The River Ohio / Noun Placement

For the discussion of language mechanics, grammar, vocabulary, trends, and other such linguistic topics, in english and other languages.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

embolalia
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:33 am UTC

The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby embolalia » Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:50 am UTC

While walking into the library here at the Ohio State University, I noticed a seal at the top of one of the columns, labeled "The Seal of the Territories North West of the River Ohio". Just a little decoration making reference to the history of the sate. (Ohio was the first state formed from the Northwest Territory. The university wouldn't be founded for another 70 years after the NWT ceased to exist, and the library wouldn't be built for another 30 after that, but that's beside the point)
My question is about the way that's written, specifically the River Ohio. Normally, in the states, we call rivers the ___ River. The Hudson River, Potomac River, Mississippi River, Ohio River, etc. But I know that in the UK, they're generally the River ___. The River Thames, River Taff, River Severn, etc.

Why is there a difference in the convention between the US and UK? Why would they change from calling it the River Ohio to the Ohio River? Do people in the UK refer to rivers in non-English speaking countries by their convention, i.e. River Amazon?

Personally, I favor the US convention of putting river second. It fits the rest of English grammar better. Ohio (or whatever else) acts as an adjective describing the river. Ohio River in the same way as Chrysler Building or Washington Monument. Of course, as with everything in English, this starts getting complicated. Lakes, at least in the states, are generally referred to with lake first. Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Champlain, etc. Mountains have mount first, but mountain ranges have mountains second. Mount Everest and Rocky Mountains.

In short, the English language is completely ridiculous.

User avatar
Lazar
Landed Gentry
Posts: 2151
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 11:49 pm UTC
Location: Massachusetts

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby Lazar » Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:12 am UTC

Now that you mention it (caveat: I'm merely a slight anglophile), I do think "River X" seems to be the pattern in Britain. The River Thames, the River Avon, the River Tweed, the River Ribble, etc.
Exit the vampires' castle.

User avatar
Zamfir
I built a novelty castle, the irony was lost on some.
Posts: 7602
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:43 pm UTC
Location: Nederland

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby Zamfir » Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:21 am UTC

embolalia wrote:Personally, I favor the US convention of putting river second. It fits the rest of English grammar better. Ohio (or whatever else) acts as an adjective describing the river.

But it's not an adjective. Chinese Sea would fit your description, but not Thames River or River Thames. As it is, you could just as well argue that River has an adjective function, explaining what kind of thing the Thames is.

User avatar
Pez Dispens3r
is not a stick figure.
Posts: 2079
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 3:08 am UTC
Location: Australia
Contact:

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:36 am UTC

Personally, I find the US convention more obvious, and the British convention more poetic. I guess it depends whether you want to be descriptive or rhetorical (in Australia, 'River Murray' and 'Murray River' would be interchangeable, but then don't we always only say 'River Nile'?).
Mighty Jalapeno wrote:I feel like you're probably an ocelot, and I feel like I want to eat you. Feeling is fun!
this isn't my cow

embolalia
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:33 am UTC

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby embolalia » Tue Apr 06, 2010 6:18 pm UTC

^^In the states we say Nile River. But I agree that the British style does sound more poetic.
Zamfir wrote:
embolalia wrote:Personally, I favor the US convention of putting river second. It fits the rest of English grammar better. Ohio (or whatever else) acts as an adjective describing the river.

But it's not an adjective. Chinese Sea would fit your description, but not Thames River or River Thames. As it is, you could just as well argue that River has an adjective function, explaining what kind of thing the Thames is.

True, Thames, Ohio, and river are all nouns, but it's not a Thames or an Ohio, it's a river. Which river? The Ohio River. Similarly, Thames House is not a Thames, it's a house.

User avatar
Iulus Cofield
WINNING
Posts: 2917
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 9:31 am UTC

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby Iulus Cofield » Wed Apr 07, 2010 10:37 am UTC

Lake doesn't always come first in American English. In Seattle there is Green Lake, although it's often spelled Greenlake. In Ocean Shores, WA there is a Duck Lake.

Mount can only come first in a construction as far as I am aware and mountain can only come second. Of all the examples I can think of, the particular place is consistently referred as either Mount X or X Mountain. X Mountains always happens because you can only say "Mounts X" when making a list of mountains whose names all start with Mount. Ex: "Mount Hood, Mount Ranier, and Mount St. Helens" is interchangeable with "Mounts Hood, Ranier, and St. Helens." This follows the rule of words which are never plural unless referring to different types or different groups. Ex: "Flavors of ice cream" or "peoples of Asia." Interestingly, I'm not aware of any "peak" being called "Peak X," only "X Peak."

