Thursday 20 October 2011

A River, In Other Words

If you click on this little link, it will take you through to a map of America. On it every place name that refers to a watercourse is marked (apart from river and creek because they're too common). However, the bayous are marked in green, the rios are marked in white, the brooks in pale blue, and so on and so forth. It's therefore a map of regional dialects and old languages.

It's rather wonderful, and I didn't even know that a kill was a kind of stream (it's evidence of Dutch settlers).

Also, if you click on the image, it ought to enlarge.

This, incidentally, is what T.S. Eliot had to say about rivers:

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget.

This song has always interested me. The central idea of it is that a river is something that you can skate off on, like a road. This works if you're Canadian, but to an Englishman it's like saying 'I wish I had a fish to do my gardening for me.' Some thoughts, like some wines, don't travel. The same thing goes for rain and shade in the Bible.


  1. It ought and it did. Hitherto, I've always said 'ought to embiggen', but I ain't gonna do that no more on account of it sounds so much better without the 'to'. Thank you, Inky Fool. And regarding waterways, the mainland of Australia has creeks, but in Tasmania they're (mostly) called rivulets. Just wanted to share that. That is all.

  2. With the number of Scots emigrants I'd expect a few burns and becks.

    For clarity that's not heat related injuries nor Scottish poets; neither californicating footballers nor gnat's piss pretending to be beer.

  3. P.S.
    Love this blog. I'm making my way forward from the beginning. I'll be sorry when I get up to date because I'll only have one a day to look forward to.

  4. I wasn't having a sneer! I sincerely prefer the bare naked infinitive after ought.

  5. You're the kind of man my mother warned me about - you keep taking me to wonderful places, quoting poetry and messing with my head. *sigh*

  6. In Britain the 'by' ending usually means farm.

  7. Schuylkill Fish House Punch (accounts for Revolutionary War violence)

    750 ml bottle dark rum
    15 oz Cognac
    7 1/2 oz peach brandy
    7 1/2 oz lemon juice
    7 1/2 oz simple syrup