frankish origin. On the other hand, I think the oldest attestation of slahta as ‘lineage’ in OHG is Otfrid’s scalkslahta ‘servant-kind, low class’ (ca 870 AD), which militates against an early meaning like ‘hereditary nobility’, though some connection with *slax/ɣ- ‘strike’ is undeniable.

  43. Trond Engen says:

    Norwegian slag n1 “hit, stroke, blow” et slag mot kjeven “a blow to the chin”; hjerneslag “cerebrovascular insult” n2 “sort, type” sju slag (julekaker) “seven sorts (of Christmas cookies)”; allslags vær “all sorts of weather”;

  44. David Marjanović says:

    Oh yes, vom selben Schlag means “of the same sort” in probably obsolete literary German.

    Also, Hirnschlag. And sometimes even Herzschlag, though that usually just means “pulse”.

  45. January First-of-May says:

    Is the English cognate slap, slab or slay? I vaguely recall a similar etymology for the last one…

    (Incidentally, why exactly are we discussing this? The whole thing looks vaguely familiar, but I can’t find any discussion of it in this thread before yesterday.)

  46. I suspect Lars (the original one) meant to put his comment in the “More Fool Me” thread, following up on this comment by the newly princely Piotr.

  47. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, that explains why I was confused about which thread to look in when I decided to follow up on Lars’s comment. You may consider moving it over — including the follow-up comments.

    (n1 & n2 is wrong.. I meant “n.” for neuter and separate meanings 1. & 2.)

  48. Lars (the original one) says:

    I suspect you’re right. But it wasn’t much more topical in the old thread so the discrepancy didn’t faze me.

    And it’s slay — cf. OE sliehþ/slog/geslagen and ModG schlägt/schlug/geschlagen.

  49. But it wasn’t much more topical in the old thread so the discrepancy didn’t faze me.

    Exactly. I didn’t even notice!

  50. January First-of-May says:

    Exactly. I didn’t even notice!

    Me neither (for a while, anyway).

  51. Neither did I 🙂

  52. I remember hearing 40+ years ago that every German noun could be replaced by a compound involving either Zug or Schlag.

  53. I remember hearing 40+ years ago that every German noun could be replaced by a compound involving either Zug or Schlag.

    Well, there’s no word Schlagzug, but Schlafzug (sleeper train) and Schlagzeug (percussion instruments) do exist. Also Schlachtzug,

  54. David Marjanović says:

    A Schlagzeug is the whole contraption a drummer (Schlagzeuger) operates in a modern band.

    Zeug alone means “stuff”; here and in Flugzeug “plane”, it has a unique meaning; 500 years ago it meant something like “equipment” (Zeughaus “Early Modern armory”). No idea where the word comes from.

    Never encountered Schlafzug, only one Schlafwagen at a time.

  55. No idea where the word comes from.

    Mackensen says it’s related to ziehen.

  56. Lars (the original one) says:

    Surely it’s in Fahrzeug and Spielzeug as well?

    A nattog has sovevogne but also normal coaches where you can sleep sitting up, or not sleep if you prefer, so it’s not a +sovetog. I presume it’s the same in Germany. Also the Danish Tøjhuset still exists though now as a museum.

  57. No idea where the word comes from.

    From the root of ziehen, i.e. *deuk- ‘draw, pull, lead, rear’, as in duke, education, tie, tow, tug, toy etc. An old, important, polysemous root, known everywhere except the Satem group. I suppose the meaning ‘stuff, gear’ comes from ‘the things you pull along with you’.

  58. David Marjanović says:

    Ah, that makes sense!

    Yes, Flugzeug is clearly in analogy to Fahrzeug “vehicle”, fahren meaning “to move on wheels, by ship, to hell or up into heaven”. Spielzeug is stuff/a thing you play with.

  59. Lars (the original one) says:

    The Danish word as loaned from MLG tuch was both the specific tools you needed for a job and the materials created by a process — from Feuerzeug to woven Zeug. Danish potters used it for biscuit, for instance. And jam is still syltetøj (somewhere the verb lost the connection to salt that G sülzen still has).

    There are so many places in that semantic space where the word could have started out, I’m not going to try and guess which is most likely.

  60. Trond Engen says:

    An interesting doublet is tog “train; (dial.) rope” and tau(g) “rope”. The relation between them is partly dialectal, parallel to skog/skau(g) “woodland, forest”, partly colored by the former taking various meanings borrowed from German, High and Low.

  61. David Marjanović says:

    Oh yeah, Feuerzeug “lighter”. Zeug for a kind of cloth is thoroughly obsolete, AFAIK… wait, I think it still means “clothes” somewhere in Germany.

    BTW, Spielzeug is both the singular and the mass noun, but for the countable plural you have to resort to Spielsachen, which doesn’t have a singular of its own in spite of Sache “thing, legal matter, [good] cause”.

