Yeah, it sounds unlikely, but a French pal of mine assures me that there is indeed a French place called ‘Mort-aux-Juives’ or ‘Mort-aux-Juifs’ or ‘Mors-aux-Juifs’ or however you want to contract it. He says the name dates from medieval times and so can’t be changed for ‘heritage’ reasons.
Can any one debunk this? Googling on ‘mort aux juives’ really doesn’t help. I know there’s a Jewry Street or something similar in London dating from the same period but that’s not quite the same thing.
On a similar topic, does anyone know of any other non-PC placenames, and whether or not they’ve been changed to make them more salubrious - a n*gger creek in the US or anything?
Most US place names incorporating the word “n****r” had the word replaced with “negro” in the 1960s by the USGS. In the South, you’ll encounter a lot of geologic and geographics features with names like “Negro Hill” and “Dead Negro Creek”.
Circleville, Ohio has streets, parks and ponds with “Hitler” in the name. Many old cities in the Northeast and Midwest will have place names that incorporate the names of top-ranking Third Reich officials, such as Speer Avenue (a major street in Denver), Himmler Park, or Gobbels Elementary School. Most of those places were named long before the Nazi party was formed, though.
Couldn’t be the site of an old jewish graveyard or something. Perhaps someone with better French then mine can answer wheter “mort aux [noun]” really suggests killing [noun] or just means that the place in question is related to a bunch of dead jewish folks.
The french gov’t has been fairly sensitive to anti-semitism over the last few decades, so I doubt a place-name that was really also a call ot violence would have been tolerated, history or no history.
That a town named Mort-aux-Juifs existed in France was reported as true in The Guardian (London) on Nov. 27, 1993 (sorry, not available online unless you too want to pay the $3.00 for a Lexis/Nexis search.) Three Canadian papers seem to have picked it up more or less verbatim from the Guardian article. Here are the first and last lines from The Guardian:
The hamlet in question is said to be outside Courtemaux; looking at a map of the area, there is a nearby town called Louzouer, so I expect that the Guardian got the name wrong, and it should have been “La Route de Louzouer” (i.e., The Road to Louzouer). One more google, and we have a list of hamlets in the town of Courtemaux:
And yes, Mort aux Juifs is pretty much “Death to the Jews”, and the phrase has figured prominently in some anti-Israel demonstrations in France.
Excellent job, JohnM, thank you so much! I assume my friend was right about the name but wrong about the whole heritage thing. A UL in transition, probably.
Thanks too for all the info about changes in the US. Here in the UK there has been a bit of controversy over the renaming of certain pub titles such as ‘The Black Boy’ and ‘The Moor’s Head’ and the accompanying pub signs. Some pubs have kept the name ‘The Black Boy’ but changed the illustration from a little African child to a soot-coated chimney sweep, IIRC.
And this was why I found it impossible to google - I just came up with news reports.
Thanks! I must admit that I started off in debunking mode, thinking that surely this was a UL; while it was satisfying to track it down, it was also depressing to find that the name survived into the 1990s.
The majority of the section comments about the large number of place names in America with “squaw” and other terms offensive to Native Americans in them. (As Cecil points out, “squaw” may not mean what some people think it means, but it’s still offensive towards Native Americans.) This is the complete list of non-Squaw towns Loewen mentions:
Niggerhead Point, New York (now Graves Point)
Chinamans Spring, Yellowstone National Park (now Chinese Spring)
Niggerhead Mountain, Vermont
Dago Gulch, Montana
Chinks Peak, Idaho
Dead Nigger Bayou, Mississippi (my personal favorite. No, I’m not a racist, I just think it’s a ridiculous name. It makes me laugh since it’s so politically incorrect.)
There is an Indio Muerto Street here in Santa Barbara. Indio Muerto is Spanish for Dead Indian. Several years ago a group of college students decided that the name was racist and had to go. They had protests and everything.
The Native American tribe that is local to Santa Barbara is the Chumash. One of the Chumash elders was asked by a reporter at the local newspaper if he found the name of the street offensive. Thinking about his reply makes me smile to this day. “What I find offensive,” he said, “is a group of white college students taking offense on my behalf.”
What’s wrong with “The Moor’s Head” as a name? One of the more common pub names is “The King’s Head”, and presumably no-one has a problem with that (unless perhaps it depicts Charles I, who was beheaded). Unless the head in question is an offensive caricature, or implies decapitation, I don’t see why “The Moor’s Head” is offensive as a name.
On the subject of Moors, however, here’s another example for the OP. Matamoros, Mexico (pop ~400k, just across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, TX) means “Slayer of Moors” in Spanish. It refers to Saint James the Great, who is the patron saint of Spain, and according to Spanish legend miraculously appeared and fought with the Christian armies against the Moors during the Reconquista between 718 and 1492.
There’s also a small town in Pennsylvania called Matamoras, with the same origin.
It’s not quite the offensive “call-to-arms” of La Mort aux Juifs, but it’s less matter-of-fact than the relatively harmless Indio Muerto.
There are occasionally places that were named in honour of some individual of an ethnic minority in a way that’s now perceived as racist. For example, some years ago, a mountain in BC named “Chinaman Peak” was renamed “Ha Ling Peak” (the name of the person in question).
As for Jews in place names (non-offensively), there is a suburb of Paris called Villejuif (“Jewish town”) and a prominent mountain in Barcelona called Montjuïc (“Jewish mountain”), but nobody is certain if they actually refer to Jews or are a deformation of some earlier name.