Linguist Jack Grieve studies regional variations in languages using quantitative methods. A year ago he posted a number of maps of the United States showing regional variation in swear word usage, based on a corpus of nearly nine billion geocoded tweets. Stan Carey of the Strong Language blog has more on the maps:
Hell, damn and bitch are especially popular in the south and southeast. Douche is relatively common in northern states. Bastard is beloved in Maine and New Hampshire, and those states—together with a band across southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas—are the areas of particular motherfucker favour. Crap is more popular inland, fuck along the coasts. Fuckboy—a rising star—is also mainly a coastal thing, so far.
Digitization also presents scholars with a new way of looking at maps, since, according to Fowler, “you can get a lot more detail than you could even looking through a magnifying glass.” As Matthew Edney, Osher professor in the history of cartography, pointed out, you can also dwell on an image longer than you could while studying a physical item under controlled conditions. “Rare book rooms kick you out,” he told me, but you can take your time with digital copies.
In some cases, that’s allowed Edney to discover new features of maps that he thought he already knew well. He points in particular to an 18th-century map of New England that was once owned by Hugh Percy, a British army officer who was a key player during the battles of Lexington and Concord. “Staring at it on screen, you realize there are these faint pencil lines, possibly indicating tentative knowledge,” Edney said. As he explains in a recent paper on the topic, such observations helped him better understand how Percy likely used the map—offering a picture of what the map meant at the time and not just what it shows.
This book can be read at two scales. Narrowly, it is a history of the mapping sciences in the twentieth century that situates technologies like GPS within a longer trajectory of spatial knowledge. But more expansively, by connecting geographic knowledge to territorial politics and new ways of navigating the world, it is also a political and cultural history of geographic space itself.
Another map colouring book has just been announced, this one from the Ordnance Survey: “The book will take you on an immersive colouring-in journey around Great Britain, from the coasts and forests to our towns and countryside. Expect to see iconic cities, recognisable tourist spots and historical locations across England, Scotland and Wales via the 55 illustrations. The Great British Colouring Map also includes a stunning gatefold of London. We can’t wait to share it with you—it will be on shelves in October.” Pre-order at Amazon.
The Ordnance Survey has created a series of data visualizations showing the most popular walking and cycling routes, based on OS Maps usage. “The 500,000 plus routes were illustrated in a series of beautiful data visualisations by [cartographic designer] Charley [Glynn], who found itamazing that the people who created routes for their outdoors adventures had logged almost every bit of British coastline. It neatly frames the rest of the data and gives the illusion you are looking at a map of Great Britain. The darker, thicker areas illustrate the higher concentration of routes and reveal popularity.” Flickr gallery. [Mountain Bike Rider]
Boris Johnson is Britain’s new foreign secretary. The Independent’s indy100 news site has put together a map of all the countries BoJo has offended. It’s interactive: at the link, hover over the country to get the oh-god-what-did-he-say-and-did-he-really-use-that-word story.
Earlier this month Voice of America had a short, introductory piece on Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 map of the world. Because it’s the first time the word “America” appears on a map, it’s become known as “America’s birth certificate.” It’s for that reason that the Library of Congress spent $10 million to acquire the last known copy of the map. The story of the map, however, is much more interesting than that: it’s an amalgam of classical knowledge with more recent discoveries, a curious document that tries to bridge two different ways of thinking about the world. [WMS]
BBC News: “A dress made from silk maps given to RAF soldiers in WW2 to help them find a route out of enemy territory has been sold for an undisclosed sum. The dress, made from ‘escape and evade’ maps, is thought to be from 1945-50.” [NYMS]