Tuesday July 15, 2003

Maryland Waterways

I was online looking for info about Patapsco State Park and I got the urge to look up the origins of the names of some of the major rivers passing through Maryland. The definitions are all over the place. I gleaned the following quotes and info from various web sites.


The Algonquian speakers living by the Bay hundreds of years ago gave it a name that means “Mother of Waters” or “Great Salt Water” or maybe “Great Shellfish Bay.” European settlers wrote it down as “Tschiswapeki” or “Chesepiooc.” It got simplified into today’s “Chesapeake.”


  1. A 1608 map by Captain John Smith calls the river “Patawomeck,” after the nearby Pawtomax Indians. Possible meanings of the word include “they are coming by water,” “where goods are brought in,” and “where goods are traded.”
  2. “Potomac” reportedly came from an Indian name variously interpreted as “place of burning pine”, “they are coming by water”, or “something brought.” (Translation of Indian names is apparently not an expert science.)
  3. Potomac: River forming the boundary line between Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Indian Patowmek or Potowmak, “they are coming by water”; another translation, “place of the burning pine,” allusion to a council fire.


  1. Susquehanna is thought to be an Indian word meaning The Long,Crooked River. Nearly 500-miles in length, the Susquehanna begins atthe outlet of Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, New York, and winds through Pennsylvania to meet the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, Maryland.
  2. From an Indian word, suckahanne, “water.”


  1. From the Indian name patapsqui, “black water.” The Patapsco River got it’s name form the Patapsco Indian tribe which settled in the area in the 1600’s. The area was a trading post for various indian tribes in the area. Arrow heads and artifacts can still be found there today.
  2. When he came to the Patapsco, Smith named it the Bolus River because the red clay he saw along its banks reminded him of a red resin called bole armoniack. This red clay came from a bed of iron ore and would later lead mineral prospectors up the river, despite the shallow water there. Fifty years later, the name of the Bolus River would revert to its Indian name, “Patapsco,” which means “tidal water running out at the rocky point”; this refers to the white cliffs at the mouth of the Patapsco. John Smith’s description of the Chesapeake in his published writings as a paradise where fish filled the water, and more thunder and lightning than he had seen anywhere in Europe regularly cleansed the air, undoubtedly contributed to the later settlement of the area by Europeans.
  3. Patapsco, the Indian name for Baltimore, may have meant “backwater.”


I didn’t know this until just now when I looked in the dictionary but “blonde” is the feminine form of “blond.” Or … vice versa.

I’ve been listening to talk radio programs and various forms of media and I’ve noticed something that I just don’t get regarding towheaded folk. Well, not the folk themselves but the … let me put it this way. This an observation of another cultural difference between Euro-Americans and … well, I was going to say minorities. But I’ll just say Black folk. Hell.

I heard someone refer to Ann Coulter as “that beautiful blonde on the Fox news network.”

I was privy to a conversation between two friends and one of them said something like, “Man, I’m so lucky to have found her. She’s smart, funny, athletic. And she’s a blonde.”

Apparently, that’s icing on the cake. As if it doesn’t get any better than blonde.

Heard a woman on a talk show telling a story about another woman and the point was how jealous she was of the woman-in-question’s perfect life. She said something to the effect of , “She had the perfect husband, a nice house, nice car and of course she had two beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed little children.”

I’ve been privy to conversations amongst Caucasian families about hair and eye color and there’s always the connotation of the lucky family members getting the light hair and eyes. This is always very strange to me. And it’s not because there’s not a lot of diversity in my family or among Black people in general. There are many shades, complexions and skin tones and eye colors in any given family. Come to think of it, lighter is considered better there, too. Is/was. Particularly regarding skin color. But that conversation is a rabbit hole unto itself. It still takes me towards my original point, though.

My point isn’t in anyway to disparage people with light-colored hair, of course. But to point out what I see as a cultural pro-valuation of blond people. I suppose it’s obvious from all of the hair coloring, dying, tinting, streaking and frosting. And from the pop icons and idols from Bo Derek to Marilyn Monroe to Britney Spears. The idolization of the attributes of ultimate whiteness.

I was also trying to think of the ratio of light-haired (including white, gray and graying) U.S. presidents compared to dark-haired U.S. presidents. I know it sounds stupid but they — whoever they are — also say that polls and studies have shown that men with facial hair, for instance, are perceived to be less trustworthy. And that’s why very few politicians have mustaches or beards. Weird, isn’t it? Strange but true. I’m serious about it, though. Heard it … somewhere. Here’s pictures of the presidents. Hmmmm. Don’t know about the dark/light thing but the facial hair bit is spot on. FYI, the last president to sport a mustache was William Taft who was elected in 1909. And the last president to rock a beard was Benjamin Harris, elected in 1889.

But I’m digressing. I was thinking about all of the blonde jokes floating around out there. The stereotype is one of absent-mindedness, stupidity, naivete, ditziness, sluttiness, etc. But that’s in sharp contrast with the elevation of the same people to the ideal standard of beauty and appeal. The other day I heard someone on TV use the word “goddess” as the footage showed a blonde woman in a bathing suit running along a beach. Goddess?!

And of course there’s all the traditional Disney cartoons and other animation. Note how many heroes and heroines are of the blue-eyed variety. Even the feature-length cartoon animals are given recessive gene characteristics in an attempt at Aryan personification voiced by Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and so on. And there’s the Lord of the Rings and The Two Towers. Good grief.

Okay, so by this point you may be thinking, what’s the big deal? So what?

Well … uh … I don’t like it? I don’t. The racial-psychological implications are just bad mojo, especially to people who can never naturally produce those characteristics. I mean, if that is the “ideal” standard of beauty and only a select few can produce the ideal then what does that say about the rest of us?

I can’t remember the name of the study or who was involved but someone did some research regarding the self-perception of Black children. They would hand them two identical dolls, one white and one black, and ask them questions about them. For instance, “Which one of these is prettier? Which one is smarter? Which one makes more money?”

Long story short, they chose the white dolls over the black ones. And when I say white and black I mean Caucasian and African-American. Self-rejection. The study was done by Goodman and Milner. I’m not sure when but it may have been in the 80’s. A later study by Hraba and Grant indicates that today it may be different, thankfully.

It’s just weird to me. Maybe it’s just a harmless cultural thing. Maybe I’m mentally about two decades in the past. I don’t know. To tell you the truth I get the feeling that things are changing in that respect. Ever since Aunt Jemima took off her ‘kerchief and got a perm and Betty Crocker got an injection of ethnic flava’. But all that stuff rubs me the wrong way. Chafes.

But enough of that. Just food for thought.

Westward Respite

Well, it looks like I’ll be spending the first week of August in California. I’m headed out for Matt Harris’ wedding to Melissa Locke on August 2nd. Wow. I’m gonna be a groomsdude or whatever they’re called. I’d rather not be participating in the actual marriage but Matt doesn’t give me a choice when it comes to these things. Mawwiage! Twue wuv!

As long as I’m out there I’ll take a week or so and visit friends. If I have money, which is doubtful, I’ll ship a few things back east. It’s such a waste having things in storage. Just sitting there costing money to exist. Then again that’s what I’m doing right now, too. Live and let live.

Anyway, I’m outta here.

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