Twelve Mile Circle featured an article with the curious title Search for Search and Other Tales about two years ago. This effort examined a year’s worth of search queries that people entered into the website. To be clear as before, these weren’t random searches from Google or other sources, these were actual words or phrases typed individually into the little search bar on the top-right corner of the 12MC homepage. I was curious to see if conditions had changed in the intervening period. Because it was raining yesterday and because I was bored and didn’t have anything better to do, I reexamined the data for a five year period. I’m nothing if not obsessed.
Cornfield by Daniel_Bauer, on Flickr (cc)
I compiled the results and made them available in a shared spreadsheet. Feel free to see what hidden gems you can uncover in the 1000+ distinct search terms entered by readers, ranging from Time Zone (214 occurrences) to a plethora of single instances ending with Zipper. I did my best to combine entries that were variations on a theme, for example counting Exclave and Exclaves as the same item. I’m sure there were many typos in the list although don’t blame me, blame the people who typed them into the search box originally. I corrected some of the blatantly obvious ones although I didn’t go down the list line-by-line.
Mathematically, at a rough order of magnitude, it came out to about three queries per day. The Top-15 changed a bit using the longer time period, with "Search" bumping down to the second position:
Cornfield still surprised me. I couldn’t understand the fascination with cornfields, and I suspected it might have related to cornfield mazes? It didn’t represent a spike or surge either. The term popped-up regularly year-after-year from many different readers, places and sources. OK, I got it. Expect a 12MC article on cornfields.
I noticed a handful of entertaining and sometimes baffling entries as I combed through the data.
An interesting Easter Egg appeared in the query log after I discussed this topic the last time: "Why is he obsessed with what people search?"
I’m afraid I don’t have an answer.
Topics for 12MC drop into my brain from many different places. Still, they don’t generally derive from dreams. I had that happen for the first time a few nights ago. I thought of an absolutely amazing article topic while I was dreaming, and in the dream I actually had the wherewithal to understand that I needed to write it down before I forgot. Half awake, I put pen to paper and went back to sleep.
It was about a map. Maps have become insanely popular on the Intertubes. I can write 12MC for years and gather a handful of faithful readers. Anyone with a collection of pretty maps will gain thousands of readers almost instantaneously. As I recall I was excited about the possibilities during my dream. My enthusiasm waned once I examined my note in the light of day. My brilliant idea? A map of places where people use chopsticks.
Maybe dreams aren’t the best source for article topics.
I wondered what town and state had the fewest letters in its collective name. For example, my hometown of Arlington, Virginia had 17 letters. That wasn’t very short. Why would anyone care? I don’t know. Maybe someone had a job where they had to write down their town and state repeatedly to the point where they’d want to move to a place to minimize their task. Maybe it was a Bart Simpson chalkboard thing.
But oh wise 12MC — I’m sure the audience interjects even as we speak — it wouldn’t matter whether people lived in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations or any other state for that matter, they would still shorten it to a two-letter postal abbreviation. Simply pick the shortest town name and be done with it. Forget about the state. That wouldn’t be a challenge and we don’t take the easy path on the circle. We need to do this the hard way.
States with four-letter names seemed to be the optimal starting point: Utah, Iowa and Ohio.
Hill Aerospace Museum. My Own Photo
Roy may have started small although it now has nearly 40,000 residents (map). It abutted Hill Air Force Base on its southeaster corner right next to the Hill Aerospace Museum which I visited previously. That signified two dimensions for me personally, (1) I’ve been to Roy although I didn’t realize it at the time because one must pass through Roy to get to the museum, and (2) I can illustrate this entry with one of my own photographs instead of borrowing one from some unsuspecting Flickr user. Roy might be in the background of that photo somewhere. Actually I think Roy might be in the opposite direction, behind me.
The other 7-letter combo was Loa, Utah (map). This town appeared previously as one of my bloggy finds. It demonstrated that I should never recommend other websites because it automatically curses them into never publishing again.
The Utah History Encyclopedia also mentioned Loa. The name "… was suggested by Franklin W. Young, who had once resided in the Hawaiian Islands and had been impressed with Mauna Loa, Hawaii’s second highest mountain."
N. Side Dows St. W. Ely Iowa by Waterloo Public Library, on Flickr (cc)
There were many different 7-letter combos in Iowa. Ira, Iva and Ute were amongst them. I focused on Ely, Iowa (map). It had the largest population of the grouping so it seemed to deserve more attention. The The History of Linn County, Iowa (1878) had a simple explanation for the short name. "Ely was laid out June 5, 1872 by T.M. Johnson, Surveyor, on parts of Sections 30 and 31, Township 82, north Range 6, under the proprietorship of John F. Ely."
