01 February 2009

old names

I've been spending a lot of time lately squinting at PDFs of old US census data, especially from 1920 and 1930. I'm doing research for an essay, but I get sidetracked by jumping from name to name...so many of them rarities now. Exie, Euna, the surname Necessary, Izola, Versie, Dolphus, Argant, Octavia, Pleamon, Rodie, Otulkie, Nomy, Leety, Mancy, Cassian, Eleazor, Viga, Willaby, Lilla, Neddie.

Also interesting are the community names---many of them seem to have fallen out of use. I've learned that in the early to mid 1900s many people in Clinch County, GA had my maternal grandfather's surname, especially in a place called Mud Creek. I don't know what scale this name matched up to: neighborhood, unincorporated town, or a sort of landmark.

It makes me wish more places still had names that described the surroundings---that we still made a point of really looking around and identifying a place by its features: like meeting a new person, learning a new face. Towns named after creeks or rocks and springs, for instance. There are so many places named Fairview and Midway, but how to know what that fair view looked like, and midway to where, now. Mixed in with the call-it-as-you-see-it community and town names are ones that seem tied to stories or incidents: I'm looking at Bandana, Faust and Day Book, NC right now on a Google map.

I'm also wondering what's the latest on Georgia's decision to pull many unincorporated towns off of the DOT maps, for the sake of legibility.

A later headline said that uninc. towns with zipcodes would be restored, but I don't know what's happened since or how many of the almost-500 would be reinstated by zip.

It seems that now, so often places (prime example: subdivisions and housing developments) are named to elicit some kind of impression without having anything physical that actually makes an impression. "Impression"---the material sense: there is a depth that presses into something and leaves a dent. That brings Eliz. Bishop's ending of The Imaginary Iceberg to mind:

Icebergs behoove the soul
(both being self-made from elements least visible)
to see them so: fleshed, fair, erected indivisible.

Foxtown image found here: fcit.usf.edu/florida/maps/local/polk/Foxtown.htm