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Countries and Points of the Compass:

A puzzle from Yefim Somin (yes relation to the coconspirator) -- name three countries whose names are based on the points of the compass, but whose English names do not have the point of the compass as a word in the country name. (East Timor and North Korea, for instance, wouldn't work.)

Syd Henderson's Cat (mail):
Austria, Australia and Vietnam.
10.6.2006 4:59pm
Seamus (mail):
Vietnam should be added to the list, as "nam" means "south."
10.6.2006 4:59pm
TomHynes (mail):
So South Vietnam is like The La Brea tar pits?
10.6.2006 5:05pm
Fred Beukema (mail) (www):
Or like The Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim).
10.6.2006 5:21pm
AnonLawStudent:
Al Maghreb (Morrocco) translates as "The West"
10.6.2006 5:29pm
Seamus (mail):
Or the Sahara Desert. Or the Rio Grande River. Or the City of Indianapolis. (Or (in Virginia) the Town of Gate City and Town of Stephens City. If their populations ever grow over 10,000, they can become the City of Gate City and the City of Stephens City.)
10.6.2006 5:33pm
Ryan Bates:
I am fairly certain Estonia (Eesti in Estonian) qualifies, but can't find any definitive proof. Also, according to Wikipedia's entry on country name etymology (if you can trust things you read online), Tonga means "south [of Samoa]" and Yemen may or may not derive from a root word meaning "right" or "south".
10.6.2006 5:45pm
M.E. Lopez:
Maybe Norway and Sudan?
10.6.2006 5:45pm
Gavin Peters (mail):
Close, but not meeting the standard is China.

The Chinese name for China is "Zhongguo" which means "Central Nation". Does the axis count as a point of the compass?

This is particularly confusing, since everyone knows China is in the far east, not the central area.
10.6.2006 5:56pm
Enoch:
Yugoslavia
10.6.2006 6:10pm
qwerty (mail):
Norge, the name of Norway in New Norwegian, comes from Nordvegr, meaning "Northern way."
10.6.2006 6:27pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
There is no Yugoslavia.
10.6.2006 6:39pm
Maniakes:
Portugal is on the left edge of Europe, although I suspect that's a coincidence.
10.6.2006 6:48pm
Friedrich Foresight:
Americans who can distinguish Australia from Austria! Crikey, that's a bloody good sign. Now, where's me khaki lederhosen....
10.6.2006 6:56pm
Steve Lubet (mail):
Siberia -- though it's not a country -- is based on the root for North.
10.6.2006 6:56pm
sealionii (mail):
Ecuador isn't name for a point of the compass, but it is a geographical/directional designation.
10.6.2006 7:14pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Maniakes:

Portugal is on the left edge of Europe, although I suspect that's a coincidence.

Not entirely. Traditionally, port is always passed around the table to the left (ensuring that everyone gets his shot at the bottle), so the English use of 'port' for 'left' may derive from the drink which derives from the country....
10.6.2006 7:23pm
AnonLawStudent:
M.E. Lopez:

Although "sud" does translate as "south" in French, Sudan is derived from the Arabic "Al-Sudan", and translates as "the black land" or "land of the black"
10.6.2006 7:47pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
etymologically, I read once that the base of "north" is "to the left".
10.6.2006 10:04pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
ahhhhhhhhhh...


"O.E. norð, from P.Gmc. *nurtha- (cf. O.N. norðr, O.Fris. north, M.Du. nort, Du. noord, Ger. nord), possibly ult. from PIE *ner- "left," also "below," as north is to the left when one faces the rising sun (cf. Skt. narakah "hell," Gk. enerthen "from beneath," Oscan-Umbrian nertrak "left"). The same notion underlies Ir. tuaisceart "north." The usual word for "north" in the Romance languages is ultimately from English, cf. O.Fr. north (Fr. nord), borrowed from O.E. norð; It., Sp. norte are borrowed from O.Fr. "


http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=north
10.6.2006 10:07pm
J_A:
Uruguay's official name is "the Oriental republic of Uruguay" (though there is no Western Uruguay)
10.7.2006 12:05am
ys:
The implication of the puzzle was, I think that the names of the countries were those used in English, so I don't believe Morocco qualifies, even though its official name in the local language is Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah , same way China would not qualify even if "middle" were a point of the compass. Vietnam, on the other hand, qualifies.
Estonia is tempting, but Aestii were mentioned already by Tacitus, and that's not a Latin word for East.
There are plenty of fun names meeting the requirements for places other than countries, which brings the following branch puzzle: which names of two cities in the same country mean Northern Capital and Southern Capital?

Incidentally, both the wine and the country were named after a city: Oporto (formerly known as Portucale - Portus Cale - Port of Gaia)
10.7.2006 12:42am
ys:

Uruguay's official name is "the Oriental republic of Uruguay" (though there is no Western Uruguay)

True, it does come from the original name of Banda Oriental because it's on the eastern shore of La Plata with respect to Argentina and its citizens are still occasionally called Orientales, especially by Argentines. But it's an explicit separate word with the same meaning in English, so it goes together with South Africa (there is of course no country called North Africa).
10.7.2006 1:01am
Doc (in China) (mail):
Beijing, Nanjing. Xi'an has something to do with the west. China is full of compass point provinces - if it's got "Dong" it's East, Bei North, Nan South, Xi West. A lotof Chinese names are pretty literal and basic - north Hu, South Sea (Hainan), Above the Sea (Shanghai).
10.7.2006 3:44am
ys:

Beijing, Nanjing. Xi'an has something to do with the west. China is full of compass point provinces - if it's got "Dong" it's East, Bei North, Nan South, Xi West. A lotof Chinese names are pretty literal and basic - north Hu, South Sea (Hainan), Above the Sea (Shanghai).

