Shaped Like it Sounds

On April 4, 2013 · 5 Comments

I enjoyed filling in newly captured counties in my county counting map as a result of the recent Dust Bowl trip. I was quite pleased with the result, a nice block of color added to a previously-empty quadrant. I left behind a couple of doughnut-hole counties that I’ll probably never capture. That’s fine. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m oddly at peace with the thought of never capturing every single one of the 3,143 counties and county-equivalents in the United States.

Lincoln County, Colorado stood-out as I shaded the blocks.

View Shaped Like they Sound in a larger map

I noticed that it was a mirror-image, or backwards, or perhaps a dyslexic letter "L" in appearance, and also the first letter in Lincoln. I’m not sure why I found that remarkable or amusing, and I’m not sure why anyone else should care either. Nonetheless it sparked an odd quest to see if I could find other places that were shaped like the first letters in their names.

Ohio License Plate
Ohio License Plate
via Wikipedia , Fair Use Image

There are several recognizable examples at the State level. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles noted one such instance right on its license plate, the state’s resemblance to the letter "O." In addition lots of schoolchildren learn that Vermont resembles a "V" to distinguish it from New Hampshire when memorizing the states, and finally, Louisiana looks a lot like an "L."

I put all of my little discoveries, both at the state and county levels, on a single map.

View Shaped Like they Sound in a larger map

You should feel free to open the map in a new tab and explore my finds, or continue to read the article and I’ll provide a few more highlights with links directly to appropriate corners of the map.

It struck me that Louisiana + Ohio + Vermont = L-O-V. It’s too bad that the United States doesn’t have another state beginning with E to the east so we could get a little LOVE. The best I could imagine might be Prince Edward Island if we could convince Canada to give it up, drop the Prince part and start it with Edward, then bulldoze the island into a shape more reminiscent of an E. I wonder if Brent, 12MC’s self-anointed "obligatory Canadian" might arrange a swap? Maybe Canada could trade PEI for a very thin strip of equivalent acreage along the straight, extended border through the western half of the continent? I’m kidding of course. No offense implied or intended to the fine citizens of Canada.

The Letter L

View Shaped Like they Sound in a larger map

Actually another Lincoln formed a much better L than the one in Colorado. Lincoln County, Wyoming at least faced the proper direction. I also found lesser examples in Lafayette County, Florida (map) and Lake County, Oregon (map)

The Letter P

View Shaped Like they Sound in a larger map

You might have to bend the rules a little to see this one. Polk County, Arkansas doesn’t have a little cut-out circle but the average viewer should still be able to interpret this as the letter "P" without too much effort. A similar situation exists in Perry County, Alabama (map).

And the Rest of the Counties

View Shaped Like they Sound in a larger map

Setting aside that Rhode Island no longer has any functional counties — albeit they’re still used for U.S. census purposes — I think my favorite might be Newport. To me, it resembled a lower-case letter "n" written in a cursive script. Maybe? Just a little?

Other examples requiring a bit of creative imagination would include the "R" of Roberts County, South Dakota (map) and the sideways-"T" of Tulsa County, Oklahoma (map).

Thank goodness for the circular towns of Georgia

View Larger Map

Many 12MC readers are familiar with the numerous towns in Georgia with an unusual "O" shape found in few other places. I figured I could find at least one town beginning with the letter O that had retained its original boundaries through the last couple of centuries. It was harder than I imagined. Annexations have changed many of their borders to the point where arcs have softened or have been erased. Oliver, Georgia remained pretty faithful though.

Others mostly intact O-towns in Georgia included:

  • Ochlocknee (map)
  • Offerman (map), albeit with a nub
  • Omega (map) although it would have been infinitely more fascinating if it had been Ωmega shaped.

I wondered if any of the formerly circular towns had annexed pipestems to create b’s, d’s, p’s or q’s but I got bored and lost interest I decided to leave something behind for the 12MC audience to discover on its own.

On April 4, 2013 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Shaped Like it Sounds”

  1. Pete says:

    A more accurate title might be “Shaped Like It’s Spelled”. Since sound travels in a wave, one might consider places wave-shaped like the Gambia or Malawi as “shaped like they sound”… maybe until one considers that sound waves are longitudinal.

    • I agree — excellent point. This 12MC article was a little more frivolous than most (which is saying something) so accuracy was a bit of a secondary consideration. 😉

  2. CBE says:

    RI still uses the counties for the Superior Court and a few other things.

  3. Rhodent says:

    Boiling Springs, NC (,+Cleveland,+North+Carolina&t=h&z=13) has expanded in a way that makes it look like a lowercase “d”, which is of course a mirror image of a lowercase “b”. A bit of a reach, but it’s a start.

    A couple of examples of other letters that spring to mind:

    Loudon County, Virginia.

    Maryland — a bit of a reach, but if does have three distinct areas coming down from a horizontal line at the top, so it’s sort of M-like.

    Although it’s less true today, back when Baltimore City was still a part of Baltimore County, the county had a distinct “b” shape.

    If you turn your map so that northwest is at the top, Sagadahoc County, Maine is S-shaped. It’s a little more obvious if you look at the water boundaries, but just looking at the land portion you should be able to see it.

    • I grew up in Loudoun and it never dawned on me that it was vaguely L-shaped until you mentioned it. I guess that’s an example of living “too close” to the subject, on my part?

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