Duck

On July 20, 2017 · 1 Comments

Several years ago, and I don’t recall exactly when, I wrote an entire Twelve Mile Circle article without using a single Google tool. I found it incredibly frustrating, nearly impossible. The article got buried somewhere in the archive and I don’t remember the title. Just trust me. I didn’t enjoy it. Apparently I didn’t learn my lesson that first time so I decided to try it again.

I don’t mind Google in general and I’m not trying to bash it. However, my 12MC investigations do produce some rather mistargeted advertisements because of my unusual search patterns. As an example, I’m currently getting lots of ads for "Official Detroit Red Wings Apparel," no doubt because of King Boring and the Detroit Gems. I’ll never purchase any of that stuff. Those advertisements are completely wasted on me. Google’s all-knowing algorithm thinks differently.

Well, as I considered the situation further, the DuckDuckGo search engine seemed to be improving. It also famously didn’t track its users. Maybe I could repeat my "Google avoidance" experiment. Let’s give it a try, shall we?

Duck


Duck, North Carolina - 2010 - 09
Duck, North Carolina – 2010. Photo by sugargliding on Flickr (cc)

The Town of Duck in North Carolina sat at the northern end of the Outer Banks, snuggled up against Virginia (map). Lots of people I know owned vacation homes there. Middle class people could afford these homes by renting them out for most of the summer. They’d enjoyed their beach homes for a couple of weeks during prime season and then anytime at all during the off-season. That model didn’t really work for me though. I liked to wander and count counties. Even so I drove to the Outer Banks in 2012 and enjoyed it just fine. I could see why people might want a second home in Duck if they preferred to relax on a beach.

Duck didn’t have much of a history because it’s only existed as a town since 2002. Prior to that it wasn’t much more than a strand of houses along the ocean. The population ebbed and flowed in the predictable manner too. A few hundred people lived there year round, to be joined by twenty thousand other folks between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Some of us living on the eastern side of the United States might have heard about Duck for another reason. A little shop called Duck Donuts began there and has been spreading regionally. It’s always funny to see a Duck Donuts shop when it’s disconnected from the geographic source of its name. I imagined a donut literally made from a duck. Nonetheless, the shop simply carried the name of its hometown on the Outer Banks as it expanded.


Duck


Duck, West Virginia 25063
Duck, West Virginia 25063. Photo by Jimmy Emerson, DVM on Flickr (cc)

Duck also existed considerably inland, in the rugged interior of West Virginia (map). Wikipedia considered the origin of the name "obscure." Come on, someone saw a duck and named the town. Mystery solved.

Whoever founded the hamlet chose a scenic spot along the Elk River on the border between Clay and Braxton Counties. In this place, "rugged, laurel-covered hollows dart back from the narrow river valley, and level land is at a premium." It didn’t have much else in the way of significance although it qualified for its own post office. That counted for something. The Elk River continued onward past Duck on its way to the Kanawha River, then into the Ohio and Mississippi, towards the Gulf of Mexico. Elk and Duck. They liked animals and they kept it simple.

Duck had a better name than another community nearby called Booger Hole. On the other hand, Booger Hole had a better story, considering the murder spree that happened there about a hundred years ago.


Go



Go, Ghana

I found only a single Go, a small village in Ghana. GeoNames provided its exact location and offered multiple name variations: "Go, Gogo, Goo Abokobisi." The spot fell at the very northern extreme of Ghana, nearly all the way up to Burkina Faso. Other than that, Go seemed to leave behind few digital traces anywhere on the Intertubes. I ran it through DuckDuckGo and the first two recommendations involved the band Goo Goo Dolls. It also suggested its rival, Google. D’oh!

Vietnam provided some possibilities albeit not for Go as a standalone name. Go appeared frequently either as a prefix or as a suffix, with various accent marks above the letter "o." None of them seemed particularly remarkable.


Panaji, Goa , India
Panaji, Goa, India. Photo by Dan Searle on Flickr (cc)

Results improved dramatically with the addition of a single letter, creating Goa (map). Nearly 1.5 million people lived in this smallest and wealthiest of Indian states. The Portuguese ruled Goa for four and a half centuries. Then an independent India siezed Goa with force in 1961. Later Goa became its own Indian state in 1987. Its economy depended on tourism, especially for its Portuguese influences and its amazing beaches on the Arabian Sea.