But of course. It's a bit unfair though to answer this question from China :-) As to literal and basic names, I think China has no monopoly on this. One might start with all the Westports, Eastports, Southports and Northwest and Southeast Harbors of New England. Now, Vestmannaeyjar (the islands of western people - meaning the Irish), is a bit less basic.
10.7.2006 4:19am
JT Wenting (mail):

Traditionally, port is always passed around the table to the left (ensuring that everyone gets his shot at the bottle), so the English use of 'port' for 'left' may derive from the drink which derives from the country....


It doesn't.
Port is derived from starboard (in Russian that's even better to see, as there the word is starport I believe), which is an English spelling of the Dutch word stuurboord.
That's the side of a ship or boad where the steering wheel (stuurwiel in Dutch) is located.
"Boord" simply means the "side" of a ship. Mispronounced in English you can get either "port" or "board" depending on the level of inebriation of the sailors involved.
10.7.2006 7:26am
ys:

Port is derived from starboard (in Russian that's even better to see, as there the word is starport I believe),

The Russian word is actually shtirbort, which does not work to confirm this theory (the final t simply reflects the lack of vocalization of consonant endings typical of Russian and is phonetically spelled for a word borrowed most likely through German). Incidentally, starboard is derived from the Middle English sterbord and means the right board not the left board.
10.7.2006 11:44am
Ak Mike (mail):
Not quite compass directions, but the countries Yemen and Somalia, which lie respectively to the right and the left as one enters the Red Sea, might be named after the Hebrew, Arabic or other Semitic language words for right ("yemeen") and left ("smol").
10.7.2006 12:54pm
Orkon:
Time to bring back Kevan Choset.
10.7.2006 3:45pm
John Chalmers (mail):
I was under the impression that Austria comes from a word meaning bright (as in Ostrogoths), not east, though they are probably connected etymologicaly. Austalia comes from australis, south in Latin

Anatolia is the place where the sun rises (anatole in Greek).
10.7.2006 4:54pm
Dan T. (mail) (www):
In England: Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and (formerly) Wessex.
10.7.2006 6:07pm
Graham Asher (mail):
And in Wales, the old kingdom of Deheubarth, derived (if my memory serves me) from the Latin 'dexter pars' - the right-hand or southern part.
10.8.2006 5:36pm
markm (mail):
John Chalmers: I'm just going from old memories here, but Austria was founded by Charlemagne as a military boundary province (a "march", or Mark in German). Since it was his easternmost strongpoint, it was unimaginatively called the Eastern Mark. When it became an independent kingdom, it adopted the name "Eastern State", Oesterreich (as close as I can spell it without umlauts). That's been corrupted into Austria in English.
10.8.2006 9:04pm
markm (mail):
About port and starboard: Ship rudders weren't always mounted amidships on pivots from the stern (rear) post or controlled by a steering wheel. These are probably late medieval innovations, part of the great flowering of nautical technology the enabled Henry the Navigator and Columbus to make their voyages. The earlier steering technology was simply a long oar lashed to one side of the ship and trailing behind. At least in Viking and early English ships, it was always lashed to the right side of the ship, so a helmsman facing forward would hold it with his right hand.

Naturally this was called the "steering oar", or perhaps just "steer oar", in whatever languages the seamen used. In whichever one finally came to contribute the term to modern English, "oar" was "bord", or something similar. Their word for "steer" or "steering" was closely related to the modern word, e.g. "ster", making it a "sterbord". This came to mean that side of the ship as well as the object itself. When "sterbords" were replaced with rudders, the term survived as a direction. Through many changes in spelling and pronunciation, it came down to us as "starboard". And it means the right side of the ship, when facing forward. (Sailors are always very insistent about that precise definition; they may be facing any direction while working, and mixing up directions could be fatal to the ship.)

The opposite direction was once called "larboard" (I've no idea of the derivation), but that was apt to be misunderstood when shouted across the deck, so eventually they found another word. You wouldn't want to bang your steering gear up against the dock, so the left side of the ship came to be the side used for docking - and it still is usually, even though the rudder has been amidships for about six centuries. So the left side when facing forward became the "port" side.

"Port" is derived from Oporto, in Portugal, which was a very important harbor to the English. If you sail a ship south from England, intending to enter the Mediterranean Sea through Gibraltar, somewhere near Oporto is the earliest landfall that doesn't take you out of your way. With steamships with radar, gyrocompasses, and GPS it's a short trip and not much of a navigational challenge, but it could be difficult for sailing ships. So the early navigators would aim to sight land near Oporto for a navigational check, and also stop to trade, take shore leave, or do some ship repairs. On the return trip, they'd stop at Oporto to prepare for the voyage across the open ocean. Ships were bringing tin from the British Isles to the Mediterranean by that route since before the Romans and Carthaginians fought over Iberia, and ships continued to pass back and forth through Roman rule, the Anglo-Saxon and Norman conquests, the centuries of Christian-Muslim war in Iberia, and so on to the present day.
10.8.2006 10:23pm
Tom R (mail):
Speaking of relatives of the Conspiratoriate, I noticed recently while re-watching Firefly on DVD that there's an actor named Ilia Volokh. He plays a bad guy but not -- perhaps surprisingly, seeing how often they crop up on the Firefly screeniverse (ie, a whole 2 out of 15-16 screen hours, incl. the film, Serenity) -- a Russian mafiya bad guy.
10.9.2006 12:19am
Greg Morrow (mail) (www):
If I recall properly, Kyoto is "capital city" and Tokyo is "east capital", renamed from Edo when the capital moved.
10.9.2006 3:04pm