Endonyms, Programming

Introducing The Endonym Project

An endonym is a name that people give to the area where they live. For example, you might live in a city that is officially named “Brooklyn Heights,” but you and all of your neighbors call it “The Heights.” This is an endonym.

I’ve always wondered about how well-defined the geographic boundaries are for endonyms that aren’t tied to specific locations.  For example, how far east do you have to go from Minnesota before the people who live there don’t say they live in the Midwest?  Do Wisconsinites consider Ohio to be in the Midwest? If so, do Ohioans?

To explore this idea, I’m building The Endonym Project. It’s both a tool for collecting endonyms and a place to display them.

To share your endonyms, just click the big pink button on the homepage, and you’ll be shown a map and a text box. The map will be centered on your general location. If you have a name for the area shown in the map, enter it in the form. Otherwise, click “I don’t have a name for this area.”

After each time you share an endonym, the map will zoom out and ask you for a term for the larger area — lather, rinse, repeat.

When you’re finished, you’ll be given a link to the map of endonyms.  This map collates all of the terms submitted on the site and displays them instead of the official map labels.  The more frequently an endonym is submitted for an area, the more prominently it is displayed on the map.

If there are more endonyms that aren’t being shown because you haven’t zoomed in far enough, the map shows red/yellow/green heatmaps.

So far, I’ve collected 3,386 endonyms. Add to that number by trying it out yourself, and let me know what you think.


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