Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Not without Contention

I recently came into possession of a curious book, Geographical Issues on Maritime Names: Special Reference to the East Sea--a title worthy of Borges or Stanislaw LemIt was published in 2010 by the Northeast Asian History Foundation and contains 17 papers selected from annual meetings of the International Seminar on Sea Names. Who knew such a body existed?

The book ranges widely over historical, cultural, political, geographical, and linguistic aspects of the long, long dispute between Korea and Japan over the name of the sea that divides the countries. I don't claim to have read it all, but I venture I now know more about endonyms, exonyms, and plain old allonyms than you (sans Google, of course).

Among the many other fascinating pieces of information the book contains is a useful list of international bodies of water broken down by degree of contentiousness of naming. Among those in the category of High Degree of Contention are East Sea/Sea of Japan (of course), Persian Gulf, and the South China Sea. For Moderate Degree of Contention we have the Gulf of Thailand and the English Channel (Bien sur!). And for Low Degree of Contention, a long list includes the Irish Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the Bight of Biafra.

In vain will you search for our own "East River" on the list. For those of us living east of the river, this appellation has long been a misnomer, not to say, a bone of contention. While I would not go so far as to suggest it be renamed the West River, I think it is high time the issue be given the seriousness it is due. Perhaps at the next meeting of the ISSN? No word on when or where that will be held, but I might propose Staten Island, or should I say, Richmond?


  1. First, its not a river, its a tidal estuary. Second it is absolutely west of the most important tribe of western Long Island (not grinder loving Ocean state transplants) no, the Lene Lenape with their huge middens of oyster shells.

    I suggest the acronym TEMA for Tidal Estuary of Manhattan Aggression. Willing to bet those hipsters in their kayaks during Irene that made Bloomito so mad were probably from Manhattan. kayakers on the mighty Newtown would have more sense.

  2. Thank you, Mr. P. Misnomer upon misnomer! Why not call it the Bernard Kerik Estuary (BKE)?