As the title of this slight but engaging treatise on the politics of place names indicates, a sufficiently detailed gazetteer offers plenty of material to rile up minorities, feminists and persons of refined sensibility. Geographer Monmonier (Spying with Maps) gets a lot of mileage out of typing provocative words into a U.S. Geological Survey database and picking through the resulting ethnic slurs, body parts and scatological imprecations. The Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast states, with their ripe mining-camp history, offer up the most offensive place names, but even staid Newfoundland has a village named Dildo situated next to Spread Eagle Bay. The author delves into the efforts of the Federal Government's Board on Geographic Names to sanitize uncouth toponyms, a task that requires delicate attention to racial and cultural sensitivities, often complicated by cries of political correctness from citizens proud of their off-color local landmarks. He goes on to examine the politics of map names in conflict zones like Cyprus and Israel and ongoing scientific and international squabbles over naming features of Antarctica, the ocean floor and the Moon. Although general readers will find much of the procedural and bureaucratic details of official place-naming arcane, they will enjoy a trove of giggle-inducing lore. Photos.
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"Engaging...a trove of giggle-inducing lore."
"Why did India block distribution of an updated version of Microsoft's Windows 95? Is it Mount McKinley or Mount Denali, Hawaii or Hawai'i? Monmonier (geography, Syracuse Univ.; Spying with Maps) answers these questions and more as he reveals in a nontechnical manner the impact of governmental policy and political correctness upon modern cartography. The reader is introduced to the agencies responsible for proposing and approving name changes and spellings, among them the U.S. Board of Geographic Names (BGN) and the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN). The first four chapters explore recent attempts to find acceptable replacements for place names, primarily in the United States, containing pejorative ethnic or risqué terms (as in the book's title). One chapter is devoted to the movement to restore indigenous forms and spellings (as in Mount Denali). The remainder of the book examines international disputes over Kashmir, the Sea of Japan, and the more ominous use of maps with nameschanged to "erase" the presence of displaced populations (e.g., the disappearance of Greek names for villages in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and similarly of Palestinian village names on Israeli maps). An amusing, informative, and topical study of the contentious issue of place names, this is recommended for public and academic libraries."
"An entertaining and enlightening excursion"
(Micheal Kenney Boston Globe
"[An] excellent book. . . . [Mark Monmonier] is an able populariser of academic geography, and an expert guide to the bureaucratic, legal and political hierarchies that determine how places acquire, change and lose their names."
"Fascinating. . . . The book will interest anyone who has ever wondered how place names have come to be established by locals, and then come to endure on maps—at least until the advance of political correctness."
(Susan Gole Times Higher Education Supplement
"A funny book...What Monmonier provides is a running commentary on 'risqué toponyms' and the attempts to censor them by disapproving authorities – frequently protested or prevented by locals who’d learnt to love living in, for example, Intercourse, Pennsylvania, or Wee Wee Hill in Indiana."
(Phillip Adams The Australian
"Mark Monmonier's boyishly infectious history of (principally American) toponyms maps out the sexism, racism and imperialism through which we have come to know our landscapes.... Mark Monmonier's book shows that maps are no more neutral than any other record of human construction."
(Simon Reid-Henry Times Literary Supplement
"Monmonier's [book] will appeal to anyone who wants to know the genesis of place names and how controversial they can be...From Sqauw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow can be revisited and enjoyed for many years, and would there therefore make [an] excellent gift."
(Jeff Bursey Books in Canada
"Monmonier carefully simplifies the bureaucratic jargon and processes to craft a study both accessible and entertaining to scholars and the general public alike. His work is a compelling analysis of how cultures claim the spaces they occupy."
(Anthony J. Stanonis Canadian Journal of History
"Compelling, thought provoking and always informative, Monmonier's From Squaw Tit . . . is an essential guide to toponymy's most dangerous regions."
(Robert Julyan Imago Mundi
"A useful book that belongs on the shelf of anyone with an interest in cartographic issues. It is also a pleasant Sunday read, so long as you don't read it in church with its prominently-titled dust cover."
(Technology and Culture
"A fine discussion not only of the art of making maps to modern times but of the power of names to, as [the author] says, show imperial claims and inflame minorities. . . . If place names interest you as showing human history and progress, or lack thereof, this must be on your reference shelf. The modest price enables you to give one or more as gifts to cartographic fans."
(Dee Longenbaugh IMCoS Journal