Fun with toponyms (and memories)

June 28th

Typical Main Street in New Jersey (Westfield in this case)

I like geography, traveling (including discoveries in the local area), and lists. I also like place names that are unusual and do not fit the prevailing currently locally used language. And yesterday I was just looking at the map of New Jersey (where I lived for 15 years and still have so many fond memories) trying to remember the routes and shortcuts I used for driving many years ago. Also, I was looking at any changes that happen over the years, looking up the restaurants and stores I frequented to see if they are still open. And then it hit me — the sheer quantity of names of towns and rivers and parks where I’ve been, that are the reminders of Native American names that were kept in use since colonial times. Of course, outside of the names, there are very few (if any) remains of Native American presence and culture there (of Leni-Lenape tribes). But what names are those! — just rolling on the tongue in such a different and pleasing way. And those names are only those of the places I actually visited at least once:
Absecon
Allamuchy Township
Alloway Township
Batsto Village
Campgaw Mountain
Cinnaminson Township
Communipaw
Hackensack
Hoboken
Ho-Ho-Kus
Hopatcong
Lake Hopatcong
Kittatinny Mountains
Lopatcong Township
Mahwah
Manahawkin
Manalapan Township
Manasquan
Mantoloking
Matawan
Metuchen
Minisink
Moonachie
Navesink River
Neshanic River
Netcong
Paramus
Parsippany
Pascack Brook
Pascack Valley
Passaic
Peapack-Gladstone
Pennsauken Township
Pequannock
Picatinny Arsenal
Piscataway Township
Pohatcong Township
Pompton Lakes
Rahway
Ramapo Mountains
Raritan Township
Secaucus
Singac (part of Little Falls)
Succasunna
Mount Tammany
Teaneck
Totowa
Towaco
Wagaraw Mountain
Wanaque
Watchung
Watsessing Park
Wawayanda State Park
Weehawken
Weequahic Park
Whippany
Yantacaw Brook Park

It feels almost like poetry, and it is not much more than just names. And I can assure you that there is nothing poetic about the actual places with those amazing names — like Hackensack, Metuchen, Raritan, or Weehawken. Those towns are rough and drab, without any gracefulness that is shown in their names.

God, I miss New Jersey so much, I haven’t been there in 11 years now. I think I would rather visit and see New Jersey more than New York City that I called my home as well. One day, though…

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