Too bad Ely wasn’t founded by Chuck D because then it would have scored even better. The awesome 5-letter combination of D, Iowa would have been unstoppable. Imagine how Iowa might may evolved if that had happened. We may never be able to work out the time/space issues necessary to transport Chuck D back to the 1870’s so he could start a town although that would be amazing.
Those vintage buildings shown in the photograph still exist by the way (Street View)
Ohio had its share of short-name towns including Aid, Fly and Ray. I was prepared to talk about Ray because it was significant enough to have its own post office (45672). That wasn’t necessary because I found something even better.
I had a hard time believing explanations based upon a destroyed city or androgyny. I had my own theory after watching the video. The general store featured the village’s name printed on its side in capital letters, AI. That looked a lot like A1, aka superior. That would be a great town name. Did that expression even exist when the town was founded circa 1843? Etymology Online examined A1: "… in figurative sense of "first-rate," 1837, in Dickens; from Lloyd’s of London designation for ships in first-class condition (with the letter referring to the condition of the ship and the number to that of the stores)."
I guess it might be possible. Probably not. I still like it better.
It began as a simple enough proposition once I noticed Newark, Ohio on a map. Was it related somehow to the Newark in New Jersey, and what about the Newark in Delaware? Did they all intertwine in a way? It sounded like a mystery that needed to be solved.
Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey USA
I noticed Newark, Ohio because Newark, New Jersey was still fresh on my mind after appearing in the recent Small Change, Big Difference article. Honestly I didn’t know much about the appearance in New Jersey except that it seemed to be overshadowed by nearby New York City and it had a lousy airport (map). I think all of us who have traveled in the northeast corridor of the United States have at least one Newark Airport horror story, and probably many more. It placed perennially at or near the bottom for on-time performance. Twelve Mile Circle readers from Newark should feel free to defend the honor of their fair city in the comments. I’m sure there must be wonderful attributes that could rebut my negative travel associations.
The name had biblical roots. A group of Puritans lost power when the colonies of Connecticut and New Haven united. They migrated to New Jersey, founding Newark in 1666. However it wasn’t Newark at the very beginning, it was New Ark. This referenced the "New Ark of the Covenant." The Bible described the Ark of the Covenant as holding the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments as well as perhaps other sacred objects depending on the citation referenced. By proclaiming a New Ark, these offshoot Puritans put their stake in the ground, a foundation based upon their specific biblical interpretations.
University of Delaware by Prehensile Eye, on Flickr (cc)
Alternately, even the City of Newark, Delaware didn’t know much about its origin.
Many have speculated on the origin of the name as it appeared in Delaware. There it’s pronounced New-Ark and might lead one to think it also had a connection to the New Ark of the Covenant. However, the New Jersey pronunciation is Newerk so that didn’t necessarily mean anything at all. Delaware Online attempted to find an explanation and came up short.
Newark, Delaware was notable for a couple of things. First, and most importantly, it had the good fortune to be located within the Twelve Mile Circle for which this website was named. Second, it was the home of the University of Delaware (map) whose Fightin’ Blue Hen is a rare example of a team mascot named for the female of an animal species.
Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England
Newark Castle, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire by Roland Turner, on Flickr (cc)
Various references mentioned Newark-on-Trent as a possible inspiration for New Jersey or Delaware. Newark-on-Trent was an ancient town, perhaps extending back to the Roman era. The name came from nearby Newark Castle (map), constructed in the Twelfth Century. The original castle spelling was Niwerc as noted in its royal charter granted by King Henry I in 1135.
I couldn’t trace the etymology of Niwerc. When I typed "etymology Niwerc" into Google it asked, "Did you mean: etymology Twerk?" No, I definitely didn’t mean that. The etymology of Twerk, by the way, was "probably an alteration of work." None of that really mattered however because it was unlikely that either the Newark in New Jersey or Delaware were named for Newark-on-Trent directly.
Longaberger Basket Company, Newark, OH by Joseph, on Flickr (cc)
I mentioned finding Newark, Ohio at the beginning of this article and now I can finally return to that place. This one was actually the second-largest Newark with nearly 50,000 residents, coming behind only the one in New Jersey. According to the History of Licking County, Ohio (1881),
The most fascinating feature of Newark, Ohio had to be the giant basket (map) featured in 12MC’s Weird Ohio Explorations in 2009. It was the home location of the Longaberger Basket company, an office building constructed of stucco over steel.
Newark, Indiana USA
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention tiny Newark, Indiana. The History of Greene and Sullivan Counties, State of Indiana (1884) noted, "Newark is a village of over 100 inhabitants and is situated west of the central part of the township. John Edwards had its site surveyed by Thomas Axtell who named the village after Newark Ohio."
Thus, the Newark in Indiana was named for the Newark in Ohio, which was named for the Newark in New Jersey, which was named for the Ark of the Covenant from the Bible.