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Blog

Naming Edmonton: A Method for Classifying Edmonton Place Names

Matthew Dance

Update

We have geo-coded all of the names in the dataset! Thank-you to those who have contributed time and effort to make that happen!

Background

One of my desired outcomes in the Naming Edmonton Project is to classify all of Edmonton's place names based on origin (i.e. where did the name come from) and gender (if applicable). My hypothesis is that the vast majority of Edmonton's place names are British and if gendered, are male. I'd like to test that hypothesis and quantify the numbers; (1) the percentage of place names from the UK as compared to other locations, and; (2) the number of places that are named with a person's name, and the gender of that name.

But to test this hypothesis, I need a Naming Edmonton dataset that has been classified. And this is where you come in. I have developed the following method for name classification after consulting some naming literature and talking with Alberta's Geographical Names Program and an urban geography professor at the University of Alberta (Dr. Damian Collins). The intent of this method is to be rigorous so that we can create a defensible dataset.

What to do?

The Classifications

The place name is to be classified into 3 categories:

1. Name Origin (from Alberta Geographical Names Program):

Name Origins can be one of these:

Commemorative (A name, such as Alexander Thiele Park; or a feature such as a Castle in Castle Downs)

Land Feature

Botanical (i.e. Wolf Willow or Aldergrove)

Royal (Kingsway, Queen Alexander, Alberta)

Other or Unknown

The name origins are usually found in the description of the place, for instance, "Alexander Harold Thiele (1920-1981) was an Edmonton lawyer ...". 

2. Cultural Affiliation: Where did the feature or name from 1. above come from? This is the complicated part. I address how to check for cultural affiliation in the method below.

3. Gender: Gender can be defined as Male, Male and Female, Female or N/A. I describe how to assess this in the method below.

The Method (I have an example below)

1. You will need spreadsheet software to work on this - Excel, Numbers, etc. 

Please download a 'letter' from here - be sure to check the comments below to make sure you are not duplicating someone else's work (I have removed all data from these spreadsheets except the place name and description- don't worry, the geocoding has been saved). Please leave a comment below that you have downloaded and are working on that letter as we don't need to duplicate the effort.

2. Have a look in the description. Please look for clues or an explicit statement as to the name origin. Fill out the Name Origins column based on the details found in the description. Please also correct any spelling mistakes.

3. Look up the Edmonton place name in the Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names (here). Not all names can be found here, and if not Google the name such as 'Thiele Surname Origins', or ' Thiele Surname Origins Wiki'. From that determine where the name originated and fill in the 'Cultural Affiliation' column. For instance, the surname of Thiele is German, so the 'Cultural Affiliation' is German.

4. If it's a botanical or land feature name (i.e. Forest Heights or Wolf Willow), not found in the Oxford, attribute it to Canada - local flora, fauna, or land feature. 

5. If it is a FNMI name that has been transliterated to English, such as Blue Quill, indicate the 'Cultural Affiliation' as FN. 

6. Google it to see if there are any hits. For instance, Quesnel - I thought was a FNMI name is actually the name of a French explorer born in Montreal, after his father (Joseph) who was born in France. 'Cultural Affiliation' would then be French.

7. Finally, if the named place is a proper person's name, document the 'Gender' in the appropriate column. For the gender, please indicate one of the following: Male; Female; Male and Female; Not Applicable (N/A).

8. Save your work and email the document to me - matt@matthewdance.ca.

Please don't worry that you will make a mistake, just highlight the problem name and leave a note describing the problem in an adjacent cell. I will be double checking all of the data input to the spreadsheet. Thank you!

Sample

Sample of the naming method.

Sample of the naming method.