The Article That Nobody Will Ever See

On December 24, 2013 · 9 Comments

Of course you are not a "nobody," it’s meant in a statistical sense. Sure, you and I both stopped here today although we might be the only ones; visitors totals will still come mighty close to zero. Who’s going to read these words I’ve posted on Christmas Eve? Twelve Mile Circle has a diverse audience, and I’m sure even those of different faiths, practices or beliefs will likely have something better to do when everything shuts down around them. Twelve Mile Circle website traffic typically nosedives at this time of year.

No-see-um Lake, Shoshone Co., Idaho, USA

That’s liberating in a sense. I don’t have to develop a real article or wonder whether the topic be a hit or a dud. Instead I’ll share a few statistical tidbits and some upcoming travel plans, and if nobody likes it then it won’t matter. Come back in a few days if you’d prefer.


I began Twelve Mile Circle in November 2007 so it just passed its sixth-year anniversary, an uninterrupted string of aimless muttering that I still find difficult to believe. I remember thinking that I shouldn’t start this thing. I was unsure if I’d have enough material or sufficient dedication to last even a month. Maybe it would become a sad, bit-rotted ghost site. That’s irrelevant I suppose since blogs as a format have been declared dead. Again. It’s a good thing I write for myself and not for money or recognition. I’d starve to death while wallowing in my own tears.

Wow, what a cynical introduction. The whole point of this was supposed to announce that I’m expecting to hit 1,000 articles sometime around the end of February if I continue at the current pace. A decent length novel might clock in at around a hundred thousand words. The complete 12MC body of work would hit somewhere around six or seven hundred thousand words. Crazy. I’ll probably have to do something special for that 1,000th article.

Reader-submitted comments will hit 4,000 any day now, so I receive about four comments per article. That’s growing. It was closer to three comments per article a couple of years ago. That increase can be attributed to a loyal group of readers submitting thoughtful and respectful comments regularly. Those often lead to spin-off articles and are always appreciated.

The 12MC Twitter experiment launched in the Spring seems to be going OK. Just OK. I haven’t used Twitter much except to announce new articles, making it somewhat redundant for anyone using an RSS newsreader. I don’t make any special efforts to build followers. I’ll save that for the celebrities. However, I’ve been stuck on 99 Twitter followers for the last couple of weeks and it’s starting to bug me. Won’t someone subscribe already and push that into triple digits so I can ignore it again?


Riverboat Marathon Series Route

I had such a great time during the Dust Bowl Marathon Series last year that I decided to do it again. I’m not a runner, nor was I last time. I’ll be a driver who transports a runner safely between races.

I think I already mentioned that Mainly Marathons is now sponsoring a Riverboat Series for April 12-16, 2014. That’s five races in five states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana) in five days. The only new development for me to note is that I’m definitely going. Plans have been made and reservations have been set. I’m expecting an excellent opportunity for intense County Counting because I have to drive all the way out there. Airline schedules and fares don’t seem to be working out.

Please take a look at the map and let me know of any suggestions for geo-oddities or other cool things to see. I received some great recommendations last year including several places I would not have known about otherwise (e.g., Capulin Volcano). Don’t worry, Bubbleland is already on the agenda. Maybe an adventurous 12MC runner might be interested in one or more half- or full-marathons and/or assorted weird geography?

I pick a different state each year for concentrated travel. Previously I’ve focused on a diversity of places such as Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Oregon’s volcanic interior, and Kentucky’s Appalachian foothills. 2014 will be a little different. I won’t be selecting a state. Instead we’re heading to Ireland in late June or early July, within the vicinity of Killarney. My father will join us and we will visit with his cousins for part of that trip. I’m looking forward to meeting some of the distant relatives, and of course giving Ireland a proper 12MC treatment.

It should be an exciting 2014 on Twelve Mile Circle.

What the Drung?

On June 25, 2013 · 4 Comments

While we’re speaking of street suffixes — we were just speaking of street suffixes, weren’t we — and after the stravenue encounter, 12MC stumbled upon a suffix even more weirdness: Drung. Imagine, living not on a street, an avenue, a boulevard, a drive or even a terrace, rather a drung.

Drung used in this manner is extremely rare and applies to only one place, to Newfoundland. I’ve encountered the unique words that Newfoundlanders bring to English previously, for example the use of "tickle" to describe a narrow saltwater straight or a settlement abutting one. The same source that defined tickle, the ever-helpful Dictionary of Newfoundland English, also solved the mystery of drung. It was a "narrow lane or passage between houses, fenced gardens, etc." It derived from the Old English "thrang," which referred to a throng or a crowd. Variations of the term included drang and drong. I guess that would make a drung the tickle of roads.

