All it takes is time and repetition to strip a word of its original meaning. Have you ever wondered what Illinois actually means? Or how about Chicago? According to cartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Peust, Illinois translates to “Land Of Those Who Speak Normally,” and Chicago is “Stink Onions.”
They have created an Atlas Of True Names that deconstructs all the ordinary place names and landmarks to reveal their literal meanings. These mostly charming and poetic etymologies humanize the familiar geography we often take for granted, presenting our history through an uncommon lens.
Since translation of course isn’t an exact science, Hormes and Peust caution that readers should accept their map “just as an invitation to the world as a strange, romantic continent.” Explore the map below:
There’s a lot of detail in here, so here are cropped sections of the northeast and southwest:
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.