  62. An interesting doublet is tog “train; (dial.) rope” and tau(g) “rope”.
    What about haug og høgd?

  63. Trond Engen says:

    Not a parallel. høgd f. is a nominalization of the adjective, parallel to lengd “length”, breidd “**broadth”, etc. To find out why there’s no hog I’d have to consult my books, and I don’t hav time for that right now.

  64. January First-of-May says:

    “**broadth”

    Breadth, presumably.

  65. I believe Trond is providing a morphological parallel (hence the asterisks indicating it’s not an actual form in English).

  66. Trond Engen says:

    Breadth, presumably.

    Very much so. I invented a cognate free of analogical remodeling. Or maybe with analogical vowel from the unreduced form, or else it would be **bradth. Anyway, hence the double asterisk.

    (Bjorvand & Lindeman says that apart from its obvious derivatives Gmc. *braida- is without internal Gmc. etymology as well as IE cognates. I wonder if it might be parsed as *bi-raida- “by the road”.)

  67. Trond Engen says:

    I don’t hav time for that right now

    … nor for silent e’s, apparently.

    I’ve picked out B&L. No.høg adj. is (rather obviously) an old borrowing from Sw., in turn from Gmc. *haugá- (= *hauha- with suffix stress). The native form of this was nominalized as haugr “heap, (roundish) hill”. The form with root stress yielded the ON adjective hár/hór (with a dialectal variation in the vowel that you also find in the names Ólafr and Óslo). And there still exists a conservative dialectal form håg (rhyming with tog).

  68. Tusen takk!

  69. Trond Engen says:

    A couple of comments:

    -“(rather obviously) […] from Sw.” for the combination of monophtong and hard g. “an old borrowing” because it’s later been replaced in urban dialects with høy (from Danish). But It would be quite unique in being borrowed from Swedish, so maybe we’d rather look to analogical remodelling from forms with a reduced vowel. Or contamination with Danish høj.

    – B&L mention Western Telemark/Setesdal håg, which I can’t remember having heard. What they don’t mention, and I should have remembered, is the håg ~ håjen of my father’s native Helgeland (Northern) dialect. The rhyme with tog is tenuous, though. Native forms of the latter tend to have [u:].

  70. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    And there still exists a conservative dialectal form håg (rhyming with tog).
    There’s a locality near Uppsala called Håga, which I’m told took its name from a large mound in the area, the Kung Björns hög.

  71. TE, takk skal du ha igjen!

    A couple more questions about -haug-:

    Is it the same haug- in (Einar) Haugen?
    Is there an actual place called Trehaug? Google results are swamped by the Rain Wild city.

    And do you say hauk or høk? gauk or gjøk?

  72. Trond Engen says:

    Stephen C. Carlson: There’s a locality near Uppsala called Håga, which I’m told took its name from a large mound in the area, the Kung Björns hög.

    If I saw Håga on a map alone I would rather have guessed on a form of haga, as I still think must be the case for most other examples I find around the Mälaren. However, i do find two Northern Swedish farm names Håg and Hågen, which are likely to be forms of hög..

    A Swedish connection is not unexpected. The Helgeland dialect of my father shows some commonalities with (often archaic) Swedish. E.g., incidentally, the homonym (in the dialect) håg “mind” as part of the idiomatic expression komme i håg “remember”. It’s often attributed to a resettlement of refugees after the Swedish conquest of Jämtland.

    But there are also parallels in Norwegian. I now know that even the Nordmøre dialect has håg ~ håjen.

    juha: Is it the same haug- in (Einar) Haugen?

    Yes. It’s very common in Norwegian toptnyms. Topography has something to do with that. Also Åsen “the hill (or low ridge)” (as in Ivar Aasen, the self-taught linguist and father of Nynorsk) and Eggen “the edge (or ridgetop)” (as in Nils Arne Eggen, legendary manager of Rosenborg Ballklubb).

    Is there an actual place called Trehaug? Google results are swamped by the Rain Wild city.

    No. And in spite of being made from perfectly good toponymic elements according to a regular pattern, it sounds slightly odd. I don’t really know why. One reason could be that the element tre- “tree-” doesn’t often appear together with indefinite heads like haug. Indefinite compounds are old and were coined at time whn it seems that people preferred holt- or við- or more specific names like eik- “oak”. Another could be that tre- suggests an individual tree.

    And do you say hauk or høk? gauk or gjøk?

    Bokmål is systematic inconsistency. The Dano-Norwegian form gjøk has replaced native gauk except in some colloquial expressions, while høk is restricted to the idiomatic phrase høk over høk “dog eat dog”.

  73. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    Thanks for that. Haga is also used for place names near Uppsala. (And I totally forgot, ahem, about komma i håg).

  74. Thank you very much!

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