1759: British Map
Title text: West Norsussex is east of East Norwessex, but they're both far north of Middlesex and West Norwex.
This comic is a joke similar to "How Americans see the world" showing how the average American has opinions on the world, often including jokes such as a lack of Africa, etc. This has been used before in 850: World According to Americans. The map also plays with the joke by noting it has been labeled by a specific American rather than "Americans".
Many areas of the UK are most familiar to foreigners thanks to their depiction in various fantasy novels and TV series. This map labels some of these, as well as including many silly names that simply sound like real British towns to an American ear. A protractor is shown off the coast of the Mull of Kintyre in reference to the "Mull of Kintyre test" - according to urban legend, the angle of the Mull defines the maximum allowed erectness for a man on films and home video releases in the UK.
Randall previously posted a map of Great Britain on his blog as part of the promotion for his book What If?. This map is from a very similar position and appears to have been traced from the same source, although there are some slight differences. Both maps include a sketch of Lake Windermere with boats on it, and both have the locations of London, Oxford and Cambridge labeled (the blog map also shows Edinburgh and Bristol - in this comic, these are labelled Eavestroughs and Minas Tirith). Both also contain references to Stonehenge and Watership Down.
Note that in British English, the correct spelling of “labeled” is ‘labelled’.
The title text plays around with the concept of the compass directions and how numerous regions (such as South "Sussex" and West "Wessex") incorporate such literal names in their description. Randall is creating similar sounding names which are nonsense-ish ("Norsussex" would be the region of the Northern-Southern Saxons), and placing them in relation to each other in ways which would be geographically implausible, similar to this old joke about Boston. However, in Germany there exists the region called Westphalia (Westfalen), and the eastern part of it is often referred to as East-Westphalia (Ostwestfalen), which sounds somewhat ridiculous. Part of the joke in the title text could be the fact that while three of the locations are fictional, Middlesex does actually exist.
|Label on the map
|The "Grinding Ice", an area of Middle-Earth. Like Helcaraxë, northern Scotland is cold, mountainous and in many areas inhospitable.
|The Grampian region
|Possibly referencing Wick, Caithness, one of the northernmost towns in Great Britain. The real Wick is substantially further north, off the edge of the map.
|Near Rhynie, Aberdeenshire
|This is the name of a goblin in the movie "Legend" starring Tim Curry. Could also reference the art supply store, Blick Art Materials
|Katniss Everdeen is the heroine of The Hunger Games series of novels and films
|In colloquial Scots, its pronunciation is very similar to "Everdeen."
|Maybe deliberate trolling - Scots have strong feelings about where the Highland-Lowland border is
|Pun on the North Sea - i.e. a sea that is further north (or 'norther') than the North Sea.
|Sea of the Hebrides
|Loch Lomond is the largest lake in Great Britain, and the third largest lake in the UK. It is the subject of a well-known traditional song, and was referenced in the "beaming" (teleporter) bit in the movie Spaceballs by the Scotty expy 'Snotty'. It also houses a distillery producing a whisky appreciated by Captain Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin. Thanks to the monster, Loch Ness is by far the most famous Scottish loch, so naming the second most famous subverts expectations.
|Fjords are glacial valleys. "-ham" is a common English placename suffix from Old English, related to the modern hamlet or another root, such as that relating to river meadows, but not so common in the more obviously glacier-carved areas such as this area in Scotland. There are several villages (in England) named Fordham
|Near Oban on the Firth of Lorn
|The Scottish word "Firth" is related to "Fjord", although Lorn is not a fjord in the strict scientific sense - it was formed along the Great Glen Fault by tectonics, rather than glaciers
|Glassdoor is a website where employees can review their employers
|Although it's shown near Stirling, the reference seems to be to Glasgow
|A dialectal word for rain gutter
|Procan's realm in Dungeons & Dragons. "Sea sedge" is also one of many common names used for Acorus calamus, the calamus or sweet flag.
|Somewhere near the Scotland-England border
|A species of bird in the crow family
|The Scottish Borders
|Meowth is a cat-like Pokémon. Name may allude to Howth.
|Gluten-free food lacks the protein gluten. This allows coeliac disease sufferers to enjoy it, but has also become a dietary fad in itself.
|Cairnryan, Dumfries and Galloway
|A mashup of Brighton and Blighty Or a reference to Enid Blyton, a noted UK children’s author.
|The Scottish Borders
|The real Brighton is much further south, on the south coast.
|The real Eyemouth is further north, where "Seasedge" is marked on the map.
|A pun on Eyemouth
|A pun on Eyemouth
|Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, mashed up with the rock band Bell Biv DeVoe
|The Lake District. "-bottom" is a common placename across Northern England, and refers to a town in a valley.
|Below Lakebottom is a sketch of a lake with yachts on it. This is illustrative and doesn't correspond to any of the actual lakes which would be barely visible on this map. There are 16 'lakes' in the Lake District, but only one (Bassenthwaite Lake) actually has 'lake' in its name.
|Not a joke
|The real Braintree is much further south, near where "Paulblart" is on the map. Also a possible reference to the Braintree online payments platform (widely advertised on podcasts), or a stop at the end of the Red Line in Boston.
|A pun on Braintree
|Björk is an Icelandic singer
|East Riding of Yorkshire
|The reference is presumably to York (historically known as Jórvík), although it's a bit too far east.
