Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Trivia 3

Words that derive from place names are omnipresent in English, with varying degrees of transparency. Bikinis are named after the Bikini Atoll, from an analogy between the atomic bomb tests there and the explosive effect the swimsuit can have on a man's libido. Bungalows are Bengalese, Damask is from Damascus; spas, tuxedos, and coaches all have corresponding spots on the map; Bohemians, Lesbians, Siamese twins; the list goes on.

Food and drink are obviously a huge part of this group: frankfurters, wieners, and hamburgers; kiwis, sardines, and martinis; an immense selection of cheese and wine. Some are oddly intertwined, like port wine, which comes from the city of Oporto in Portugal, which comes from o porto, "the port." (Interestingly, Portugal derives from the same city's Roman name, Portus Cale, and, of course, these all trace back to Latin portus.) And a special part of the lexicon is devoted to England's old neighbor across the channel, with French cities and regions giving us Dijon mustard, champagne, cognac, and many more.

So, your trivia question today concerns words that come from place names. A few weeks ago, the trivia question was about etymological redundancies. Today's answer is the opposite: an etymological oxymoron, a phrase in which each part's source contradicts the other.

Name a common two-word phrase in which each word derives from a different place name.

(If you're stuck, this list might help.)


  1. Roman bath. I don't know if bath is actually derived from the name of the english city though, it probably isn't.

  2. here's one though! bologna (baloney) sandwich. boom. roasted.

  3. Bologna sandwich is absolutely excellent. But it's not the one I was thinking of.