Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Naming of Places (Part 5): At Bay

Now that I have a grammar tool more-or-less working and retrofitted the Lost Coast names to the tool, I'm going to tackle another type of place names: bays.
This picture illustrates how Dragons Abound currently handles bays:  It identifies a stretch of coastline that creates a “pocket" and then attaches a label to the center of the pocket.  Currently the place name is just an invented name from Martin O'Leary's generator plus one of a few synonyms for “bay," such as “basin" and “harbor."  Let's see if I can do better.

I'm going to start out by looking at how bays are named in the real world.  As I did previously with mountains, I'm going to analyze real world naming data to see what kinds of words are used in bay place names.  In my previous effort, I analyzed place names data from the USGS.  Since then, I've discovered another source for real world place names:  geonames.org.   This organization provides a worldwide geographical naming database under a Creative Commons license.  Like the USGS database, names are labeled with a feature class that I can use to extract out all the “bays".  I can then run some lexical analysis on these names to help guide how I create my fantasy place names.

For a first step, I'll run all the names through and look at the last word, which is usually “Bay" or a synonym.  Here are the top 20 results:
  1. Bay: 9482
  2. Cove: 6674
  3. Harbor: 1280
  4. Creek: 904
  5. Bayou: 850
  6. Inlet: 404
  7. Pond: 363
  8. Lake: 302
  9. Arm: 297
  10. Sound: 291
  11. Lagoon: 281
  12. Hole: 228
  13. Canal: 216
  14. Bight: 204
  15. Pass: 169
  16. Basin: 167
  17. Slough: 134
  18. Anchorage: 90
  19. River: 84
  20. Eddy: 59
There is some duplication here because many of the same features appear in both the USGS data and the Geonames data.  Some notes:
  • “Bay" and “Cove" are by far the most common names.
  • “Harbor" is an interesting synonym, because it presumably applies only to bays where people have created a harbor.  For Dragons Abound purposes, this suggests only using it where a city is on the bay.  “Anchorage" also implies a human use to the area, but in that case it doesn't imply a city.
  • “Creek," and “River" are odd synonyms to apply to a bay.  Looking at some examples in Google Maps suggests that these are places where a creek/river empties into a larger body of water and the area has been identified as a bay:

    which I think means I can safely ignore these names for my purposes.
  • Something similar is happening with “Pond" and “Lake"; these seem to be mostly ponds and lakes connected to some bigger body of water.  I'll ignore these too.
In the end, I have about 40 synonyms for “bay", most of which will be used very infrequently.

Next, let me look at the nouns that I have been used in bay names, but not as the last word of the name:
  1. island: 269
  2. creek: 215
  3. lake: 181
  4. port: 180
  5. point: 159
  6. saint: 118
  7. arm: 111
  8. sand: 91
  9. river: 85
  10. goose: 81
  11. rock: 77
  12. mud: 75
  13. mill: 70
  14. harbor: 70
  15. oyster: 64
  16. spring: 59
  17. head: 50
  18. hill: 48
  19. house: 46
  20. beach: 45
You can see some interesting trends here.  There are a lot of bays named after other (presumably nearby) geographical features: islands, creeks, lakes, points, arms, rivers, springs, heads, hills and beaches.  Harbor and its synonym port show up again.  Terms for earth are common:  sand, rock, and mud.  Animals, too:  goose and oyster.  An interesting term is Saint -- many geographical features are named after saints.

I looked at about the hundred most common terms and tried to break them down by category:

Geo Featuresisland, creek, lake, point, arm, river, spring(s), head, hill, branch, pond, hole, brook, fork, finger, key, neck, wash, sea, bluff, isle, mountain
Manmade Featuresport, mill, harbor, house, shelter, camp, boat, garden, yacht, castle, fort, town, sawmill, schooner
Personsaint, squaw, king
Natural Itemssand, rock, mud, salt, water, stone, boulder, granite
Animalsgoose, oyster, eagle, fish, deer, turtle, bass, horse, seal, fox, otter, alligator, cow, clam, beaver, mosquito, herring, swan, buck, bird, bull, salmon, pigeon, sheep
Plantswillow, oak, pine, tree, hickory, stump
Mischammock, devils, mile, greens, basin, drum, echo, sunset, tar, winter, paradise, dollar, crescent

Almost all of the terms fall into just six categories.  Of course, as you go further down the list into less common terms they become more diverse, but I can take this as a starting point to elaborate a more complete set of possible nouns to use in naming bays.

It would be nice if there was a simple automated system for elaborating these categories, but there's not.  It's mostly a matter of grunt work to research and capture terms, and to try to decide along the way how much categorization is worthwhile.  For example, to elaborate the “animals" category, I have to go to various websites with lists of animals and decide which ones to include, and whether it is worthwhile to categorize them as land versus sea (yes), whether a “pelican" should go into land, or sea or air (maybe both sea and air?) and whether insects should be included (no).  Eventually I end up with a list of land animals:

AardvarkBushbabyCougarGila MonsterJaguarMule DeerPythonTapir
BadgerCatDormouseHareLynxPeccarySea LionWater Moccasin
Boa ConstrictorChickenEmuHogMeerkatPolecatSlothWildebeest
BoarChimpanzeeErmineHoney BadgerMinkPonySnailWolf
Box TurtleChuckwallaFoxHyenaMongoosePorpoiseSpiderWombat
BuffaloCobraGeckoImpalaMoosePrairie DogSquirrelWoodrat

After completing this, it occurred to me that I might like to have a separate list of polar animals, so that I can use more appropriate names when adding bays in cold climes.  So I went back and broke out the list of polar animals.

penguinternmoosenorthern pike
polar bearerminepuffincod
snow foxstoatsnow goosewhiting
snowshoe harelemmingwalrusflounder

So now in a snowy clime I'll get “Penguin Cove" instead of “Camel Cove."

