In an age of Google Maps, satellites and smartphones, the names of locations matter less than they once did. But those names can confer history, occupation and purpose. Boise's name comes from the French phrase "les bois," which translates to "the woods," denoting the green ribbon of trees along the banks of the Boise River.
Thanks to the Atlas of True Names, created by cartographers and steely eyed literalists Stephan Hormes and Silke Peust, you can now peruse the etymological roots of 3,000 cities, countries, rivers, oceans and mountain ranges on five maps: the world, Europe, the British Isles, Canada and the United States.
On the American map, the mess of Native American, Spanish and Germanic names have been translated into plain English, breathing new life into old appellations.
Idaho is elegantly rendered as "Light on The Mountains," while the eloquence of Illinois is honored as the "Land of Those Who Speak Normally," which sort of makes up for the fact that Chicago translates to "Stink Onions." Texas means "Land of Friends," and across the border is "Navel of the Moon," aka Mexico.
The Atlas costs $9 for a 16-inch by 22-inch folded edition one might stash in a glove box, $19.99 for a 28-inch by 40-inch rolled copy and $29.99 for a laminated 28-inch by 40-inch edition. All three of the U.S. maps have 535 translated locations, as well as an explanatory index.