H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
Chicago, Kennebec, Patuxent and Kalamazoo give a barbaric brilliancy to the American map. Only the map of Australia can match it.
The settlement of the American continent, once the eastern coast ranges were crossed, proceeded with unparalleled speed, and so the naming of the new rivers, lakes, peaks and valleys, and of the new towns and districts no less, strained the inventiveness of the pioneers. The result is the vast duplication of names that shows itself in the Postal Guide. No less than eighteen imitative Bostons and New Bostons still appear, and there are nineteen Bristols, twenty-eight Newports, and twenty-two Londons and New Londons. Argonauts starting out from an older settlement on the coast would take its name with them, and so we find Philadelphias in Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, Richmonds in Iowa, Kansas and nine other western states, and Princetons in fifteen. Even when a new name was hit upon it seems to have been hit upon simultaneously by scores of scattered bands of settlers; thus we find the whole land bespattered with Washingtons, Lafayettes, Jeffersons and Jacksons, and with names suggested by common and obvious natural objects, e. g., Bear Creek, Bald Knob and Buffalo. The Geographic Board, in its fourth report, made a belated protest against this excessive duplication. The names Elk, Beaver, Cottonwood and Bald, it said, are altogether too numerous. Of postoffices alone there are fully a hundred embodying Elk; counting in rivers, lakes, creeks, mountains and valleys, the map of the United States probably shows at least twice as many such names.
A study of American geographical and place names reveals eight general classes, as follows: (a) those embodying personal names, chiefly the surnames of pioneers or of national heroes; (b) those transferred from other and older places, either in the eastern states or in Europe; (c) Indian names; (d) Dutch, Spanish, French, German and Scandinavian names; (e) Biblical and mythological names; (f) names descriptive of localities; (g) names suggested by the local flora, fauna or geology; (h) purely fanciful names. 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 consist of surnames in combination