Vol. 64 No. 3 (2016)

Toponyms of a Different Type: Metaphors as Placenames and Place Nicknames

Published 2016-07-02


Some placenames and nicknames should be understood metaphorically and not literally. The nicknames of two well-known places — “Hell’s Kitchen” and the “Dust Bowl” — illustrate this by using contemporary theory of metaphor to explain them. The work of two sociologists, James Skipper and Paul Leslie, supports this argument, although they never used the word metaphor in their analyses. The similarities between their studies and this article strongly suggest that metaphoric analysis provides a way of understanding the names and nicknames of some geographic locations.


  1. Amato, Joseph Anthony. 2000. Dust: A History of the Small and the Invisible. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  2. Amell, Robert. 2010. “How ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Got Its Name (I Think).” Manhattan Unlocked, November 22, <http://manhattanunlocked.blogspot.com/2010/11/why-hells-kichen-follow.html> (Accessed January 22, 2014).
  3. Beale, G. K., and Sean M. McDonough. 2007. “Revelation.” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Ed. D. A. Carson and G. K. Beale, 1081–1157. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  4. Beecher, Catharine Esther. 1841. A Treatise on Domestic Economy; for the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School. Boston, MA: Thomas H. Webb.
  5. Brock, Thomas D. 1988. Robert Koch: A Life in Medicine and Bacteriology. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.
  6. Campbell, Helen. 1881. The Easiest Way in Housekeeping and Cooking. New York, NY: Howard and Hulbert.
  7. Chadwick, E. 1842. “Poor Law Commissioners.” In Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain. Ed. M. W. Flinn. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press.
  8. Duncan, Dayton. 2012. The Dust Bowl, an Illustrated History, Based on a Film by Ken Burns. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
  9. Elliott, S. Maria. 1907. Household Hygiene. Chicago, IL: American School of Home Economics.
  10. Frederick, Christine. 1921. Household Engineering, Scientific Management in the Home. Chicago, IL: American School of Home Economics.
  11. Gallus, Laslo. 2007–2008. “The Exodus Motif in Revelation 15–16: Its Background and Nature.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 45–46: 21–43.
  12. Geison, Gerald L. 1995. The Private Science of Louis Pasteur. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  13. Giedion, Siegfried. 1948. Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  14. Gradmann, Christof. 2009. Laboratory Disease: Robert Koch’s Medical Bacteriology. Trans. Forster Elborg. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  15. Griscom, John H. 1845. The Sanitary Condition of the Laboring Population of New York. New York, NY: Harper and Brothers.
  16. Guthrie, Woody. 1940. “So Long, Its Been Good to Know Yuh (Dusty Old Dust).” Guthrie, Dust Bowl Ballads. RCA Victor (recording), https://woodyguthrie.org/Lvrics/SoLongItsBeenGood.htm> (Accessed May 28, 2013).
  17. Hayhurst, E. R. 1915. A Survey of Industrial Health-Hazards and Occupational Diseases in Ohio. Columbus, OH: F. J. Howe Printing Co.
  18. Hoffman, Frederick L. 1918. “Mortality from Respiratory Diseases in Dusty Trades (Inorganic Dusts).” US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin 231. Industrial Accidents and Hygiene Series No. 17. Washington, DC: GPO.
  19. Horsfield, Margaret. 1997. Biting the Dust: The Joys of Housework. London: Fourth Estate.
  20. Ikeda, Sandy. 2008. “Naming Hell’s Kitchen.” New York Sun, September 19, <http://www.nysun.com/blogs/culture-of-congestion/2008/09/naming-hells-kitchen.html> (Accessed September 25, 2013).
  21. Joel, Arthur H. 1936. “Soil Conservation Reconnaissance Survey of the Southern Great Plains Wind Erosion Area.” US Department of Agriculture Technical Bulletin No. 556. Washington, DC: GPO.
  22. Knowles, Murray, and Rosamund Moon. 2006. Introducing Metaphor. New York, NY: Routledge.
  23. Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 2003. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  24. Leavitt, Sarah A. 2002. From Catharine Beecher to Martha Stewart. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
  25. Leslie, Paul L., and James K. Skipper, Jr. 1990. “Toward a Theory of Nicknames: A Case for Socio-Onomastics.” Names 38(4): 273–282.
  26. Lookingbill, Brad. 1984. “‘A God-Forsaken Place’: Folk Eschatology and the Dust Bowl.” Great Plains Quarterly 14(4): 73–86.
  27. Pant, Anupum. 2014. “Harmless Flour is an Incredibly Explosive Substance.” Awe-Sci Science Everyday, March 13, <http://awesci.com./harmless-flour-is-an-incredibly-explosive-substance> (Accessed October 12, 2014).
