Twelve Mile Circle has an international audience so I’m never sure whether a term that’s part of my lexicon translates geographically. Many readers probably know the term NIMBY. For the rest of you, and particularly the foreign-language readers, NIMBY is an acronym for "Not In My Back Yard." As defined by Dictionary.com NIMBY is…
…used to express opposition by local citizens to the locating in their neighborhood of a civic project, as a jail, garbage dump, or drug rehabilitation center, that, though needed by the larger community, is considered unsightly, dangerous, or likely to lead to decreased property values.
The term has become somewhat of a personal inside joke during my formulation of articles for 12MC. I’ve attempted to write a NIMBY story for years and I always get about fifteen minutes into it before dropping it. I can never seem to make it flow well. Maybe I’ll write that article someday although for today I’m going to punt once again and take a slightly different twist on the topic.
Nimby Lane, Jackson, Pennsylvania, USA
Instead of providing examples of NIMBY behavior I thought I’d focus on a few people who live on streets named Nimby. These had to be some rather special residents as I thought about it, who acknowledged their passive-aggressive behavior with a healthy dose of irony. Good for them! What’s the expression? — something about the first step in solving a problem is accepting that one has a problem?
First I discovered Nimby Lane in Pennsylvania. It was funny because a humongous 4-lane highway was in the figurative backyard. I wondered if the residents had fought the battle and lost or were collectively thumbing their noses at other nearby people who had fought and lost. It was quite the paradox, and of course 12MC loves a good paradox.
I noticed an odd little map symbol just to the west; I wasn’t sure if it was a person kneeling in prayer or a tabletop microscope. Was it a place of worship or a laboratory? It took some digging on OpenStreetMap to confirm that it was indeed a place of worship. Some additional searching determined that this was the site of the Chickaree Union Church, "The Jesus Saves Church" That led me to wonder when one would use a Christian cross symbol versus a person kneeling in prayer. I know we have some OpenStreetMap contributors in the audience. Perhaps one of them could enlighten us.
The name of the highway also provided a tantalizing point of trivia since we’ve already veered along an unrelated tangent once again. It’s not difficult to derail me. It was labeled US Route 22, the Admiral Peary Highway. That seemed like an odd choice.
Robert Edwin Peary via Wikimedia Commons in the public domain
Admiral Robert Edwin Peary was an Arctic explorer who was credited with leading the first expedition to the North Pole in 1909. Later research showed that he probably missed it by quite a few miles although he certainly garnered significant fame during his lifetime for his achievement. He was born in Cresson, Pennsylvania. That was less than 20 miles away from Nimby Lane. Clearly a lot more had happened in Nimby Lane’s back yard than met the eye.
Nimby Dr., Savannah, Georgia, USA
Nimby Drive in Georgia seemed less clear-cut. It was located within a nascent golf course community at The Club at Savannah Harbor. Actually I wondered if it might have been nothing more than a cute placeholder name. The residential area, at least on the most recent satellite view, seemed to be in the early stages of development with a street grid and very few houses. It was funny because the back yard was a golf course and usually people like golf courses in their back yard. In fact I think that houses in golf course communities commanded premium prices? Maybe it referred to golf balls, as in it might be nice to live near a course except for the places where a wicked slice could send something crashing through a window.
Sam Snead hanging out in Savannah by Jesse Hirsh, on Flickr (cc)
The Club at Savannah included a bust commemorating golfer Sam Snead. I wondered if there might have been a local connection like I’d observed with Admiral Peary in Pennsylvania. Nope. Snead was born in Virginia and died in Virginia. Apparently it was simply a tribute to a legendary golfer instead of a local connection. Snead was not in their back yard.
Nimby Place, Cooma, NSW, Australia
I found a couple of Nimby Roads in New South Wales, Australia. I’ll have to defer to the Australian readers to determine if NIMBY is actually a thing there or not. I got the distinct feeling that neither road referred to the acronym, though. They were found in areas where roads carried aboriginal terms so it probably meant something innocuous in a native language like "pleasant view". I could be completely wrong though. I made that up.
The Nimby Road in Cooma actually had a rather lovely backyard, the Cooma North Ridge Reserve:
The North Ridge Reserve area on the edge of Cooma comprises approximately 80 hectares which was a consolidation of a Crown Land Reserve and land purchased by the Council from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority in 1996. The area is home to many native animals and flora and is a favourite area for the many people who enjoy bushwalking.
I would think that just about anyone would want that in their backyard.
