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Toponymy in the Netherlands (2)

Dutch territory extends itself from Babylonia to California, a fascinating case of adopting identities for communities

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Over the centuries, the Dutch have used foreign names and situations to give new frontier settlements a unique identity, often one with a specific connotation. There are names suggesting a biblical origin or indicating the geographical roots of its founders or settlers. Others just refer to some foreign city, region or country. The New World - the Americas - is rife with such Old Country references, beginning with Nieuw Netherland and New England, names still used today. More surprising is that the 'old country' has a number of villages named after American geographical names. While European names prevail in the list of 'foreign names' used in the Netherlands, some clearly have connections with the U.S.A.

Taking a more or less alphabetical look at geographical names in the Netherlands, the first 'foreign' name is Abbesinid , a hamlet near Alphen aan den Rijn. There is America (in Limburg) and Nij Amearika (a hamlet in Friesland). Austerlitz (near Zeist) was named after the Moravian town where Napoleon in 1805 won the famous battle against the armies of Austria and Russia.

The German bordertown of Aachen perhaps has lent its name to three Noord-Holland hamlets: Aken, Akenbuurt and Akendam. A more obvious link with Aachen lies in the names Akener Steenweg and Akerpoort, both located in Maastricht.

Babylonid nbroek (near nature park Biesbosch) in the 12th century was known as Babilonia. Borneo - and Zuid-Carolina - are hamlets near the Brabant town of Mill. There also are two hamlets called Californid , one south of Zaltbommel, the other near Venlo. People near Slochteren named one of the hamlets Denemarken; the Drenthe village of Drouwen once was known as Nazareth, because it 'allowed Jews as residents,' a controversial decision not copied by every Dutch town. A Maastricht subdivision (formed in 1952) officially is known as Nazareth. Egypte is the most-common foreign name: there are six; of these there are two in Friesland, two in Groningen, one in Brabant and one in Limburg.

Elba, the island where Napoleon was imprisoned, gave its name to a hamlet near Enkhuizen. Engeland is the name of four hamlets, one in the Drenthe municipality of Ruinen, one near Apeldoorn, one near the Gelre town of Wezep, and one in Overijssel municipality of Gramsbergen, northeast of Hardenberg. The Nieuw Engeland subdivision of Rotterdam once was a domain formed by the polders Oud Engeland and Nieuw Engeland. Frankrijk is a former hamlet in Harderwijk, the names Fransche Hoef (near the Brabant town of Bladel) and Franse Gat (a subdivision in Veenendaal) obvious borrow from French connections.

Klein Gent, De Maagd van Gent and Sas van Gent are hamlets and a town in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, indicating the (physical) link with the nearby Flemish town Ghent. People in Gelderland and Brabant named two hamlets Holland. Hollander and the two hamlets Hollanderbroek respectively can be found in Limburg, Gelderland and Brabant, while Hollandscheveld, near Hoogeveen in Drenthe, refers to a settlement founded in peat bogs owned by entrepreneurs from Holland. Nederland is a hamlet near Blokzijl in the Overijssel municipality of IJsselham.

The Swiss city of Bern gave its name - through a 12th century monastery - to the Brabant municipality of Bernheeze. Another European city honoured with namesakes in the Netherlands is Moskou or Moscou, the first a hamlet in southeast Friesland's Ooststellingwerf, the second near Drenthe's Hoogeveen and then so named because of their remoteness. The Groningen hamlet of Napels is named after the Italian city, as was Rome (twice): a hamlet near Gelre's Rossum and a manor near Maastricht.

Kiel (Germany) also lies near Hoogezand, Kortrijk (Belgid ) is the name of a hamlet near Breukelen - which itself gave her name to the New York borough of Brooklyn - Lyons (France) might have been the origin for the Frisian village by the same name. Waterloo is also located in Utrecht, Mechelen (Belgium) in Limburg - near Wittem. Nije Altoenae lies near the Frisian town of Sint Annaparochie and indicates a Frisian connection with Germans from the Hamburg region in Germany. Parijs was a village but now is part of Culemborg.

More exotic locations have also been 'transformed' into Dutch names. Korea is a hamlet near Delft, while the Crimean War inspired Dutchmen to use De Krim for three separate locations: one near Amersfoort, another one close to Apeldoorn and one in northeast Overijssel where peat diggers followed the war in the Black Sea region with great interest. Lombok (Indonesia) lend its name to two subdivisions, one in Maastricht, the other in Utrecht. Malta is a subdivision of the Zeeland municipality of Schouwen-Duiveland. The Atlantic island of Spitsbergen is remembered in the names of two Groningen hamlets.

Some older connections to foreign locations - perhaps visited on coastal explorations or during pilgrimages - can be found in Poortugaal (a former municipality near Rotterdam) which in the 14th century was known as Portegahle. Lombardijen also is a subdivision of Rotterdam, Picardie a hamlet near Gennep (Limburg), Palestina a subdivision in Zoetermeer - and the nickname for a subdivision in Amsterdam - while Sion is a hamlet near Rijswijk.

None of the above names equal the hope expressed in a locality in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. The hamlet named Paradijs lies near the southern border and is an unmarked hamlet close to the town of Terneuzen.