Monday, October 27, 2008

Which Came First, the Turkey or the Turkey?

I'm not sure why the question popped into my head. 

All I know is, I was driving to my improv class this evening, and I wondered - how do countries get their names?  Oh - I know where it came from - on NPR, they were talking about Rwanda.  So I wondered how Rwanda got its name.  And then I wondered how Italy got its name...and so on, and so on.  And then I started thinking about how people possibly answered questions like this before we had the internet.  If you had a random question like this before the age of "googling," you'd be completely screwed.  I can't even wrap my mind around the possibility.  If you really wanted to know the answer, I suppose you could go to the library and look for history books, and check the indexes for name origin, or something...for every country...I'm exhausted just thinking about it. 

So I got home, and googled it.  

And for the first time I think EVER, google failed me.  I googled the simple phrase "how countries get named."  And the best answer (and by best, I mean the one that made me laugh the hardest) was from WikiAnswers, in response to the question "How did the country Turkey get its name?"  The answer:

becuse somone saw a turkey running around the place and thus it got's it's name

Below that on the SERP (search engine results page, for those of you who aren't "in the know") was a link to the following, also about Turkey: The Straight Dope.  I quite like the idea and motto of this website - "Fighting Ignorance Since 1973 (It's taking longer than we thought.)"  I will be poking around it further once I finish this post. 

Okay, let's try Rwanda, the source of the original query - typing in "how Rwanda got its name."  This is happening in real time, people.  I have no idea what the result will be.  Let's see.  

Got it - also from WikiAnswers:

Rwanda got it's name by Mason Gibson, a really big loser

Did the same guy who answered the Turkey question answer the Rwanda question?  Is he just going around WikiAnswers making up nonsensical answers to questions?  So now - the dilemma - do I google Mason Gibson, or just try "how Italy got its name" and see if I have more luck?  This is like a choose your own adventure book.  And I google "Mason Gibson Rwanda."  Here goes.  

And...nothing.  Just the same WikiAnswers post again.  

Okay - Italy.  Googling...

And now, from Yahoo Answers:

The name italy comes from the word Italia.  This was the name of a rebellious area of the Roman Empire in what is now central Italy.  Italia, in turn was named after the people living there, called the Italics. 

But how did the Italics get their name?  This could go on forever!  But wait - there's a Wikipedia entry claiming that Italy got its name from Italus, legendary king of the Sicels.  And here's another different answer:  Did you know that Italy got its name from the ancient Romans?  They called the southern part of the peninsula Italia, which means "land of oxen" or "grazing land."  ???!!!!???

I now see why teachers discourage using random internet pages as sources for information.  There are a million whackjobs out there...making...shit...up.  And who knows what is true?  I'm starting to doubt all the information I get from the internets.   

Maybe I'll try the library. 

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