American Names and Their Native American Origins: Background information when reading Blasphemy

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Blasphemy

New and Selected Stories

by Sherman Alexie

Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2012, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2013, 480 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
American Names and Their Native American Origins

Print Review

When reading Sherman Alexie's stories it's hard to not think about the ways that Native American language has been adapted and used by white settlers and contemporary multicultural America. Many American place names originated in Native American languages, though spelling, pronunciation, and other linguistic qualities have been adjusted and modified. Scholarship on the etymology of such names is often tricky, and occasionally defaults to guesswork where evidence is scarce. Some names, though, have fairly direct origins.

Chief Seattle Alexie's hometown of Spokane, for example, is named for the Spokane tribe that Alexie's mother is a part of. In the Salish languages of the Pacific Northwest, Spokane translates to mean "children of the sun" or "sun people."

The city where Alexie now lives received its name from a Duwamish and Suquamish tribal leader whose name has been translated as Sealth, Seathle, Seathl, and See-ahth, which eventually became Seattle. Chief Seattle had a significant influence on how frontiersmen settled the Puget Sound, and Angeline Street in Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood is named for his daughter (More about Angeline is covered in the 'Beyond the Book' for Short Nights Of The Shadow Catcher).

Other American names that are fairly confidently linked to Native origins include Oklahoma (derived from Choctaw words meaning "land of the red people"), Ohio (from the Seneca "ohiyo" which is what they called a "nice river"), and North and South Dakota (from the Dahkota tribe). For more fun facts about the origins of many American state names, click here.

The image is of the only known photograph of Chief Seattle, taken 1864.

This article was originally published in October 2012, and has been updated for the October 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Golden Hill
    Golden Hill
    by Francis Spufford
    Spufford brings American history to raucous life through the story of Mr. Richard Smith, a ...
  • Book Jacket: Midnight at the Electric
    Midnight at the Electric
    by Jodi Lynn Anderson
    The world changes, but humanity stays the same. Whether a book takes place in the year 1510 or 2010,...
  • Book Jacket
    News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles
    Paulette Jiles brings the landscape of late 19th century Texas to life in this novel long-listed for...

Win this book!
Win The Library of Light and Shadow

The Library of Light and Shadow by M.J. Rose

"Possibly her best yet. A sensuous, sumptuous, and spellbinding novel." - Kirkus Reviews

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Almost Sisters
    by Joshilyn Jackson

    A powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South.
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T H Are B T O

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.