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is.  But for something like this, a shortcut is not going to produce a good result.  In fact, I'm probably not doing *enough* work on this; a really good solution would capture more semantic information about the words and use that to construct the place names.

An initial pass generates a few thousand possible nouns to use in bay names, and generates names like these:
  1. Swirl Cove
  2. Headrail Gulf
  3. Annihilation Sound
  4. Illuminator Bay
  5. Fool Bay
  6. Silk-Dresser Cove
  7. Monastery Bay
  8. Moneyer Bay
  9. Beryl Bay
  10. Table Bay
You can see that there are some archaic terms in the list that you might not recognize.

A simple extension is to flip a name like “Swirl Cove" into “Cove of Swirls."  Note that in most cases I have to pluralize the noun for this to sound right -- but not mass nouns like “mud" or abstract nouns like “annihilation."  
  1. Shale Bay
  2. Cove of Chamberlains
  3. Bay of Furriers
  4. Gum Bay
  5. Pocket of Nakerers
  6. Rogue Cove
  7. Bushbaby Hole
  8. Mud Cove
  9. Brewer Bay
  10. Orca Cove
Another variation for nouns that represent individual people is to use the possessive, e.g., “Rogue's Cove" or “The Rogue's Cove."  I can also use an invented name for the individual, and I can add a title to that individual as well (as I did when naming the Lost Coast).
  1. Cartier Bay
  2. Oilskin Gully
  3. Viper Cove
  4. Steward Bay
  5. Dolphin's Bay
  6. Purse Maker Bay
  7. Vicar Daedoe's Prong
  8. Catchpole's Bay
  9. Reverend Beedae's Cove
  10. Duednoeb's Cove
Interestingly, it sounds fine to use animal names where individual names work, which is why I get “Dolphin's Bay" above.

Another way to name a bay is with an adjective, such as San Francisco's “East Bay" or “Long Bay" in Myrtle Beach.  To get an idea of what sort of adjectives I can use to name bays this way, I'll go back to my corpus of US and UK bay names and pull out all the adjectives that are used this way (as best I can).  Here's the top ten:
  1. North
  2. West
  3. Long
  4. Big
  5. East
  6. Little
  7. Grand
  8. Middle
  9. Hollow
  10. Indian
  11. Sandy
  12. Horseshoe
  13. Browns
  14. Great
  15. Round
  16. Blind
  17. Flat
  18. Twin
  19. Finger
  20. Blue
Directions are very popular.  (South is missing, but that seems to be a problem with my Parts of Speech classifier not thinking it is an adjective.)  Sizes are also popular: Long, big, little, grand, great.  A little further down are shapes:  Hollow, horseshoe, round, flat, twin, finger.  “Browns" is a little odd; I think that's a possessive with a missing apostrophe:  “Brown's Bay."  At number 20 we get an actual color -- a bit of surprise to me because I thought colors would be more popular.

One note about direction and size adjectives -- I probably don't want to use these randomly.  A “northern" bay ought to be to the north in some way, and “great" bays should be larger than average.  I'll talk about implementing that next time, but for the moment I'll just collect these adjectives and set them aside.
  1. Admiral dem Gen's Bay
  2. Chokeweed Bay
  3. Indigo Pass
  4. Paradise Bottom
  5. Deserted Bay
  6. Pufferfish's Bay
  7. Damnation Bay
  8. Catfish Cove
  9. Quiet Bay
  10. Glassy Cove
I've turned up the frequency to make the adjective names more common, but you see here “indigo", “paradise," “deserted,", “quiet," and “glassy" as examples.

The next option is to use both an adjective and a noun to name the bay, such as “Blue Dolphin Bay."  In this case, the adjective modifies the noun, not the bay, so a different set of adjectives is needed.  In theory, the adjective should be something that makes sense with the noun, but in practice the human mind is so good at conjecturing connections between an adjective and a noun that it's almost difficult to come up with an example that seems totally wrong.  For example, “Virgin Dolphin Bay," “False Dolphin Bay," and “Barbarian Dolphin Bay" are all cases where the adjective doesn't really fit with the noun, but seem like acceptable place names.  I'm sure it's possible to come up with combinations that totally don't work, but my point is that you don't have to be as careful about this as you might imagine.  However, you do have to avoid abstract nouns.  Something like “Blue Infidelity Bay" is nonsensical enough to trigger even the most forgiving reader.

An initial cut at adding these sorts of names gives me (again, with tweaked probabilities) this list:
  1. Sore Brigantine Bay
  2. Imashosh's Bay
  3. Dead Raft Bay
  4. Lone Cedar Bay
  5. Dukdush's Cove
  6. Broom-Dasher Bay
  7. Cove of Hermits
  8. Dukuklen's Bay
  9. Roadhouse Bay
  10. Parson Prong
Here “Sore Brigantine" doesn't make much sense (a brigantine is a two-masted sailing vessel) and “Dead Raft" isn't much better, but I think they would pass on a map.  (“Lone Cedar" on the other hand is nearly perfect.)

That's it for the first part of naming bays.  The lists of nouns and adjectives can be expanded near endlessly, but I have about 3000+ in the vocabulary right now, which makes for plenty of different names.  In the next posting I'll get into some of the less random naming strategies.

Obligatory map shot:
Limner's Bay," “Elk Bay," and “Penny Firth."

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