The Verdict

I found it a lot easier to research a 12MC article without using Google this time. DuckDuckGo could probably substitute for Google’s search capabilities. It came surprisingly close to replicating its functionality. However I found it difficult to replace many of Google’s other services. There were parts of this article where I desperately wanted to turn to Google Maps, Books, and Translate. Google’s YouTube video capability would have come in handy too.

I guess I’ll live with Detroit Red Wing advertisements for awhile longer.

Triangle

On November 17, 2016 · 3 Comments

With a name like Triangle, I expected some actual triangles. I pondered that possibility as I sat on Interstate 95 during heavy weekend traffic, returning from an overnight trip to Richmond. I found plenty of time to consider that notion too as I traveled through Triangle on the interminably slow route on a notoriously congested highway.


National Museum of the Marine Corps
National Museum of the Marine Corps. My own photo.

In truth, I already knew about Triangle although I never thought about its name before. It stood just beyond the gates of Marine Corps Base Quantico. The Marines built a wonderful museum bordering Triangle that I visited a couple of years ago. I guessed Triangle must have been roughly triangular. That seemed to be the case when I checked later (map). No online source confirmed it definitively, though. The source of this triangle remained a mystery.


Research Triangle Park, North Carolina



That didn’t keep me from finding other triangles. A famous one sat just one state farther south at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The triangle in question referenced three local cities anchored by three major universities: Raleigh (North Carolina State University), Durham (Duke University) and Chapel Hill (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The state government, local governments, the universities and private interests banded together in the 1950’s to create a research-friendly area managed by a non-profit organization. Their foresight worked spectacularly.

Today, we share our home with more than 200 companies and over 50,000 people with expertise in fields such as micro-electronics, telecommunications, biotechnology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and environmental sciences. Industries invest more than $296 million in R&D at the region’s universities each year – double the average R&D investment for innovation clusters elsewhere in the nation.

Identifying triangles only got more difficult from there.


Junction Triangle, Ontario, Canada


Junction Triangle map
Junction Triangle map on Wikimedia Commons (cc)

Canada offered a recent example with Junction Triangle. It didn’t have much of a name nor much of a presence during most of its history, an isolated parcel on the western side of Toronto. Industry clustered there, and then so did immigrants that worked in the factories through much of the 20th Century. They came from places like Italy and Poland, and later from Portugal. The Portuguese came in such great abundance that soon they dominated the area. Factories declined precipitously and so did the neighbourhood as the century came to an end. However, conditions changed once again in recent years as young professionals began to covet its inexpensive, conveniently-located housing. The neighbourhood needed a fancy new name to match its changing fortune. A contest in 2010 resulted in hundreds of suggestions. The name Junction Triangle (map) won after officials tallied the votes.

Why Junction Triangle? Railroads hemmed the neighbourhood in on three well-defined sides. They formed a fairly decent approximation of a triangle.


Triangle, Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Sugar Cane Train. Photo by Ulrika on Flickr (cc)

Teasing out the triangle in Triangle, Zimbabwe took a great deal more effort (map). Nothing of roughly triangular shape could be discerned anywhere on the nearby landscape. The town existed solely to service a collocated sugar refinery operated by an agricultural conglomerate, Tongaat Hulett Sugar. It processed up to sixty thousand tonnes of white sugar per year along with related products such as molasses and fuel-grade alcohol. Sugar cane was grown there since the 1930’s on a large property called the Triangle Plantation. Logically, the name of the town derived from the name of the plantation.

I discovered the source of the plantation’s name from Murray MacDougall and the Story of Triangle. Murray MacDougall was a fixture in the area and was primarily responsible for developing the sugar industry there.

They named the property Triangle after the registered cattle brand which Mac purchased from a fellow farmer named Van Niekerk, as the poor chap was going out of business and had a very simple brand which almost defied alteration in a period when rustling and brand-changing was not uncommon. For a few pounds Mac purchased both the registered brand itself, in the shape of a simple triangle, and the branding irons to go with it.

MacDougall followed a number of agricultural pursuits including ranching before striking success with sugar. He used the name of the brand that he purchased for his property and retained the name as his enterprise grew.

Noble Layers

On September 11, 2016 · Comments Off on Noble Layers

Washington State provided a nice example of presidential layering down to a county, a community and ultimately to a body of water. I couldn’t find any better example. However, I wondered whether I might be able to do something similar on a different tack. Many eastern states reflected another set of leaders, the noble men and women who ruled the mother homeland as the North American colonies arose.