There was another Nimby Road near Harden (map). The two Nimby spots were only about a three hour drive apart via Canberra. That might make a nice weekend trip for readers in New South Wales.
I noted the inherent redundancy of places named River Ouse in England. The literal translation worked out to something like Water River or even River River. Similar repetitions occurred likewise wherever one language overlapped another as new settlers migrated into territory occupied and named previously by earlier cultures. I found a discussion of the Ouse situation specifically on the Stack Exchange English Language & Usage website, including one particularly fascinating comment that illustrated a similar point using a different English location:
Steam Under Pendle Hill by Andrew, on Flickr (cc)
There are other similar anomalies in place names in the British Isles. One of my favourites is Pendle Hill. The word ‘pen’ means hill. Later, the next incomers changed the hill’s name to ‘Pendle’, meaning ‘hill hill’. And then the next incomers, not knowing the etymology (and sadly lacking an internet) called it Pendle Hill or ‘hill hill hill’, so Pendle Hill really, really, really is a hill, because anything said three times is the truth.
In Pendle Hill’s case (map), it came from the Cumbric pen in its earliest form, then combined with Old English hyll to form Pendle, then later appended with the modern English hill. Pen, Hyll and Hill all meant the same thing essentially. There was another place in England, Torpenhow Hill, that was alleged to translate to Hill, Hill, Hill, Hill, however its etymology was debunked. What a pity.
Wikipedia contained a long list of similar tautological place names; "A place name is tautological if two differently sounding parts of it are synonymous. This often occurs when a name from one language is imported into another and a standard descriptor is added on from the second language." Dictionaries described tautology as a logical or rhetorical redundancy that applied broadly; much more widely than just geography.
The frequency of tautological place names surprised me. They included familiar names like Mississippi River (Mississippi being Algonquian for Big River, making it Big River River) and Lake Michigan (Michigan coming from Ojibwa via French mispronunciation as Large Lake, making it Lake Large Lake).
I stole a handful of examples from the very expansive list and ruminated upon them further.
Chora, Astypalaia by Henrik Berger Jørgensen, on Flickr (cc)
The Dodecanese Islands (map) in the Aegean Sea formed Greece’s southeastern extreme. The largest and most well know was probably Rhodes, famed since ancient times for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. The island of Kos also had a lengthy pedigree and was even mentioned by name in Homer’s Iliad. Still another, Patmos, was where the apostle John wrote the biblical Book of Revelation
s. Clearly there were renowned places amongst the Dodecanese Islands. The major islands within the group numbered twelve in total plus numerous smaller island.
Dodecanese was Greek (Δωδεκάνησα) for Twelve Islands, so the commonly Anglicized place name was equivalent to Twelve Islands Islands.
Lake Hayq by Manogamos, Algunas veces Mujeres Violentas, on Flickr (cc)
I selected the next example in Ethiopia because, frankly, I wanted to put a push-pin on Ethiopia on my Complete Index map. Africa had been sadly underrepresented on 12MC. I need to add more. Lake Hayq (map) offered an excellent opportunity. Plus it gave me an excuse to write Hayq in that funky Ge’ez script used by Ethiopians: ሐይቅ
Hayq had an interesting creation myth:
According to a local legend, the lake was created to avenge a pregnant woman who was wronged by a princess. God was greatly angered by this injustice, and in his wrath turned all of the land surrounding the woman (except the ground she was sitting on) into water forming a lake, destroying the princess along with her friends and family in the process. Where the pregnant woman was sitting became an island (now a peninsula) where Istifanos Monastery, founded in the middle of the 13th century by Iyasus Mo’a, is located.
Hayq was Amharic for lake, so calling it Lake Hayq was equivalent to calling it Lake Lake.
La Brea Tar Pits
La Brea Tar Pits – Los Angeles, California by ashabot, on Flickr (cc)
I visited La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California a number of years ago (map). It made the list for that simple reason. I found it oddly wonderful that I was able to visit an important paleontological site in such a completely urban environment. Natural deposits of tar oozed up to the surface over thousands of years. Sometimes leaves or dust would blow across the surface making it appear solid and indistinguishable from surrounding terrain. Along would wander some Ice Age critter stumbling into the tar, unable to extricate itself, and die. Repeat that innumerable times and scientists are still removing their bones for study today.
