It was in one of those “water cooler” conversations that occur in offices that a colleague mentioned she was looking forward to her vacation which would be spent in part in Berlin. Someone inquired whether she spoke German to which she replied with a blank stare. “No, why?” she asked.
“Well, you’re going to Berlin,” came the answer.
“Berlin, New Hampshire,” she explained. In point of fact, she could have been going to any one of fifteen Berlins without leaving the United States. Sprinkled from New England to the Rocky Mountains they are but one of many foreign capitals which have lent their names to American towns.
There are 16 Paris’s plus several New Paris’s not to mention Kansas City which sometimes refers to itself as “The Paris of the Plains.”
Madrid? There are nine from Maine in the east to Colorado in the west and 14 Romes including two in Pennsylvania and two in Wisconsin. Not unexpectedly, given the large Scandinavian migration to the United States, you can find six Stockholms and two Oslos.
Cold war? Not in Moscow, Idaho, home of the state university, nor in any of the seventeen other Moscows or eleven Warsaws. And there are fourteen Viennas from Virginia to Wisconsin.
So far there are no Beijings or Tokyos but there are three Delhis, including two in New York State, and eleven Manilas, of which Louisiana has two. No Canberras but fourteen Wellingtons, although in fairness, it seems likely most of them were named after the British duke and not the New Zealand city.
Africa is not without representation with a Johannesburg and four Monrovias.
The Middle East is officially represented by three Jerusalems and eight Cairos and unofficially by longtime San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen’s reference to his city as “Baghdad by the Bay.”
America’s affection for its Canadian neighbor is evident in our having four Ottawas, one each in Illinois, Kansas, Ohio and Wisconsin while they have only one.
Re-naming works the other way around, too. There are eighteen Washingtons in other countries including five in the Philippines and two in England although it should be pointed out that one of those, in Tyne and Wear, was actually the ancestral home of George Washington’s family and the town was named for them and not for a yet unthought-of capital city in a yet undiscovered land.