Potentially, it might be an easier investigation too. Several states gained their names from nobility. These included Delaware (Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr), Georgia (King George II), Louisiana (Louis XIV of France), Maryland (Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I), New York (Duke of York, later King James II of England), Virginia (Elizabeth I of England, the Virgin Queen) and West Virginia (also Elizabeth I). I checked them all. The best example I could find came from the Carolinas, from North Carolina specifically (map).

North Carolina


North Carolina State Capitol
North Carolina State Capitol. Photo by Bill Dickinson on Flickr (cc)

North and South Carolina derived their names from the same monarch, King Charles II. I consulted one of my favorite sources, the Online Etymology Dictionary. It explained that the name Charles began as Karl in Middle High German, meaning "man" or "husband." In Medieval Latin this became Carolus, then Charles in French and then English adopted it. Early explorers and settlers used the Medieval Latin variant when naming the Carolina colonies.


Mecklenburg County


Mecklenburg County Court House
Mecklenburg County Court House. Photo by Jimmy Emerson, DVM on Flickr (cc)

Naturally, noble names extended downward to the county level although not necessarily in recognition of a reigning monarch. North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County (map) offered an excellent example. This county grew in importance in recent decades as a financial and banking center, recently achieving a population of more than a million residents. However it began humbly on the Piedmont frontier, carved from an earlier existing county. Mecklenburg recognized Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who married King George III just before the county formed.

Charlotte seemed an odd choice as a wife for one of the most powerful men in the world. She came from a minor German duchy far removed from Europe’s powerful families and she spoke no English. Royal Central explained,

As a young woman, Charlotte received a very meager education, and what few opinions she had, she kept to herself. This quality of hers appealed to the young King George III, who desired a wife who had no experience of power politics and party intrigue.

George III married his German fiancée site unseen. She undertook the journey from her home duchy and the marriage took place six hours after she arrived at St. James’s Palace in London. That’s how they did things in royal circles back in the day with those arranged marriages. It was more important for George to start expanding his royal lineage than worry about niceties like getting to know his prospective bride. Apparently they got to know each other pretty well because Charlotte bore fifteen little princes and princesses.


Charlotte


Charlotte skyline
Charlotte skyline. Photo by James Willamor on Flickr (cc)

I cheated a little. I already understood that the city of Charlotte (map) in Mecklenburg County also got its name from Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. That little peculiarity served as a minor footnote in an earlier Twelve Mile Circle article, Ten Seats in North Carolina. A better example would avoid repetition, however I didn’t find any of those. Maybe someone in the audience can enlighten us with a different set of layering.

It surprised me that the places named Charlotte and Mecklenburg survived the Revolutionary War. The county formed in 1762 and the city in 1768, just a few years before the United States declared its independence. The Revolutionaries hated King George III and everything he represented. They had a perfect opportunity to dump his wife’s name and yet it persisted.


Albemarle Road



Albemarle Road

Then I started stretching the layers, maybe past their natural breaking points on North Carolina’s Highway 27. NC 27 "has had a tumultuous history through Charlotte. It has always served as a major east–west route through the city, but it has been rerouted numerous times on different city streets as traffic patterns changed." Since 1924, the route included Albemarle Road. Various Dukes and Earls of Albemarle existed as a peerage of England and the name reflected in several places on the colonial landscape.

The most significant usage in North Carolina happened on the body of water separating its string of barrier islands from the mainland. It became Albemarle Sound. This recognized George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle. I found no evidence although I suspected Albemarle Road derived its name from Albemarle Sound. Even if it didn’t it must have come somehow from the extended family of Albemarle nobility. An odd name like Albemarle wouldn’t crop up completely by chance.


Albemarle Road Park & Recreation Center



Albemarle Road Playground

I carried the layering ever more tenuously to the Albemarle Road Playground. It seemed to be a nice place. The city of Charlotte described it as 21 acres of "picnic shelter, playground, recreation center and multi-purpose field." However, I noticed it didn’t abut Albemarle Road. On the other hand it did seem contiguous with Albemarle Road Elementary School and Albemarle Road Middle School. They sat at the end of an access road that did in fact connect to Albemarle Road.

Thus, North Carolina contained a county of Mecklenburg with a city of Charlotte bisected by Albemarle Road featuring an Albemarle School complex and a playground.

Can anyone do better? I didn’t check Canadian provinces. That could be a possibility.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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