Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Have You Ever Visited These Places?

Let's sample a few toponyms -- words derived from the names of places.

brigadoon (BRIG-uh-doon) noun

An idyllic place that is out of touch with reality or one that makes its appearance for a brief period in a long time.

[From Brigadoon, a village in the musical of the same name, by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, based on the story Germelshausen by Friedrich Gerstacker. Brigadoon is under a spell that makes it invisible to outsiders except on one day every 100 years.]

"There is a feel of Brigadoon to Cooperstown, the lush village of baseball and opera tucked into the middle of an idyllic nowhere in upstate New York." Elisabeth Bumiller, Cooperstown, The New York Times, Jul 1, 2001.

stoic (STOH-ik) noun

One who is or appears to be indifferent to pleasure or pain; unaffected by emotions.


Unaffected by pleasure or pain.

[After the name of the school of philosophy founded by Greek philosopher Zeno (c. 340-265 BCE) that one should be free of passion and be unaffected by grief or joy. From Middle English, from Latin stoicus, from Greek stoikos from stoa, the porch where Zeno taught.]

"Those who stand to lose revenue from electronic-book piracy are being remarkably stoic in the face of the first high-profile incident." Christine McGeever, E-book Piracy Doesn't Frighten Publishers, Computerworld, Apr 10, 2000.

Timbuktu (tim-buk-TOO) noun

1. A town in West Africa in central Mali. Also Tombouctou.

2. Any remote place.

"`You can never find a space [at the mall]; you have to park in Timbuktu,' Ms. Dvorak says. `Then you have to walk all over the mall.'" Dean Starkman, The Mall, Without the Haul, The Wall Street Journal (New York), Jul 25, 2001.

El Dorado (el duh-RAH-doh) noun

A place offering fabulous wealth or opportunity.

[From Spanish, literally, the gilded one. After a legendary place in South America sought for its gold by 16th century explorers.]

ultima Thule (UL-tuh-muh THOO-lee) noun

1. The northernmost part of the world believed habitable by the ancients.

2. A distant or remote goal or place.

[Latin ultima, farthest, Thule, name of a place.]

"Opportunities? In culture's Ultima Thule? Absolutely, both Clink and Egan affirm." Mike Dunham, Growing Talent Pool Figures in 'Requiem', The Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska), Apr 9, 1999.

"It is much too early, say the experts, to presume Samurai's exile to ultima Thule wherein rust those firecracker Ford Pintos, runaway Audi 5000s and Ralph Nader's Corvairs that were unsafe at any speed." Paul Dean, Safety and the Samurai: Fans Don't Mind a Few Bumps, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 9, 1988.

Known to the ancients as the northern-most region of the habitable world, Thule had been variously identified as one of the Shetland islands, Norway, or Iceland. Today's Thule is in northwest Greenland, within the Arctic Circle.

Incidentally, the name Greenland is ironic, as more than four-fifths of the land is ice-capped. The palindromically named village of Qaanaaq, in the district of Thule, has the distinction of being the northern-most naturally inhabited place on earth.

At least one linguaphile lives in Greenland (with email address ending in gl, the domain code for Greenland), but we don't know if there's one in Thule.

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