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Thinkstock/Google Maps/Bryan Dugan

11 Native American Names for Modern U.S. Cities

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Thinkstock/Google Maps/Bryan Dugan

"Even old New York was once New Amsterdam!" goes one of the more famous lines of the song "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)." But the Big Apple is hardly America's only urban area to have undergone a major name change, especially when one considers the people who discovered the country in the first place. Here are the original Native American names given to the regions that would become 11 major U.S. cities.


A large portion of the city of brotherly love (including Laurel Hill Cemetery) rests in a region dubbed "Coaquannock" by the Lenni-Lenape tribe. The name means "grove of tall pines.”


A village dubbed "Ogapogee"—or "the white shell-water place"—by the Tesuque people sat in the center of New Mexico's modern-day capital somewhere around the year 900 CE. A brief history of the area can be found here.


Rhode Island's largest city, along with much of its surrounding territory was called "Pancanaset" ("little cleared place"). For those interested, an excellent database of Rhode Island's historical Native American place names has been compiled by the Aquidneck Indian Council.


Chicago's present-day name derives from the Potawami tribe's word for "wild onions"—"checaugou."


Similarly, many believe the island of Manhattan's name is descended from "Manna-hata," an Algonquin term meaning "island of the hills." Another possible source is "Mennahatenk," a term used to designate "where one gathers bows" in the Munsee Delaware tongue. Contrary to popular belief, however, the island was not in fact purchased for $24 worth of beads.


Unlike the other entries on this list, Seattle is actually named after a Native American leader: Chief Seattle of the Duwamish tribe. Long before the area acquired its current name, however, it was home to an extensive series of villages, such as Stook (“logjam”) and Choo-tuhb-ahlt'w ("flea's house").


Meaning "living waters," "Shawmut" was a name given to the peninsula housing present-day Boston by local Algonquins. For a very detailed description of the Boston area's early nomenclature, head here.


Originally, this city was dubbed "Maliwu," meaning "it makes a loud noise all the time over there" (a reference to the nearby ocean).


Famed for housing the University of Michigan, the settlement called "Kaw-goosh-kaw-nick" was rechristened as Ann Arbor in the 1820s, though theories about the latter name's origin vary significantly.


The growing Arizona city's moniker was initially "Cuk Son," meaning "black base" in the O'odham language.


After the arrival of white settlers, natives took to calling the Crescent City (along with several other towns bordering the Mississippi river) "Malbanchia," which, according to historian William A. Read, means "a place for foreign languages."

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]