Weird Universe Blog — March 20, 2019

Stedman Whitwell’s Rational System of Nomenclature

Back in the 19th century, English architect Stedman Whitwell decided that there must be a way to name cities and towns that could not only provide a unique name but also convey geographic information. His idea, as described by George Browning Lockwood in The New Harmony Communities (1902):

Whitwell noted some of the incongruities in American nomenclature, and deplored the repetition which was producing “Washingtons” and “Springfields” in every state in the Union. He proposed to give each locality a distinctive name by expressing in a compound word the latitude and longitude of the place, thus enabling one to locate any community geographically when the name was once known. Letters were proposed as substitutes for the numerals used in expressing latitude and longitude, as follows:

The first part of the town name expressed the latitude, the second the longitude, by a substitution of letters for figures according to the above table. The letter “S” inserted in the latitude name denoted that it was south latitude, its absence that it was north, while “V” indicated west longitude, its absence east longitude.

Extensive rules for pronunciation and for overcoming various difficulties were given. According to this system, Feiba Peveli indicated 38.11 N., 81.53 W. Macluria, 38.12 N., 87.52 W., was to be called Ipad Evenle; New Harmony, 38.11 N., 87.55 W., Ipba Veinul; New Yellow Springs, Green county, Ohio, the location of an Owenite community, 39.48 N., 83.52 W., Irap Evifle; Valley Forge, near Philadelphia, where there was another branch community, 40.7 N., 75.25 W., Outeon Eveldo; Orbiston, 55.34 N., 4.3 W., Uhi Ovouti; New York, Otke Notive; Pittsburg, Otfu Veitoup; Washington, Feili Neivul; London, Lafa Vovutu.

The principal argument in favor of the new system presented by the author was that the name of a neighboring Indian chief, “Occoneocoglecococachecachecodungo,” was even worse than some of the effects produced by this “rational system” of nomenclature.

I think the chart above is slightly misleading, as it implies that the top line is for latitude and the bottom for longitude. But if you look at the names Whitwell was coming up with, it's clear that this wasn't the case. It seems, instead, that one had to choose whether to start the name with a vowel (top line) or consonant (bottom line).

If I've understood his system correctly, then the 'rational' name for San Diego (32.71 N, 117.16 W) could be Fena Baveeby. And Los Angeles (34.05 N, 118.24 W) could be Fotu Avapek.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Mar 20, 2019 - Comments (1)
Category: Geography and Maps | Odd Names | Nineteenth Century

Mystery Illustration 81

Who is this famous film star?

The answer is here.

And after the jump.

More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Wed Mar 20, 2019 - Comments (0)
Category: Movies | Twentieth Century

March 19, 2019

Workplace Accidents

Horrifying ways that people can get maimed at work, courtesy of Canada's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board's Prevent-It Campaign.

Warning: some gruesome content!

Posted By: Alex - Tue Mar 19, 2019 - Comments (1)
Category: Accidents | Movies | Work and Vocational Training

How We Do Things in Kansas

I love this genre of postcards that feature oversized common things like fish and various crops. This is one I had not seen before.


Posted By: Paul - Tue Mar 19, 2019 - Comments (1)
Category: Agriculture | Enlargements, Miniatures, and Other Matters of Scale | Excess, Overkill, Hyperbole and Too Much Is Not Enough | Horticulture and Gardens | Humor | Regionalism | Surrealism | Twentieth Century | Postal Services

March 18, 2019

The Seat That Burns

Concerned by an increasing number of attacks on cab drivers, Parisian taxi drivers in 1987 began outfitting their cars with a device called "le siege qui brule" ('the seat that burns'), which could electrify unruly passengers with 52,000 volts.

“With the push of a discreetly placed pedal, the taxi driver can send the electricity coursing for one second through the back seat, stunning the passenger with a jolt to the back of the neck.”

As far as I can tell, the devices were outlawed a few months after their introduction.

Hazleton Standard-Speaker - Oct 23, 1987

Posted By: Alex - Mon Mar 18, 2019 - Comments (3)
Category: Crime | Motor Vehicles | 1980s

March 17, 2019

Common courtesy to light a match

“An American Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing Monday morning after a passenger lit a match to disguise the scent of flatulence, authorities said.”

Springfield News-Leader - Dec 6, 2006

Posted By: Alex - Sun Mar 17, 2019 - Comments (3)
Category: Flatulence | Air Travel and Airlines | 2000s

Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2019


Posted By: Paul - Sun Mar 17, 2019 - Comments (0)
Category: Government | Foreign Customs | 1960s | Europe | Fictional Monsters

March 16, 2019

Dr. John Bongiovanni, the blind surgeon

“During the procedures at the hospital, the blind doctor depended on nurses and other physicians to make decisions requiring eyesight.”

So, how many decisions during surgery don't require eyesight?

Philadelphia Daily News - Mar 2, 1984

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - Aug 26, 1984

Posted By: Alex - Sat Mar 16, 2019 - Comments (7)
Category: Surgery | 1980s | Eyes and Vision

Follies of the Madmen #418

Nothing said about the quality of the men (or women) attracted by Colt 45.

Source of ad.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Mar 16, 2019 - Comments (4)
Category: Business | Advertising | 1960s | Alcohol

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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