I found very few instances of drung used as a street suffix, making it perhaps even more rare than stravenue. I discovered two very small clusters. I imagine there are probably additional examples out there and likely I would have found them with access to a database of Canadian street names. Drung was too close to Drunk or Drug, which seemed to confuse the search engines. No, I really did mean drung. They thought they knew better though, like I was drung [sic.] or something and too impaired to type the word correctly.


Cotter’s Drung to Tyre’s Drung, Carbonear, NL Canada

The first mini-cluster occurred in Carbonear, with the appearance of Cotter’s Drung and Tyre’s Drung.

Carbonear is "among the oldest settlements in North America" according to the town history. The history further explained that Carbonear had a name even before it had people, and applied to the area even before the establishment of the Cupids Colony, the oldest English settlement in Canada. The name came courtesy of migratory fishermen taking seasonal voyages to the nearby Grand Banks.

The name Carbonear may be French or Spanish. Some people think that the name comes from a Spanish word, “carbonera”, which can mean either “wood prepared for burning into charcoal”, “charcoal kiln”, or “woman who makes or sells charcoal”. If Carbonear is a French name, it might come from the French word “Carbonnier”, which is a family name from Picardy and Normandy in France. It might also come from “La Carbonnière”, which is a place-name in Normandy…

Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s

Alfred’s Drung to Solomon’s Drung, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, NL Canada

The second mini-cluster occurred in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, with the appearance of Alfred’s Drung and Solomon’s Drung.

Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s is a new construct, an amalgamated town formed recently in 1992. However the piece-parts are old, and Portugal Cove in particular is extremely old. The town contends,

Portuguese fishermen were said to have first visited the area of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s in 1500, when Gasper Corte Real landed in Portugal Cove to bury two of his men that had died during the voyage from Lisbon. It is also believed that fishermen settled around the same time, as they used the cove to land and dry fish.

Thus, Carbonear and Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s have a couple of things in common: they both occupy the Avalon Peninsula and they both trace back to the earliest days of European exploration and settlement in Newfoundland. It made sense that an old Newfoundland English word would pass through the generations and into the modern age in both locations.

I found other instances of drung albeit not as a suffix (e.g., Drung Road, Rocky Drung Road). I suspect that drung might be used in this more generic manner more often than the specific suffix.

Other Uses of Drung

Drung in Ireland
SOURCE: Google Street View, Drung, Co. Cavan, Ireland; June 2009

I discovered other instances of drung — completely unrelated to the Newfoundlandish usage of course — as I combed through online search engines. Is Newfoundlandish even a word? Regardless, Drung is a civil parish in County Cavan, Ireland. I found nothing about the etymology of Drung in this context and learned nothing else about the civil parish, other than it appeared on a map and it seemed to have a nice pub.

Another Drung appeared in China.

View Larger Map

The Drung (or Derung or Dulong) are one of China’s 56 officially recognized ethnic groups. They are also one of the smallest. They are very difficult to encounter, located in an extremely rugged, mountainous area near the border with Burma/Myanmar: "More than 6,000 members of the Derung nationality live in some of the most isolated terrain in all of China. Ninety percent of the Derung live in the extreme northwestern part of Yunnan Province, along the Dulong River basin in Gongshan County." I had quite a difficult time trying to locate the Dulong River Valley. I can’t say I found the exact spot inhabited by the Drung, however, the map should be pretty close.

I never would have imagined a single word, drung, could mean a narrow lane in Newfoundland, a civil parish in Ireland and an ethnic group in China. I think this demonstrated only that there are a finite number of easily pronounceable single-syllable words to go around. Coincidental repetitions are to be expected, and sometimes with surprising results.

National Surnames

On November 18, 2012 · 4 Comments

I received a query about surnames that were the same as nations. An example might be Captain America, if indeed his first names was actually Captain and his surname was actually America instead of a pseudonym for Steve Rogers, and I guess while we’re at it, if he wasn’t a fictional character in a comic book. Maybe his surname would have to be "United States of America" if we wanted complete accuracy. Anyway, don’t read too much into the example. It’s intended merely to get the point across. Hopefully you now understand the question being asked.

It’s an interesting notion. Perhaps it aligns loosely with general genealogical origins of various peoples too. I turned to the United States Census Bureau’s "Frequently Occurring Surnames from Census 2000." I downloaded the file of surnames occurring 100 or more times.