  28. Parfit, Michael. 1989. “The Dust Bowl: Half a Century Ago, Parts of the Great Plains Blew Away, and the Question Now Is: Could It Be Happening All Over Again.” Smithsonian June 20: 3.
  29. Parloa, Maria. 1898. Home Economics, a Guide to Household Management. New York, NY: The Century Company.
  30. Plunkett, H. M. 1885. Women, Plumbers, and Doctors; or, Household Sanitation. New York, NY: D. Appleton & Co.
  31. Proquest Historical Newspapers. 1851–2007. New York Times, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/hnpnewvorktimes?account=–=-148--26> (Accessed July 7, 2014).
  32. Proquest Historical Newspapers. 1881–1989. Los Angeles Times, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/hnplatimes?accountid”‘14826> (Accessed July 7, 2014).
  33. Surviving the Dust Bowl. 1998. Complete Program Transcript Produced by Chana Gazit. American Experience. Public Broadcast System. WGBH, Boston. March 2, <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/transcript> (Accessed February 12, 2015).
  34. reddit [Ask Historians]. 2015. “Where Did Hell’s Kitchen, NYC Get Its Name?” <https://www.reddit.com/r/HellsKitchen> (Accessed September 3, 2015).
  35. Reifenberg, Anne. 1985. “Black Sunday: The Day the Dust Bowl Got Its Name.” Dallas [Texas] Morning News, 28A April 14.
  36. Rice, George S. 1910. “The Explosibility of Coal Dust.” United States Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey. Washington, DC: GPO.
  37. Richards, Ellen, and Marion Talbott. 1911. Home Sanitation: A Manual for Housekeepers. Boston, MA: Whitcomb and Barrows.
  38. Rosner, David, and Gerald Markowitz. 2006. Deadly Dust, Silicosis and the On-Going Struggle to Protect Workers’ Health. 2nd edn. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
  39. Skipper, James K., Jr. 1984. “The Sociological Significance of Nicknames: The Case of Baseball Players.” Journal of Sport Behavior 7(1): 28–38.
  40. Skipper, James K., Jr. 1985a. “Nicknames, Folk Heroes, and Assimilation: Black League Baseball Players, 1894–1950.” Journal of Sport Behavior 8(2): 100–114.
  41. Skipper, James K., Jr. 1985b. “Nicknames, Folk Heroes, and Jazz Musicians.” Popular Music and Society 10(4): 51–62.
  42. Skipper, James K., Jr. 1985c. “Nicknames of Notorious American Twentieth Century Deviants: The Decline of the Folk Hero Syndrome.” Deviant Behavior 6(1): 99–114.
  43. Skipper, James K., Jr. 1989. “Public Nicknames of Famous Football Players and Coaches: A Socio­Historical Analysis and Comparison.” Sociological Spectrum 9(2): 103–123.
  44. Skipper, James K., Jr. 1990. “Place Names Used as Nicknames: A Study of Major League Baseball Players.” Names 38(1–2): 1–20.
  45. Skipper, James K., Jr, and Paul L. Leslie. 1988a. “Nicknames & Blues Singers Part I: Frequency of Use 1890–1977.” Popular Music and Society 12(1): 37–47.
  46. Skipper, James K., Jr, and Paul L. Leslie. 1988b. “Women, Nicknames, and Blues Singers.” Names 36(3–4): 193–202.
  47. Skipper, James K., Jr, and Paul L. Leslie. 1988c. “Nicknames and Blues Singers. Part II: Classification and Analysis.” Popular Music and Society 13(3): 29–43.
  48. Sklar, Kathryn Kish. 1973. Catharine Beecher: A Study in American Domesticity. New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press.
  49. Ford County Dust Bowl Oral History Project. 1998. “Interview: Louis Sanchez.” August 18, (Accessed October 3, 2015).
  50. Stallings, Frank L., Jr. 2001. Black Sunday, the Great Dust Bowl Storm of April 14, 1935. Austin, TX: Eakin Press.
  51. Stein, Fred. 2005. A History of the Baseball Fan. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co.
  52. Temple, Dennis. 1986. “Pasteur’s Theory of Fermentation: A ‘Virtual Tautology’?” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part A, Dec. 17(4): 487–503.
  53. Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux. 1857–1859. The Greek New Testament, Edited from Ancient Authorities…. Transcription of TNT and TNT2. Ed. Dirk Jongkind. Cambridge, UK: Tyndale House.
  54. United States Bureau of Mines. 1995. Bulletin, Volumes 476–478. Washington, DC: GPO.
  55. Verakis, Harry C., and John Nagy. 1987. “A Brief History of Dust Explosions.” In Industrial Dust Explosions, ASTM STP. Ed. Kenneth Cashdollar and Martin Herzberg, 342–350. Philadelphia, PA: American Society for Testing and Materials.
  56. Warren, B. S., and Edgar Sydenstricker. 1916. “Health Insurance, Its Relation to the Public.” United States Treasury Department, Public Health Service, Public Health Bulletin No. 76. Washington, DC: GPO.
  57. Winchester, Elhanan. 1794. Three Woe Trumpets, of Which the First and Second Are Already Past, and the Third is Now Begun. Boston, MA: John W. Folsom.