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Where is Old Jersey? (and 6 other "˜New' location origins)

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I grew up in New Jersey... exit 4, to be more precise. But it wasn't until I left home that I actually started to think about the original Jersey, off the coast of France. Technically, the original Jersey is a bailiwick composed of an island and two groups of small islands, which, along with another bailiwick called Guernsey, make up the Channel Islands. Jersey isn't part of the U.K., nor is it a full-member state of the EU, but is a separate possession of The Crown in Right of the United Kingdom.

So why is New Jersey named after Jersey? Well, When Charles II of England was exiled in Jersey, a man named Sir George Carteret, a royalist statesman in Jersey, often came to the monarch's assistance. To repay the favor, later Charless II gave Carteret a huge tract of land over in the American colonies where Sir Bruce Springsteen would later grow up, which Carteret promptly named New Jersey. This also answers the question: why is there a borough in Middlesex County, NJ called Carteret? Glad we cleared that one up, aren't you?

Okay, but what about New Brunswick, NJ?

Well, in 1714, the area originally inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans was named New Brunswick after the city of Braunschweig, in state of Lower Saxony, in Germany. Bruno II, a Saxon count who lived during the 11th century, settled the original area in Germany and the town is named after him (Bruno + wik).

Leaving New Jersey and traveling into New York, which, of course, was New Amsterdam, we come to the awfully quaint village of New Paltz, NY. Founded in 1678 by French Huguenots, including Louis DuBois, who lived in Mannheim, Germany, for a brief period of time before sailing on to the New Land, New Paltz is probably most famous for being the place Penny got an abortion in the Dirty Dancing.

But what about the name? Well, Mannheim, Germany was a major town of the Rhenish Palatinate or, in German, the Rheinpfalz (try saying that with a saltine in your mouth!). Take away the Rhein and you're left with pfalz, which the good people of Mannheim pronounced Paltz! When they made their way to New York, it was a no-brainer to call the land New Paltz.

New Rochelle, located in Westchester County, New York, was originally settled by refugee Huguenots in 1688 who were on the run from Catholic-instigated massacres back in France. As history would have it, many of the pioneers hailed from the city of La Rochelle, France, which is in south-western France on the Bay of Biscay.

Moving north to Connecticut, we come to one of the most affluent communities in the US, New Canaan, which takes its name first from the parish established in 1731 called Canaan. When the parish finally became a town in 1801, they called it New Canaan. Of course, the original Canaan was a tract of land defined in the Bible as the "Land of Canaan," which, according to the Canaanites, extended from Lebanon southward across Gaza to the "Brook of Egypt" and eastward to the Jordan River Valley.

Our last stop on this Old/New tour is New Hampshire.

The original Hampshire is on the southern coast of England Hampshire, sometimes historically referred to as Southamptonshire, Hamptonshire, and the County of Southampton, which may answer all sort of questions about those precious Hamptons on Long Island. Since Hampshire was on the coast, it made for easy access back in the 17th century for those leaving England and settling in the region they then called New Hampshire.
New Durham, NH was named after Durham, NH, which got its name from England, as well. New Durham is probably best known as the place where Reverend Benjamin Randall founded the then-new religious denomination in 1780 called the Free Will Baptists, later known as Free Baptists. The original Durahm is located in north east of England and is home to Durham University, England's third oldest educational institute after Oxford and Cambridge. It's located not too far from Durham's city center, er, rather centre.

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ANTTI T. NISSINEN, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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Big Questions
Why Does Japan Have Blue Traffic Lights Instead of Green?
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ANTTI T. NISSINEN, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In Japan, a game of Red Light, Green Light might be more like Red Light, Blue Light. Because of a linguistic quirk of Japanese, some of the country’s street lights feature "go" signals that are distinctly more blue than green, as Atlas Obscura alerts us, making the country an outlier in international road design.

Different languages refer to colors very differently. For instance, some languages, like Russian and Japanese, have different words for light blue and dark blue, treating them as two distinct colors. And some languages lump colors English speakers see as distinct together under the same umbrella, using the same word for green and blue, for instance. Again, Japanese is one of those languages. While there are now separate terms for blue and green, in Old Japanese, the word ao was used for both colors—what English-speaking scholars label grue.

In modern Japanese, ao refers to blue, while the word midori means green, but you can see the overlap culturally, including at traffic intersections. Officially, the “go” color in traffic lights is called ao, even though traffic lights used to be a regular green, Reader’s Digest says. This posed a linguistic conundrum: How can bureaucrats call the lights ao in official literature if they're really midori?

Since it was written in 1968, dozens of countries around the world have signed the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, an international treaty aimed at standardizing traffic signals. Japan hasn’t signed (neither has the U.S.), but the country has nevertheless moved toward more internationalized signals.

They ended up splitting the difference between international law and linguists' outcry. Since 1973, the Japanese government has decreed that traffic lights should be green—but that they be the bluest shade of green. They can still qualify as ao, but they're also green enough to mean go to foreigners. But, as Atlas Obscura points out, when drivers take their licensing test, they have to go through a vision test that includes the ability to distinguish between red, yellow, and blue—not green.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Using Words Like 'Really' A Lot Could Mean You're Really Stressed
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Are you feeling really exhausted? Or have you noticed that it's incredibly hot out today?

If you recognize the adverbs above as appearing frequently in your own speech, it could be a sign that you're stressed. At least, those are the findings in a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As Nature reports, researchers found that peppering our speech with "function words" is a pretty accurate indicator of our anxiety levels.

Function words differ from verbs and nouns in that they don't mean much on their own and mostly serve to clarify the words around them. Included in this group are pronouns, adverbs, and adjectives. A team of American researchers suspected that people use these words more frequently when they're stressed, so to test their hypothesis, they hooked up recording devices to 143 volunteers.

After transcribing and analyzing audio clips recorded periodically over the course of two days, the researchers compared subjects' speech patterns to the gene expressions of certain white blood cells in their bodies that are susceptible to stress. They found that people exhibiting the biological symptoms of stress talked less overall, but when they did speak up they were more likely to use words like really and incredibly.

They also preferred the pronouns me and mine over them and their, possibly indicating their self-absorbed world view when under pressure. The appearance of these trends predicted stress in the volunteers' genes more accurately than their own self-assessments. As study co-author Matthias Mehl told Nature, this could be a reason for doctors to "listen beyond the content" of the symptoms their patients report and pay greater attention "to the way it is expressed" in the future.

One reason function words are such a great indicator of stress is that we often insert them into our sentences unconsciously, while our choice of words like nouns and verbs is more deliberate. Anxiety isn't the only thing that influences our speech without us realizing it. Hearing ideas we agree with also has a way of shaping our syntax.

[h/t Nature]

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