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Reviewed by Steve Leshin for Readers' Favorite
Place Names: Their Origin and Meanings by Mark Emory Adams does exactly what the author says it will do. It is a sourcebook for the origin of names of countries, states, and cities as well as interesting geographical facts. Adams compiled his lists after researching their origins and neatly arranged them so that the reader can refer to whatever city, town, or state he or she wishes to know about. With four main chapters and an extensive bibliography and travel guide, Place Names can be a great reference for academic use or for writers of historical fiction, or history lovers in general. The four chapters cover all five boroughs of New York City, geographical names in the United States, European place names, and place names worldwide.
The writing in Place Names is clear cut and economical, letting the reader get the facts while adding interesting asides. For example, did you know that The Bronx borough of New York City got its name from a Dutch settler named Jonas Bronck, who owned much of the land back in the seventeenth century? Early settlers referred to it as the Bronck's land. Through force of habit over the years the name evolved to The Bronx. And did you know that Lake George in New York State was named after King George II by English colonists? How about the origin of Philadelphia? William Penn, the Quaker founder of the city, picked the name because it means brotherly love. These and many other interesting facts can be found in Mark Emory Adams's book. A good read for personal knowledge, students, or even those of us who like trivia.