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A weekly show where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information. This week, John shares the name origins of some of America's cities!

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Hi, I'm John Green. Welcome to my salon, this is a Mental Floss video.


And have you ever wondered why there is a Kansas city in Missouri. Well the city started as a boat dock on the Kansas River, which was named after a Native American tribe. The state of Kansas, along with the other Kansas City, Kansas City, Kansas, is pretty much right next door, but they were both incorporated later. Anyway that's the first of many US city name origins I am going to share with you in this video today, brought to you by our friends at Geico.



New York City was originally the capital of the New Netherland colony, so it was appropriately called New Amsterdam. But then, in the 17th century, the English took New Netherland from the Dutch and decided to name it after the Duke of York, so the colony became New York and the capital New York City.


Thousands of years before Memphis, Tennessee, there was Memphis, Egypt, which was named after a pyramid where a sixth dynasty King was buried. Memphis is actually a Greek interpretation of the actual Egyptian name. Anyway, Memphis, Tennessee also has a pyramid it's gigantic, and its home to the world's largest Bass Pro Shop mega store.


Atlanta. Georgia, got its name in 1845 after the Western and Atlantic Railroad; the city was originally called Terminus. Because it was the final stop on that line, but a railroad engineer suggested Atlanta; because, you know, Terminus is a terrible place name.

“Hey so where are you from?”
 “I'm from the Terminus”


Omaha, Nebraska, is named after a Native American tribe, the Omaha. The word possibly means "dwellers on the bluff," and the city was founded, in 1854, after a treaty with the tribe.


Miami was also named after a tribe the Mayaimi who lived in South Florida up until about the 18th century.


And speaking of Miami, the Algonquin tribe used to speak a language called Miami-Illinois; that's how the state got its name. And the city of Chicago in Illinois; gets its name from their word for wild garlic, although they Frenchified the pronunciation a bit.


Los Angeles used to have a much longer name meaning, town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Little Portion; it was named that by the Spanish in the 18th century, who know a thing or two about long names. But nowadays, it's just Los Angeles the Angels. The little portion, by the way, was a reference to the small land area of Los Angeles.


San Jose, California, is also a shortened version of a once longer label, "al Pueblo to San Jose de Guadalupe," meaning the town of St. Joseph of Guadalupe.


There are few stories about how the City of Newark, New Jersey, got its name. It might have been named the new Ark of the Covenant, or new Ark for short, but that seems impossible. I mean, nothing against the great City of Newark, but I don't think anyone's ever been there and thought, "well, this is the new Ark of the Covenant." Another possibility is that it was originally new-wark as an new work or it was named after a town in England.


Boston was definitely named after a place in England in the county of Lincolnshire. There is a small town called Boston. They've even got their own football team currently playing in the 6th tier of English football.


Anchorage was colonized by Russian explorers as early as 1784. But it got its current name in 1920 from the US postal department. There was a hardware and clothing store called Anchorage in the town, which it was then named after. Interestingly citizens later voted for it to be called Alaska City, but the government refused to change it.


Tulsa, Oklahoma, has a similar name origin to the city of Tallahassee, Florida. The word, sometimes spelled tullahassee, is a Creek Indian term for “old town.” Tulsa is basically a contraction


Minneapolis basically translates to water city, "nee" is a Dakota suit word for water, "polis" is city in Greek, and a teacher chose the name in 1852.


Philadelphia has Greek origins, you've probably heard it called the city of brotherly love, and that's basically, what it translates to, love is "phileo" in Greek, and brother is "adelphos."


Baltimore is named after a former proprietary governor of the province of Maryland. Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore. He was in office from 1632 to 1675, and he was otherwise totally unremarkable more evidence that the key to getting something named after you is just to be on the ground floor. That's why I've always said Tim Berners-Lee made a huge error by not calling the world wide web the Tim Berners-Lee communication strategy.


Cleveland was also named after a person, general Moses Cleaveland, with two A's. No one knows exactly why they dropped the first A.  General Cleveland worked for and was a major investor in the Connecticut Land Company, which settled in modern-day Cleveland around 1796


Nashville, Tennessee, is another city named after a general Frances Nash, Fought in the American Revolutionary War; and multiple cities in the U.S. are named after him. Nashville, was originally called Nash Borough until 1784.


If all this general talk has made you worried that General Andrew Jackson doesn't have his own City, don't worry, he does that would be Jacksonville, Florida. He was the first military governor of Florida but he never actually spent any time in Jacksonville, and who can blame him (said the kid who grew up in Orlando)


New Orleans was originally named by French settlers, so it was nouvelle Orleans at first, and they named it that after Philippe the second, the Duke of Orleans.