I think these conventions are probably just linguistic idiosyncracies. But maybe "[type of geography] + [proper name]" are originally epithetical, while "[proper name] + [type of geography]" are originally adjectival? I am speculating wildly here.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26817
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:44 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:Personally, I find the US convention more obvious
Iulus Cofield wrote:Lake doesn't always come first in American English.

Indeed, the US convention for lake names isn't actually that consistent.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Rinsaikeru
Pawn, soon to be a Queen
Posts: 2166
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 5:26 am UTC
Location: Toronto
Contact:

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby Rinsaikeru » Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:02 pm UTC

I agree that River X sounds more poetic, and for UK rivers I do use that convention.

At home I hear Lake Ontario and Humber River. River Humber sounds pretty awkward and archaic, but when I think about it--the archaism doesn't extend to Lake Eerie etc. I'm going to be thinking about bays, estuaries, and streams all day thanks to you lot.
Rice Puddin.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26817
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Apr 08, 2010 2:06 pm UTC

Well part of it is most likely what you're accustomed to. All the Great Lakes have Lake first in their names. But someone talking about that one in Utah as the Lake of Great Salt would be strange, and around where I grew up there were several small lakes where "Lake" was second.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Rinsaikeru
Pawn, soon to be a Queen
Posts: 2166
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 5:26 am UTC
Location: Toronto
Contact:

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby Rinsaikeru » Thu Apr 08, 2010 4:50 pm UTC

Yes that's true, we say Butterfly Lake, Heart Lake, but Lake Muskoka. There are very strange conventions afoot here.

What's with these bodies of water?
Rice Puddin.

a7d07c8114
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2010 11:57 pm UTC

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby a7d07c8114 » Mon Apr 19, 2010 7:16 pm UTC

I guess for names for bodies of water with easily recognized meanings, the name doesn't sound awkward to treat it as an adjective - so Green Lake, as mentioned above. Now, if we wanted to use some less easily recognized name, for example say an old English word for "green" was "okladd" (I have no idea is this is true or not), then it might be a bit more awkward to say "Okladd Lake" and less awkward to say "Lake Okladd".

I guess American English does have some awkward situations as a result - if there was a "Blue River" (since "River Blue" doesn't sound quite right), it might be difficult to emphasize its proper noun status in conversation. "I went down the Blue River last weekend" might elicit a "A lot of rivers are blue" from someone unfamiliar with the local geography.

drbhoneydew
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:10 pm UTC

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby drbhoneydew » Fri May 14, 2010 11:48 am UTC

In the UK, Streams have the opposite naming convention - ___ Beck, ___ Burn, ___ Stream are all common, but I don't know of any Beck ___, Burn ___ or Stream ___.
Ordinarily, though, we tend to just say The Thames, The Tyne etc.
Locals know what the Thames is. Adding the river to the front is only really necessary if you're unfamiliar with the territory - I'd suspect the prefix form came about from the Normans le rive ___ .
The difference may be that the rivers were tactically important, and therefore switched, and streams aren't, so didn't.

By the time the North American rivers were being named the French influence wasn't as strong, and also the fact that it was a river wasn't quite as important as you'd just got to name it :)
I think that the French got to name the Great Lakes, which may explain the ordering.
The prefix form predominates in South America - the Spanish did the naming, where Rio ___ is the standard.
Possibly we use the River Nile as it was known in antiquity and thus was put in English when the prefix form dominated (also River Ganges, River Euphrates).

User avatar
BrainMagMo
Posts: 185
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:22 am UTC
Location: Southern California
Contact:

Re: The River Ohio / Noun Placement

Postby BrainMagMo » Thu May 20, 2010 4:55 pm UTC

drbhoneydew wrote: (also River Ganges, River Euphrates).

Both sound strange to me (US).
Here we say Ganges River, Euphrates River, always.

the reason I prefer that I like Name Feature better is that I can think of situations where Feature Name would be ambiguous:
"The River Mississippi is next to quacks." (ridiculous sentence for either interpretation, but it proves me point)
= "The Mississippi River is next to some crazy people" or "The River that is next to Mississippi is quacking."
I can't think of situations where Name Feature would be ambiguous, but I'm open to being proven wrong.


Return to “Language/Linguistics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests