#9 Map: “The Age of Man”

Frederick De Wit’s Double Hemisphere Polar Map, c 1668

According to one of my favorite sources, the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word world comes from the Proto-Germanic wer, meaning “man” (as in werewolf), and ald, meaning “age.” Thus, world can be translated into “The Age of Man.”

And that’s exactly what German cartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Pest call the world in their “Atlas of True Names.”

By “true names,” the pair are referring to the original, literal meanings of place names in English. The atlas, published by the pair’s company, Kalimedia, consists of five maps—Europe, British Isles, Canada, USA, and the World—and includes such places as Boar’s Head Lake (Lake Huron), Children of the Sun (Spokane), Navel of the Moon (Mexico), and Land of the Strong Ones and Land of the Really Strong Ones (Turkey and Turkmenistan).

Others have written about the maps, and most mention the mapmakers’ reference of Middle Earth in Kalimedia’s description:

Once the names have been taken back to their roots and translated into English, it is immediately apparent that our world has an extraordinary affinity with Middle Earth, the mythical continent where the events of Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ are played out.

Middle Earth’s evocative “Midgewater”, “Dead Marshes” and “Mount Doom” are strikingly similar in nature to Europe’s “Swirlwater”, “Darkford” or “Smoky Bay”, as revealed by the Atlas of True Names.

I don’t think that begins to do justice to the wonderfully foreboding literal names of the British Isles. I can easily imagine a group of Hobbits setting out from their shire near Raven Breach in search of Mount Malicious in the Land of Darkness.

The maps can be purchased at Omnimap.com, starting at $9. There’s also a 39″ x 27″ wall poster of the world map available (for $24 at Mapsonline4u).

The map’s authors admit that their translations are not definitive, and they often lean toward more interesting or fanciful options. But each map includes a list of all names with their etymology—so argue away.

All of this makes “The Atlas of True Names” a great conversation starter. And that’s why this set is my newest addition to “8 Maps and Globs That Will Change Your Perspective of the World.”


[photo: “Old Map,” by Enrique Flouret, used under a Creative Commons license]


Passion Fruit and Birds of Paradise, What’s in a Name?

535800103_b7553b4fa4The passion fruit, with its leathery skin, slimy seeds, and great flavor, has always been something exotic (strange?) to me. I used to think that it got its name because people thought that eating it would produce passionate feelings. Wrong kind of passion. I now know that the name comes from the “passion,” or the suffering, of Christ.

When Spanish Jesuit missionaries found the plant in South America, they called it the “passion flower” because they saw in its bloom symbols of Jesus’ crucifixion. Specifically:

  • The 10 petals and sepals of the bloom represent the 10 disciples present at Christ’s crucifixion (the 12 minus Peter and Judas),
  • The fringe inside the flower represents the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head.
  • The five stamens represent  Christ’s wounds (one in each hand and foot and one in his side).
  • The flower’s three styles represent the nails used for the crucifixion.
  • The plant’s tendrils represent the whips used to scourge Jesus.
  • The leaves represent the hands of those who killed Jesus.
  • And the flower’s colors, white and blue, represent purity and the heavens, respectively.

But that’s not all I’ve learned. I lately found out the origin of the name for birds of paradise. Again, I figured they were called that because of their exotic beauty—that would be found in a tropical paradise. Wrong again.

6956272927_479613cc0a_nAn article in a 1906 issue of Birds and Nature (the “only magazine in the world illustrated by color photography”) states that European traders first discovered birds of paradise when they visited islands in southeast Asia—some 300 years earlier—looking for spices. Some natives gave the explorers the dried skins of  birds with beautiful plumage. The locals called the birds “God’s Birds,” and when they killed them, they cut off the legs and feet, burying them under the tree where the birds came from as an offering to heaven.

The dried bodies of the birds were exported as time went on, and as the people of Europe had never seen one alive, but always the skin without legs and feet, they came to consider them as heavenly birds, indeed, formed to float in the air as they dwelt in the Garden of Eden, resting occasionally by suspending themselves from the branches of trees by the feathers of their tails, and feeding on air, or the soft dews of heaven. Hence they called [them] the Birds of Paradise.