Speaking of cities named after royalty, Charlotte, North Carolina, honors queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Who was married to King George the third. The city is in Mecklenburg County; it was founded in 1768, and has the nickname the Queen City.


Settler Darrell Dupa gave Phoenix, Arizona, its name. He thought it was perfect, because the settlement used to be the home of Native Americans. So he thought of Phoenix for the rising from the ashes metaphor, but just to be clear, those ashes were created by settlers like Daryl Dupa. Anyway, before that it was called pumpkinville, really.


Honolulu might be the oldest place name on our list.  Indigenous people of Hawaii gave the area that titles at least 2,000 years ago; it means sheltered Bay or protected Bay.


Detroit means "straight" in French, at least if you don't pronounce the last T. A reference to the nearby Lake Erie and Lake Huron, which are connected by a straight.


Portland, Oregon, was the result of a coin flip in 1845. Two settlers couldn't agree on her name; one wanted to call it Boston, the other wanted to call it Portland, after the city in his home state of Maine. So they flipped a penny, and Portland won two out of three. I'm imagining; that Boston won the first coin flip, and then the savvy Portland fan was like, "let's do two out of three. I think we said two out of three before we started this. Actually, yeah, we definitely did yeah, it's two out of three" and then Portland comes from behind, and now they have the Timbers.


San Diego was probably named around 1602 by Explorer Sebastian Vizcaino Diego de alcalá, he was a saint who worked on missions in the Canary Islands. And Vizcaino's ship had that name as well.


And San Francisco used to be Yerba Buena when it was a smaller Bayside settlement of 200 people. But then eventually, in the 1840s, more and more people started showing up, you know, the gold rush and everything. And then the mayor, lieutenant Bartlett, decreed the land to be San Francisco.


In Spanish, Las Vegas means "the meadows," the area was named around 1829 by Raphael Rivera, a scout for an expedition. Apparently, back then, the area was full of springs and meadows rather than casinos. I have been to Las Vegas. I spent several days there, and I can tell you that I have never been in a location that reminded me less of a meadow in my entire life.


Louisville, Kentucky, has French roots, and it was named after King Louie the 16th. The founder was Colonel George Rogers Clark, who settled a group of men there around 1778. And there's even a statue of King Louis in Louisville, which was a gift from its sister city Montpellier France.


Scottish general Jorge Forbes named Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after William Pitt, the elder. And Pittsburgh has an H on the end because Forbes was Scottish. In 1891 the U.S. Board on Geographic Names made a few rules, including that cities ending in "burg" with an "H" had to drop that "H." Pittsburgh representatives complained for two decades, until in 1911, the board reversed its decision, and put the H back in Pittsburgh. Just in case you were wondering if government bureaucracy is new in America, it's not.


James W Denver was a governor of the Kansas Territory, but when William H Larimer was choosing a name for a Colorado City in 1858, he went with Denver. It's believed that Larimer was doing this to try to get a political favor, what he did not realize is that Denver had already resigned from his position.


Washington, D.C.,was named after President George Washington while he was still in office in 1791. It was decided by town commissioners they went with the city of Washington, in the territory of Columbia, after Christopher Columbus. In 1871 that territory became a district just because the word territory had fallen out of popularity.


Sacramento, California, got its name from the Sacramento River, which was named by Gabrielle Moraga, a Spanish explorer in 1808. He was working with Catholic missions, and so he named the river after the Holy Sacrament, aka the Eucharist. It's basically, body-of-God-o or maybe it's just the process through which bread becomes body-of-God-o; it's complicated.


Speaking of state capitals, Columbus, Ohio, was named after Christopher Columbus. Around 1812 state legislator Joseph Foose suggested Columbus, and it was up against Ohio City in a vote, and then, allegedly, he got a group of legislators drunk to convince them to vote Columbus.


Let's finish up with some Texas cities; quickly since there are a lot of them. A Spanish exploration arrived at San Antonio on the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua, so they chose him as the namesake for their settlement


Austin is named after Stephen F. Austin, who's known as the founder of Texas, although that's a problematic term.


Houston, is also named after a person; Sam Houston, who was a military leader in the Texas Revolution against Mexico.


You will be surprised to learn that Fort Worth also has a military history. A fort was named in honor of General William Worth after he died in 1849; he had also served in the Mexican War.


And finally, I returned to my salon to tell you that we do not know which Dallas the Texas City is named after, some options are James K Polk’s vice-president George Mifflin Dallas, or US Navy commander Alexander J Dallas, or it could have been an entirely different Dallas.

Thanks for watching Mental Floss Video, which is made, with the help of all of these nice people, and made possible by our friends at Geico. Let me know in comments the etymology of your hometowns name, and as we say in my hometown, Don't Forget to be Awesome.