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In sharp contrast to the almost haphazard way names were attached in the past, firm rules and a precise methodology exist today for appending monikers.

Gritzner, who is involved with the Council on Geographic Name Authorities, said modern toponyms - a geographer’s term for place names - must conform to certain formats, such as not containing hyphens or apostrophes.

Places must also have an English generic term appended to it such as river, lake, canyon or mountain. That includes features named in other languages, regardless if the foreign term already includes a generic descriptor.

Proposed names are also required to have some history or acceptance in a given area. But the biggest difference between naming in the 1800s and now is, with the exception of Antarctica, nothing can be named after someone who is currently living.

It’s a good thing there are official rules, Gritzner said, because there are still plenty of buttes, creeks, hills and the occasional new city to label.

“There are still lots of things to be named for future generations,” she said.


Information from: Pierre Capital Journal,