Those Europeans with their creativity and imaginations.

So what’s in a name? Obviously, a lot more than I thought.

(Robert E. Paull and Odilio Duarte, Tropical Fruits, Volume 2, Cambridge, MA: CABI, 2012, p 168; “The Kingbird of Paradise,” Birds and Nature, October 1906, p 92)

[photos: “Passion Flower,” by kuribo, used under a Creative Commons license; and “n7_w1150,” by Biodiversity Heritage Library, used under a Creative Commons license]

Conversation: noun, “a turning with”

Steve Smith, author of The Jesus Life and co-founder of Potter’s Inn, recently wrote in his blog,

[I]n the course of life’s seasons, we need to have spiritual conversations with people who are good listeners. Let me be clear here, most people are not good listeners. They listen for facts not feelings. They listen for what they hope to hear. They listen when it may not cost them something.

A spiritual conversation is a reciprocal dialogue between two people where thoughts, opinions and feelings are shared and received. It’s two-way. Not one way.

People who have gone through major transitions—and others who have encountered loss—need good listeners. But what is necessary to be someone who listens well, to be someone who nurtures spiritual conversations? How about compassion and empathy and comfort?

Following is a list of words that I associate with good listeners. We all know what the words mean, but we’ve become fairly complacent in using them. Therefore, as a way to jumpstart our thinking and to help us do a better job of living them out, I’m pairing them with the literal meanings from their origins (with the help of the  Online Etymology Dictionary and other resources). My intent is not to “correct” their modern definitions but simply to give depth to what we already know.

For instance, today a companion is a friend or partner. But the word companion is formed from two parts that originally meant “with” and “bread.” So a companion was someone who shared a meal with another. Even now we understand the link between sharing food and sharing our hearts. Here’s what Smith says about companionship:

I wrote in The Jesus Life that spiritual conversations take place at the table where we eat our meals. . . . It’s never an intent when you ask someone for lunch–to share protein, carbs and water with someone. No, when you ask someone for lunch, you’re really meaning, “Hey, let’s get together so we can share what’s been going on in our lives. It’s been too long. How about next Tuesday at noon at the deli?”  That’s the stuff of conversations where hearts connect and souls meet and people who are lonely become spiritual companions.

Now, here’s the rest of my list:

acknowledge: “to admit understanding or knowing”
from a blending of Old English on, “into,” and cnawan, “recognize,” with Middle English knowlechen “admit”

affirm: “to strengthen”
from Latin ad, “to,” plus firmare, “make firm”

advocate: “someone called to help or plead”
Latin ad plus vocare, for “to” and “to call”

comfort: “to strengthen much”
Late Latin com, “very,” and fortis, “strong”

commiserate: “to lament with”
from Latin com, “with,” and miserari, “to feel pity”

communicate: “to make common”
from Latin commun, “common,” plus the verb suffix icare

companion: “eating partner”
Latin com, “with,” and panis, “bread, food”

compassion: “a suffering with”
Latin com and pati, meaning “with” and “to suffer”

concern: “a sifting” or “comprehension”
from Latin com, “with,” and cernere, “to sift”

confide: “to trust strongly”
Latin com plus fidere, meaning “very” and “to trust”

console: “to give much comfort or solace”
from Latin com, “very,” and solari, “to comfort”

contact: “to touch with”
from Latin com, “together,” and tangere, “to touch”

conversation: “a turning with”
Latin com, meaning “with,” and vertare, meaning “turn about”

empathy: “a feeling in”
Greek en and pathos, meaning “in” and “feeling”

encourage: “to add heart or bravery”
Old French en, “make, put in,” and corage, “heart, innermost feelings”

sympathy: “a feeling together”
Greek syn, “together,” plus pathos, “feeling”

understand: “to stand in the midst of”
Old English under, “between, among,” plus stand

May we better understand these ideas and, in so doing, better understand each other. May we put them into practice. May we all become better companions . . . and better listeners.

(“Steve Smith, “The Power of a Spiritual Conversation,” Steve and Gwen Smith, September 26, 2012)

[photo: “61098,” by Drew Herron, used under a Creative Commons license]