Living in a land with no name

Raul stopped by for a bit earlier this week. For those not in the know, Raul is our landlord. He does sound production for movies all over the place and is currently working in Mexico. He was in town and called to see if he could stop by and check on The Little House. He came over and we hung out on the patio for a while. Among many other bits of knowledge and wisdom to be covered in other posts, he told us a bit about the land in which we live.

“You know that Uruguay isn’t the name of the country, right?”

I guess we all looked a little dumbfounded, he took that as his cue to educate us. He proceeded to tell us that the official name of the country is the Oriental Republic of Uruguay. Now, to the uneducated (that would be us), this sounded like a perfectly reasonable country name. As it turns out, as this name is further analyzed, it’s really just a description of a geographical region. Oriental meaning of or to the east. Republic.. pretty obvious a country with elected representatives. Uruguay is apparently the name of the river running by us here in the indigenous tongue. So, we’re actually just in the country to the east of the river.

To compound this he continued, “Well the city you’re living in doesn’t also has no name.”

Raul informed us that Montevideo can actually be broken down into Monte VI-D-E-O. Which was the Spanish Navigational Shorthand for Monte VI de Este a Oeste, meaning the sixth mountain from east to west. Saying anything around here is a mountain is a bit generous but we’ll let that slide.

All together now! We’re living near the sixth mountain from east to west in the country to the east of the river. It may be a bit overly dramatic to say we’re living in a land without a name, but etymology is always interesting.

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7 thoughts on “Living in a land with no name

  1. I never understood that argument. Sure, the country is named based on the river that flows next to it. Like Nigeria. Or Niger, they share the river. But naming countries based on geographical features is not new. Take the USA, for example. It’s called “United States of America” — that is, a union of states, probably federal in nature, that is located in the American continent. Like Mexico. Or Argentina. Or Brazil. Speaking of Brazil, it’s named after a tree. Or take Germany, land of the Germans, right? Germans as in the Franks? Or the Goths? Or maybe use the Spanish name, Alemania, land of the Alemanni, which yeah, were Germanic, but in many cases didn’t even leave in what is now Germany, and the portion in which they did was really small. So yeah, if you argue that Uruguay is “not the name of the country” then almost any country you can come up with has no name.

    Also, there’s no agreement on the origin of the name of Montevideo. The city itself is named after the hill (the one with the fortress on top). The original name of the city was “San Felipe y Santiago de Montevideo”, because the Spanish loved their saints. It was of course shortened by common use. As for the hill itself, the Monte VI d E-O thing is probably the best known one, but it’s far from the only one. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montevideo#Etymology for more. The one they taught me in elementary school is the “monte vide eu” one, which seems (at least to me) even more wrong than the “sixth mountain” one.

    In any case, the fact is that the name of the country is Uruguay because that’s how everybody calls it (and it’s shortened from the full official name that is República Oriental del Uruguay), and the city is called Montevideo, both popularly and (I think now at least) also legally. To say that “it has no real name” because you can point exactly where the name comes from (even though, in the case of Montevideo, we can’t, really) makes no sense at all. But people here still repeat it. I think it’s because one of those factoids that make them sound smart.

    • Yeah, that’s why I added the disclaimer at the end. I also, read the etymology part of wikipedia before posting, but since there was no agreement I decided this story was as good as any.

      Besides, as they say, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

  2. You have made us feel so educated regarding the area in which you live. It truly is very interesting. Also, we are so happy to hear from you. You spoiled us with the regular email that when there was such a long pause we began to worry that something had happened to you so very far away from home. Glad that isn’t the case and looking forward to more adventures but also more interesting history, lore and facts of that part of the world. Love and hugs, Jane and Milburn

  3. How neat!! I think it’s fascinating to hear this kind of information, especially when it’s about a place where you are living and considering “home.” What a great visit from Raul and a fun bit of information to start a conversation with!

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