On a bit of a tangent, naturally I searched for my relatively rare non-geography surname and found it tied for 76,946th place, shared by 232 people along with other obscure surnames such as Bottles, But, Coma, Crummy, Fangmann, Java, Junck, Octave and Tar. Zusi falls at the bottom of the list in case you were wondering, with 100 occurrences and tied for 150,436th place.

Certainly other sources could have been consulted to provide a more international point of view, however I had neither easy access to those sources nor did I want to stitch together a bunch of files. Also I figured the U.S. might serve as a decent proxy at least for the English-speaking world due to it’s large population and immigrant-heavy background. Others should feel free to build upon the data if so inclined.

I looked for every nation and territory listed in the CIA World Factbook. I searched for partial matches like Hong and Kong individually too. I also sought demonyms or gentilics, the names of groups of peoples or the languages they use, such as Russian for Russia. The results are all compiled in a public spreadsheet that everyone should be able to view.

View Larger Map

Saint Martin does best if partial matches are acceptable. Martin is the 17th most common surname in the United States with 672,711 instances in the 2000 Census. I have two quibbles: Saint Martin isn’t a standalone nation (as much as I enjoyed my visit) and it doesn’t carry the same weight as a complete match. King, in spite of all of the various Kingdoms including the UK, seems a little bogus too. Next comes the demonym Scott, followed by Cook for the Cook Islands in free association with New Zealand (named for Captain Cook!). These all lead me to believe that the cleanest, most completely unambiguous and frequent nationalist surname is Jordan.

One should not conclude that Michael Jordan or any of the 197,212 Jordans are necessarily Jordanian. However the surname and the nation do have a common root, an Aramaic/Hebrew word Yarden, “to descend.”

The River Jordan provides a name to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and likely inspires the surname due to its religious significance. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. Its importance is further emphasized by the biblical prominence of the Sea of Galilee, which the River Jordan flows into and out of along its watercourse.

Other candidates follow along further down the list. Holland might be a possibility although it’s just a portion of the Netherlands even though it’s often used synonymously. A couple of great demonyms also appear in this range, the surnames French and English. Let’s set all of those aside.

View Larger Map

The second best exact match also demonstrates biblical roots: King Solomon, son of David. Solomon was described as acquiring immense wealth in shipments from a faraway land called Ophir. Many people over the centuries speculated about the geographic placement of Ophir. The Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira offered his opinion when he stumbled upon a group of island in the South Pacific and named them after Solomon in 1568. Solomon was the 726th most common surname in the United States with 42,839 occurrences. I am sure there are famous people with the surname Solomon although I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

View Larger Map

Third place goes to something non-biblical although still religious in a sense: Ireland. "The modern Irish Éire evolved from the Old Irish word Ériu, which was the name of a Gaelic goddess." I think it’s probably safe to assume that the surname Ireland is more accurately a reflection of the United States’ immigrant roots unlike the other examples where the surname and the nation evolved separately from a common root. There were 14,168 Irelands in the United States including Kathy Ireland, the former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.

Let’s take a quick look at racial and Hispanic origin classifications. I’m sure there aren’t any minefields there, right? Even the Census Bureau walked delicately through the topic in its Explanation of Race and Hispanic Origin Categories that accompanied the 2000 Census:

The race and Hispanic origin categories used by the Census Bureau are mandated by Office of Management and Budget Directive No. 15, which requires all federal record keeping and data presentation to use four race categories (White, Black, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander) and two ethnicity categories (Hispanic, non-Hispanic). These classifications are not intended to be scientific in nature, but are designed to promote consistency in federal record keeping and data presentation.

I will follow the classifications designated in the 2000 Census since I am using its data source with specifically-named fields as mandated by the US government at the point in time of the survey. I know that other name(s) may be preferable in other contexts so please don’t feel you need to leave a comment with a correction. The Census Bureau seems to be saying the same thing in their note.

The highest percentage surname instances by race and Hispanic origin categories, discarding partial matches and demonyms are as follows:

  • 99.67% of people with the surname Romania were white. Swede tied the percentage although that’s a demonym.
  • 93.27% of people with the surname Senegal were black.
  • No nationalist surname correlated closely with American Indian and Alaska Native populations. 53.78% of people with the demonym surname Mexican were American Indian and Alaska Native though.
  • 78.55% of people with the surname Austria were Asian and Pacific Islander (Austria?!?). More logically the demonym Thai was 94.67% though.
  • 96+% of people with the surnames Nicaragua, Guatemala and Jamaica were Hispanic.

The only one that surprised me was Austria. It’s hard to understand why the vast majority of people with the surname Austria classified themselves as Asian and Pacific Islander.

I believe I’ll try this experiment next with state names so if this article didn’t interest you feel free to come back in about a week.

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An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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