Thursday, July 28, 2011

U.S. Place Names in French

As a lifelong student of the French language, I've always appreciated the French names of places in the United States. Some are better known than others, albeit with Americanized pronunciations. One of my favorites is Picketwire. From the French "Purgatoire," Purgatory.

Some other favorites (not including cities and towns named for famous Frenchmen or places in France):

Detroit. (Where the river narrows.)

Des Moines. (Of the monks)

Baton Rouge. (Red stick)

Havre de Grace. (Harbor of Grace)

Mount Desert Island and its sidecar, Isle au Haut. (Island of the deserted mountains; high island.)

And, so verrry French: The Grand Tetons.

Go ahead, take a look at the beauties in this photo and try to convince me that the mountain range was NOT named for the French phrase for large mammaries. Some claim that that interpretation of the origin of the name is "controversial." Too much tittering about it, I guess. I'm not fooled.

What are your favorite French place names in the U.S.?

P.S. By the way. Hey, Wyoming, you wonderful state: how about a little more blog-love? Je vous adore, and not just because I'm envious of the grands tétons.

Images via Wikipedia and Clustrmaps.


TN said...

Eau Claire, WI - near where I was born ;-)

Alison said...

In PA there's DuBois and North Versailles. Here in KY we have Versailles. Of course both are pronounced Ver-sayles, but what are you gonna do? ;)

That's so cool about Picketwire!

Grammy Goodwill said...

Still laughing at this post. I remember when a secondary supervisor told teachers at a conference about the Grand Tetons. Boy, did we gasp! hehehe
I googled and came up with Buena Vista - oh, no, wait - that was Spanish. JK
Botetourt is my favorite because my daughter lives in that county and also because it is sooooooo anglicized. It's pronounced bot-u-tot!

Steve Scottsdale said...

The French played an early role in the history of Wisconsin (the expedition of Marquette & Jolliet). I grew up in Oshkosh, named after an Indian chief. But I always got a kick out of a nearby town located at the south end of Lake Winnebago named Fond du Lac.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

These are great additions. And , um how could I have left out Vermont, the Green Mountain State?

Anonymous said...

Petit Jean mountain and park in Arkansas (it's pronounced like petty gene) is another good one.

and so are the names of two Indian Tribes: the Gros Ventues and the Nez Pierce


Mary B said...

MA also has Quincy (my home town), which was named after Colonel John Quincy, said to be a descendant of the early Earls of Winchester (the de Quincy family), who reportedly originally came, not from Quincy in the Loire valley (which nevertheless produces a nice white wine to the delight of my home town friends), but from the commune of Cuinchy near Lille.

Joan said...

I've always hoped there was a romantic reason they called it Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. But it turns out Alene wasn't some lovely woman, it means "awl". Heart of an awl? Oh well, je m'endormirai moins bête ce soir, as they say!

Anonymous said...

Etoile, Texas

Pronounced "E toil"

Matthieu said...

one day I'l visit Paris Texas !
un lecteur français

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