A study of American geographical and place names reveals some general classes: those embodying personal names, chiefly the surnames of pioneers or of national heroes; those transferred from other and older places, either in the eastern states or in Europe; Indian, Dutch, Spanish, French, German and Scandinavian names; Biblical and mythological names; names descriptive of localities; and names suggested by the local flora, fauna or geology. The names of the first class are perhaps the most numerous. Some consist of surnames standing alone, as Washington, Cleveland, Bismarck, Lafayette, Taylor and Randolph; others are contrived of given names, either alone or in combination, as Louisville, St. Paul, Elizabeth, Johnstown, Charlotte, Williamsburg and Marysville. All our great cities are surrounded by grotesque Bensonhursts, Bryn Joneses, Smithvales and Krauswoods. The number of towns in the United States bearing women´s given names is enormous. Most of these places are small, but there is an Elizabeth with 75,000 population, an Elmira with 40,000, and an Augusta with nearly 45,000. Some place names are very matter-of-fact about natural surroundings. There´s Twin Lakes (in six states), Three Lakes (in two states) and even Mosquito Lake (just in Alaska.)
Dinosaur, Colorado also falls into this what-you-see-is-what-you get category. It really is a place where dinosaurs can be found. Sometimes, American place names draw on natural features that aren´t merely seen with the eyes, but also perceived by the nose and the tongue. Maybe the well water tasted like diluted candy (Sweetwater). Maybe something in the air smelled like rotten eggs (White Suphur Springs).
It´s interesting to note that Americans have named many towns after tastes they prefer in their diets. Americans are obviously inspired by sugar and salt, but have little regard for spiciness. There´s only one Spiceland (Indiana) amid many sweet-somethings. Salt tops sugar in popularity, though, especially if you count towns named Saline or Salineville (six of them) or Salinas (just one in California.) Cities that were named after people also tend to be unimaginatively named. There should have been a limit on the number Smithfields and Smithlands allowed.
There are numerous cities with names that advertise their supposed wealth in coal, lumber, wheat, corn, raisins and prunes, e.g. towns named Enterprise and the much rarer towns named Success. There are plenty of place names that seem eager to flaunt wealth and status. Comparative analysis of onims shows linguistic creativeness of speech patterns. The study of Place Names is often connected with the society, peoples, cognition.
The work was submitted to International Scientific Conference «Modern sociology and education», the United Kingdom (London), 20-27, October, 2012, came to the editorial office on 25.07.2012.