New Difference

On April 5, 2015 · 8 Comments

The recent 12MC article Small Change, Big Difference created an unusual amount of interest. One comment from reader Ross arrived embedded with a challenge:

This reminds me of a question I’ve often wondered: Which place changes the most when you add "New" in front of the name? In other words: Which "New" place is the most unlike the place it was named after? My guess: New Britain (the island in Papua New Guinea). It’s hard to imagine a place more unlike "Old" Britain.

Ross obviously put a lot of thought into his well-educated choice. This example might be the best one around, at least as good as any top tier of contenders. I thought I would see if I could add some other places to the list for consideration and open the discussion to a broader audience.

New Ireland, Papua New Guinea


Kavieng waterfront
Kavieng waterfront by Behan, on Flickr (cc)
Does Not Look Like Ireland

Britain had Ireland nearby so I suppose PNG’s New Britain needed a New Ireland nearby too (map). The two were located in close proximity just like their namesakes. Face it, just about anything geographic or climatic in Papua New Guinea would differ considerably from anything in the British Isles. One could select just about any place with a "New" prefix in the tropics and it would score well in this contest.

The New Ireland name in PNG was affixed to an island, a string of islands and a province. The largest town on the island of that name, Kavieng, became the capital of the larger province of New Ireland. This was the site of fierce fighting in World War II and wartime relics can still be found within the area. Today most visitors come for the military history or to dive on pristine coral reefs located just offshore.

New Ireland used to be New Mecklenburg (Neu-Mecklenburg) which would be equally odd. Maybe it should get extra credit for being distinctly different from two separate European locations. Plus New Guinea differed from Guinea (see 12MC’s Upstart Eclipses Namesake for that story) to add to the distinction even further.


New Amsterdam, Guyana



Does Not Look Like Amsterdam

Those wandering European settlers and merchants sure seemed to enjoy naming tropical locales after their homelands. The same thing happened in Guyana with the town of New Amsterdam (map). The Dutch became the first colonial power in Guyana. New Amsterdam was integral to their commercial interests.

New Amsterdam is Guyana’s oldest town, with a rich history. About 1733, the name New Amsterdam was given to a little village that sprang up around Fort Nassau, several miles up the Berbice River. In 1785 it was decided to abandon Fort Nassau and move to the neighbourhood of Fort St. Andries lower down the river at the confluence of the Berbice River and its tributary the Canje River which is now the site of present day New Amsterdam… New Amsterdam, covers about 13.7 square kilometers in area with an estimated population of approximately 35,000.

New Amsterdam might also deserve bonus points. Not only did it differ considerably from Amsterdam in the Netherlands, it looked nothing like the other New Amsterdam on the tip of Manhattan Island that formed the nucleus of New York City.


New Germany, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa



Looked Vaguely European, Actually

I thought this location might be very promising. A handful of German settlements sprouted within South Africa and one of them became New Germany (map).

The Bergtheil or Bramsche Colonists: In the early 1840’s, just after the colony of Natal had been annexed by the British, the Natal Cotton Company was established. One of its directors, Jonas Bergtheil, went to Germany to attract settlers to Natal to grow cotton for the Company. After much searching, he found a group of people in the area of Bramsche, Osnabrücker Land, Kingdom of Hanover (now in Lower Saxony) who were willing to try their luck in this new colony. The Bergtheil colonists settled in New Germany, Westville, just outside Port Natal (later renamed Durban)…

Then I watched the video driving tour and it looked like any suburb anywhere. The location may have been distinctly removed from Germany, however, it still had an air of familiarity.


New Bedford Inlet, Antarctica



New Bedford Inlet, Antarctica
Does Not Look Like New Bedford or the Original Bedford Either

It was hard to reconcile the disconnect between Antarctica and temperate climates. I found a "New" location hidden within its folds and I’ll bet there were plenty of others equally out of place. New Bedford Inlet wasn’t discovered until 1940 when it was "photographed from the air… by members of the United States Antarctic Service (USAS), and named after New Bedford, Massachusetts, the centre of the New England whaling industry in the middle of the 19th century." It was a horribly inhospitable spot packed with glaciers and freezing temperatures in Palmer Land. That hardly resembled Massachusetts even during a bad winter.

New Bedford in Massachusetts was in turn named for Bedford in England. New Bedford Inlet didn’t look anything like England, either. Once again I thought this type of nesting deserved extra credit.


A Couple More to Ponder

I found many others. I wanted to mention two more although I won’t elaborate on them much.

  • New Caledonia (map), a collectivity of France in the Pacific Ocean east of Australia probably wouldn’t be confused with Caledonia (i.e., Scotland)
  • New Washington (map) in the Philippians resembled neither Washington, DC nor the state of Washington in the United States. However it was named for George Washington directly and not for either of those other locations so it probably didn’t count.

Can anyone come up with even more extreme occurrences to add to Ross’ list?

On April 5, 2015 · 8 Comments

8 Responses to “New Difference”

  1. Looking at Antarctica, the other two ‘New’ places that jump out as being strikingly different than their namesakes are New Swabia (its name coming from a short-lived German claim on a piece of Antarctica in what is now Queen Maud Land) and New Plymouth, a bay in the South Shetland Islands

  2. Peter says:

    For a modifier other than “New” which makes a big difference, there’s Palo Alto (the upscale home to Stanford University) and East Palo Alto (quite poor).

  3. John of Sydney says:

    James Cook named New Caledonia because he thought the coastline looked like Scotland. I can’t say how much similarity there is but there are a lot of pine tree on the New Caledonia coast so I suppose this could make it look scotish.
    Cook also named New South Wales because of the similarity to south wales.
    In both cases we can only imagine that an expert navigator and observer like James Cook really thought there was a real resembalance.

  4. TB says:

    Here’s my submission in the “Not Trying Very Hard” sweepstakes:

    But when I think of bohemia, bullfights and flamenco dancing, I think of the exciting urban scene located here –

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/06/New_Madrid_Missouri.jpg

    Sometimes, the nightlife gets so exciting, you can literally feel the earth move.

  5. Rhodent says:

    There are almost certainly numerous instances of tiny towns that are named after megalopolises; even in cases where the climate is similar, the sheer difference in population makes these good candidates. I won’t say this is the single best example of this category, but certainly one of the better ones is New London, North Carolina, population 600.

  6. Jasper says:

    New York v York? Madhouse busy city v tiny town in rural England?
    New Jersey v Jersey? Bustling industrial powerhouse v tiny little island?

    Too obvious?

    • Rhodent says:

      I wouldn’t call them too obvious, but at the same time, I wouldn’t call a city of just under 200,000 people a “tiny town in rural England”.

  7. Joshua D says:

    New Britian PNG is also quite different from New Britian, Connecticut.

    There’s also a difference between Boston and Neu Boston, which is a town part of the small city of Storkow (Mark) in Brandenburg, Germany.
    https://www.google.de/maps/place/Neu+Boston,+15859+Storkow+%28Mark%29/@52.2768404,13.9314179,1009m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x47a82172e52a2ac9:0x2c62adf1abf12d56

    Nearby is also Philadelphia. From what I was told was that there were settlers who went to colonial America, but weren’t successful. So when they settled back in this part of the Prussian Empire, the towns were named for these American cities.
    http://www.zeit.de/2003/33/Boston

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