Monday, April 27, 2009


Early settlers of the northeastern states must have been either homesick or very uninventive: they moved from England to New England, and named their settlements Boston, Cambridge, Dedham, Canton, and Milton, all old England towns they left behind. It's amazing many of these names survive, given the War of Independence -- wouldn't you think the victors would have renamed things like the Charles river, given the associations? It's the Saint Petersburg-Leningrad effect, or the reversion of Anglophone names like Bombay to the original Mumbai. None of this took hold in the former English colonies.

Sherborne in Dorset, England is a sleepy, picture-perfect village. Sherborn, MA was originally Boggastow, the native American name for the Charles. Today it's a leafy, wealthy suburb of Boston. And in June, it'll be my new home. I'm moving from Natick, named for the native American tribe of the area, the so-called Praying Indians. I have a Natick dictionary at home, transliterated from the Eliot Bible that was translated to the native language. There's a wonderful 1930s mural in the town Post Office showing the terrible persecution the Natick Indians endured. American history may be short, but it's complex.

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