Upstart Eclipses Namesake

On January 9, 2014 · 10 Comments

When I think of "New" places I tend to fuse together the full placenames mentally into a single phrase and begin to overlook the separate elements. I don’t forget completely that earlier entities inspired newer ones, although I mostly overlook the original namesake within the larger string. For example, if I considered Orléans in France it would have meaning to me and conjure a specific image, as would the city of New Orleans in Louisiana. However, France’s Orléans wouldn’t come to mind particularly when I thought of New Orleans USA, even it it provided the bulk of the latter’s placename.

Oftentimes settlers tacked New onto very significant placenames, bestowing a little piece from their homeland onto frontier backwaters. London was and continues to be an extremely important city. Nobody would try to argue rationally that London in the UK doesn’t dwarf in size, reputation and importance the city of New London in Connecticut, USA. That’s not intended to disparage New London, of course. It merely points out the obvious, that New London, well, it doesn’t have the worldwide recognition or relevance of London. Other times, however, the New location managed to grow in significance over decades or centuries to a point where it actually began to overshadow and eventually surpassed its namesake.

I recognize that this so-called eclipsing might be culturally, geographically or individually bound. Going back to the New Orleans example I mentioned a moment ago, in my mind New Orleans has eclipsed Orléans. However I’ve spent a lifetime in the United States, I’ve been to New Orleans numerous times both for family and business reasons, and Hurricane Katrina had a direct impact on some of my immediate family. Thus, New Orleans figures quite prominently in my consciousness. Would a Frenchman concede that La Nouvelle-Orléans had eclipsed Orléans? Probably not. Let’s bear that in mind as I offer a few examples. All of them are subjective. Some may even seem ridiculous to those with different perspectives.


New Zealand



Zeeland, The Netherlands

New Zealand derived its name from Zeeland in the Netherlands. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman received credit as the first European to spot the islands in the 1640’s. Dutch cartographers later applied the name Nova Zeelandia / Nieuw Zeeland. This was later anglicized to New Zealand and became the name of a nation to its English-speaking inhabitants.

Zeeland is a province in the southwest corner of The Netherlands with fewer than four hundred thousand residents. New Zealand, on the other hand, became a well-known sovereign state with more than ten times that population. This, to me, seemed to fit the definition of an upstart eclipsing its namesake.

As an aside, sometimes Zeeland in The Netherlands gets confused with Zealand in Denmark, which is the well-populated island that includes Copenhagen. New Zealand was named for the former, not the latter.


New South Wales



South Wales, UK

One should credit Captain James Cook with naming what eventually became the Australian state of New South Wales. That seemed only fair since 12MC discussed places that were named for Capt. Cook previously. The Preface to "Captain Cook’s Journal during his first voyage round the world made in H.M. Bark ‘Endeavour’ 1768-71," which was a literal transcription of his original journal, noted:

The name, “New South Wales,” was not bestowed without much consideration, and apparently at one stage New Wales was the appellation fixed upon, for in Mr. Corner’s copy it is so called throughout, whereas the Admiralty copy has “New South Wales.”

Had the New Wales label stuck instead of New South Wales, I’d have a hard time concluding that it had eclipsed Wales, even with Sydney included as part of the upstart state. I think I’d probably give the nod to Wales in that instance. However, because the upstart referenced only one portion of Wales (albeit the one including Cardiff, Swansea and Newport) I’d have to say in my mind that New South Wales had trumped South Wales.

Nobody was quite sure why Cook recognized South Wales specifically from what I could find in my limited research.


New Guinea



Gulf of Guinea

This one will take some explanation. I began with the original Guinea, that derived "directly from the Portuguese word Guiné, which emerged in the mid-15th century to refer to the lands inhabited by the Guineus, a generic term for the black African peoples below the Senegal River." New Guinea on the other hand is the second largest island after Greenland, shared by the nation of Papua New Guinea and a portion of Indonesia.

Certainly there are many other places and things named for ancient Guinea: the African nations of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea came to mind, along with the Bay of Guinea and all of them within proximity of the original Guinea. There are even Guineafowl and Guinea Pigs named for the same place (even though Guinea Pigs were native to South America). I wouldn’t suggest that New Guinea should eclipse the collective set of current Guineas, only that it eclipsed ancient Guinea since the original place was a general, amorphous 15th Century geographic construct anyway. Many of the other Guineas mentioned may have eclipsed that older place as well. Well, maybe not Guineafowl. Guinea Pig probably has, though.


How about going back to the USA for some other examples?

Sure. Here are my thoughts:

  • New York has eclipsed York
  • New Jersey has eclipsed Jersey
  • New Hampshire and Hampshire are probably a toss-up with people on respective sides of the Atlantic likely viewing it differently
  • New Mexico has NOT eclipsed Mexico
  • New England has NOT eclipsed England

Agreements, dissenting opinions and additional examples are all welcome.

On January 9, 2014 · 10 Comments

10 Responses to “Upstart Eclipses Namesake”

  1. Philip Sites says:

    I’ll toss a hat into the ring for the Canucks. I’d argue the province of New Brunswick has surpassed its namesake – the German city of Braunschweig – in popular knowledge.

  2. KCJeff says:

    I’m willing to go out on a limb and state from my perspective that Newfoundland has surpassed Foundland!

  3. Alex says:

    I think New south Wales and New Jersey are probably other subjective ones for cross pond thoughts as well. Most people over here wouldn’t really associate Sydney with New South Wales (instead separating it out as a general image of Australia) and wouldn’t have the foggiest what New South Wales is like, probably thinking of coal mines and sheep (which admittedly isn’t the worst thing to think of).

    As for Jersey, even with Jersey shore most people would think of the state as little more than an extension of the New York Metropolitan Area whereas the island of Jersey is frequently advertised on TV as being ‘like Britain, but sunnier’.

    I think it comes down to media attention a lot.

  4. Peter says:

    New York shouldn’t be on the list. It was named not after the British city, but after the Duke of York.

  5. Michael says:

    Perhaps the “South” in New South Wales refers to its position south of the Equator?

  6. Calgully says:

    For me, New Jersey has definitely not surpassed Jersey, but New South Wales has completely eclipsed South Wales. These are probably both good examples of ones proximity to the new place influencing perception.

  7. Bill Harris says:

    What about New Caledonia/Caledonia(not that either place is on many people’s radars.)? New Caledonia was derived from the Latin name for what we call Scotland; does anyone refer to it as Caledonia today? New Caledonia is mostly known for serving as a key American naval base during World War II (and the setting for the wacky high-jinx of the sailors of “McHale’s Navy”).

  8. Rhodent says:

    Two examples in other languages come immediately to mind: Nova Scotia and Nuevo Laredo. In the case of Nuevo Laredo, it’s about half again as large as its “Old” namesake, but since said namesake is just across the river, I’m not sure I’d say it has truly overshadowed it. As for Nova Scotia, it clearly has not eclipsed its namesake (which some people might be surprised to learn is Ireland, not Scotland).

    And then there’s New Delhi, where it’s kind of hard to say. As best as I can determine (and I freely admit I could be off base here), there are five different Delhis. First, there is the National Capital District of Delhi. NCDD is composed of three statutory towns: New Delhi, Delhi, and Delhi Cantonment. In addition to these, there is “Old Delhi”, the oldest part of Delhi. Delhi is by far the largest of the three towns, but since New Delhi is the capital, one could argue as to whether New Delhi has eclipsed Delhi.

    • Joel says:

      Do you have a source for “Nova Scotia = New Ireland”?

      Everything I’ve found confirms the intuitive “New Scotland” etymology.

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