Vol. 70 No. 3 (2022): Names: A Journal of Onomastics

“Missouree Was Always Out of Step with Missourah”: Sociolinguistic Variants as Moral Toponyms

Daniel Duncan
Newcastle University

Published 2022-08-22


  • toponym,
  • socioonomastics,
  • moral geography,
  • variation,
  • Missouri,
  • St. Louis,
  • choronym
  • ...More


Language users can create moral geographies, in which values are mapped in space, by indexically linking values and spatial referents. One understudied aspect of linguistic practice in this domain is the role of toponyms in constructing a moral geography. This investigation illustrates how sociolinguistic variants of a toponym can be used to construct a moral geography. I take as a case study sociolinguistic variation in the US state name Missouri, which can be produced as Missouree or Missourah. Qualitative analysis of a set of local newspaper columns shows these variants can be used as place names. However, they do not distinguish regions of physical space. Rather, the variants label moral spaces by setting each variant on opposing ends of cultural, geographic, and political axes of contrast. Because their primary role is to label moral space, I suggest that toponymic studies should consider the kind of geography that a toponym labels space within. I consider the usage here to be examples of “moral toponyms”, in contrast to traditional toponyms which label physical space.


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