The Rancho La Brea biota is one of the world’s richest and most diverse late Pleistocene terrestrial assemblages. At the last census, in 1992, the collection exceeded 3.5 million specimens. The diversity of species (~ 600), the quality of preservation, and the large numbers of specimens makes this collection invaluable for the study and understanding of the end of the last Ice Age in North America. Rancho La Brea is perhaps best known for its extensive holdings of carnivorans, of which dire wolves (Canis dirus), saber-toothed cats (Smilodon fatalis), and coyotes (Canis latrans) predominate among the 60 plus species of mammals.
La Brea was Spanish for The Tar, so La Brea Tar Pits meant The Tar Tar Pits. Oftentimes, compounding this, sources referred to the site as The La Brea Tar Pits (even the museum located on the site called itself "Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits." on one of its pages). That would make it The The Tar Tar Pits.
I came across the oddly named River Great Ouse as I researched Pathway to Bedford. The river ran through Bedford, the County Town of Bedfordshire.
The Great Ouse at St Ives by sean_hickin, on Flickr (cc)
I was amused even further when I discovered that it was pronounced somewhat akin to "Ooze." A body of water likened to a great ooze seemed awful, as if it flowed with black tar or sewage. That wasn’t the case of course. In fact, photographic evidence made it appear quite lovely.
The Great Ouse became great because there were actually several rivers Ouse located throughout England and this one happened to be the largest and longest. In fact this one was the fourth longest river in the United Kingdom extending 143 miles (230 kilometres) from Syresham to the Wash on the North Sea in East Anglia (map).
One of its more interesting features might have been the Cardington Slalom Course in Bedford, the first artificial kayaking facility constructed in the United Kingdom.
Opened in September 1982, Cardington is a 120m long S-shaped trapezoid concrete channel with movable boulders fixed to the base which can be moved to make different river patterns. The maximum drop is 1.7 meters, but it’s enough for a good white water training facility and you can warm up on the main river. It offers safe moving water for paddlers at any level, and is suitable for up to Division 2 Slaloms, and also for recreation groups to hire.
What about some of those other Rivers Ouse?
River Little Ouse
Little Ouse River, Thetford by Alan Winter, on Flickr (cc)
One might consider that River Little Ouse would be an ideal name for a tributary of River Great Ouse, and that was indeed the case. Little Ouse flowed into Great Ouse near Littleport in Cambridgeshire after passing Thetford (map). Indeed it was little, a mere 37 miles (60 km). However it also hid a greater significance, the dividing line between Norfolk and Suffolk for a considerable distance. Portions of it were also navigable by canal boats.
The other Rivers Ouse were not part of the Great and Little Ouse watersheds.
River Ouse, Yorkshire
River Ouse at York by Tim Green, on Flickr (cc)
The River Ouse in Yorkshire (map) might not have been designated as Great, however it flowed through the rather significant city of York. As the city explained, "The city of York owes its existence to the Rivers Ouse and Foss. These natural barriers made it an ideal defensive site which was settled by the Romans in AD71."
A couple of towns incorporated the river’s name, Newton-on-Ouse and Linton-on-Ouse. A Royal Air Force base located nearby adopted the name by extension, RAF Linton-on-Ouse: "RAF Linton-on-Ouse is one of the busiest airfields in the country. Tasked with the training future fast jet pilots for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, the Station operates the Tucano T1."
River Ouse, Sussex
The River Ouse at Lewes, East Sussex by Henry Hemming, on Flickr (cc)
Another River Ouse existed in Sussex (map). It was notable for a more painful reason.
The English author Virginia Woolf suffered from depression for much of her life. A number of tragic events befell her during the early years of the Second World War including the destruction of her London home during the The Blitz.
These seemingly insurmountable facts motivated Woolf’s decision to, on March 28, 1941, pull on her overcoat, walk out into the River Ouse and fill her pockets with stones. As she waded into the water, the stream took her with it. The authorities found her some three weeks later.
Why were there so many rivers named Ouse? The Free Dictionary offered an explanation.
Ouse is a perfectly appropriate name for a river, but one whose etymological meaning is likely to raise a smile. The name of these two rivers is derived from the Celtic languages that were spoken in England before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in the British Isles. Their Celtic name, Ūsa, is derived from *udso-, “water,” which is in turn derived from the Indo-European root *wed-, “wet, water.” The same root *wed- gives us the English words water and wet as well. Thus the Ouse River etymologically is the “Water River” or the “Wet River.” Of course, the speakers of early forms of the English language who borrowed the name from the Celts did not know the meaning of the word—as is rather frequently the case when foreign topographical terms are borrowed.
So in a since they were all really the River River.