|Weedle is a Pokémon
|Forest of Bowland
|In the original Pokémon Red and Blue games Weedle is most notably found in 'Viridian Forest' which - like the real-life Forest of Bowland - is known for its diverse wildlife.
|An expression of disgust
|Kingston-upon-Hull (generally just "Hull")
|Pronounced 'ull by locals
|A shirt with a simple round collar.
|There is a town called Crewe somewhat further south than shown in Cheshire.
|No joke. It sounds funny to Americans because it's associated with paisley fabric, a Persian-style print invented in the town. Possibly a pun on parsley, a herb.
|The real Paisley is in Scotland, near Glasgow.
|Also a herb, and one of the most famous British TV characters.
|An apparent pun on the Scouse accent: h-dropping and th-stopping mean the common "hey, then" would be pronounced "ai denn".
|Hillfolk is an RPG. "-hill" (referring to, well, a hill) is common in British placenames, and "-folk" (referring to a tribe or culture) is seen in Suffolk and Norfolk. Possibly also a reference to Hobbits, a race of little people that live under hills in The Lord of the Rings.
|Manchester's name does in fact reference hills: it means "castle on the breast-shaped hill"
|To "water something down" is to weaken it. "-down" is common in British placenames and refers to chalk hills. Possibly a contraction from the book and movie: Watership Down.
|Dubstep is a genre of electronic music with a heavy bass line.
|Dublin is the only non-UK settlement in the map, and one of two on the island of Ireland.
|By being recorded here, this is literally a borough upon a map. The "-upon-" is a common element of placenames for towns on rivers, although there's no River Mappe. Possibly referencing the fact that the town is on a "mappe" (map)?
|"Fhqwhgads" is a joke from the Homestar Runner internet cartoon. In the cartoon, the main character read a fanmail that was signed only with a random keyboard mash of characters, which Strong Bad shortened to "Fhqwhgads," a name that became a running gag on the cartoon.
|This is near the Welsh border; Welsh names often look like a mish-mash of consonants to English speakers ignorant of Welsh orthography; within a few miles of Wrexham are towns like Yr Wyddgrug ("Mold" in English), Cefn-y-bedd, Gwernymynydd and Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog.
|Cadbury is a British chocolate company.
|Near Boston, Lincolnshire
|Cadbury actually built a town for its workers... but it's called Bournville. There are several towns called Cadbury in the UK (where the Cadbury family presumably got its name), but none are near here.
|The art of making cabinets.
|Several towns in the English Midlands have names ending in -try, including Oswestry. "Cabinetry" could be a pun on Coventry, which lies further to the east.
|The Shire is home to the Hobbits in Middle-Earth
| Tolkien drew inspiration for the Shire from the West Midlands, although Tolkien was from the southern part of the Midlands (roughly where Dampshire is on the map).
An internet posting titled "A Letter to the U.S" after the 2016 Presidential Election", falsely attributed to John Cleese, could also have been inspiration for this map. It in particular says: "3. You should learn to distinguish English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney, upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). Scottish dramas such as 'Taggart' will no longer be broadcast with subtitles.You must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is "Devon." If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become "shires" e.g. Texasshire Floridashire, Louisianashire."
|Not a joke
|There are several Brandons in the UK, the nearest being where "Keebler" is on the map. The area shown is borderline-uninhabitable, as it is marshland and lies mostly below sea-level. Only a few farms and isolated hamlets exist here.
|A ham sandwich. Both "-ham" and "-wich" are common generic placenames. The village called simply "Ham" and the other called "Sandwich" are fairly close to each other, with a famous roadsign that points to "Ham Sandwich" between them. The bread-slices-and-filling foodstuff is named for the 4th Earl of Sandwich, and hence ultimately from the town of the same name.
|Likely to be coincidence but the "Cheese Hamwich" is a breaded cheese and turkey food product sold by Bernard Matthews Ltd whose food processing facility is based not far from this map location.
|Mash-up of West Sussex ("South Saxons") with the obsolete Wessex ("West Saxons") and never extant Norsex ("North Saxons")
|The Boston Red Sox are a baseball team
|The Boston Red Sox play at Fenway Park. The map location is not far from the British Boston
|The Keebler Elves advertise cookies in the US
|The name of this village in Thetford Forest means "valley of the elves".
|Most British counties have "-shire" in their name. Originally it meant they were administered by a sheriff. However, they are usually no longer known by those names in Wales.
|A film studio
|The word/suffix "-gate" in placenames often refer to ancient streets or roads, or possibly such a way through a gap that is natural (e.g. Ramsgate's cliffs) or in a city wall (which can thus be sealed, or 'gated'). There are no obvious inspirations for Lionsgate in that part of the country &emdash; Ramsgate, in particular, is at the extreme eastern end of the southern edge of the UK.
|Another "-bottom". A possible reference to King's Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and one of its districts Fleabottom.
|Possibly named for the town of King's Lynn, also located in East Anglia but close to its north coast.
|Aberforth Dumbledore is Albus Dumbledore's brother in the Harry Potter series. The name is sometimes translated as "from the river", but without any etymological references. "Aber" is Welsh for a "river mouth" or estuary, and is widespread in Wales, and occasionally found due to Celtic influence in other parts of the UK (such as Aberdeen).
|Aberporth ("Mouth [of the] port" - the Welsh equivalent of the English name Portsmouth) is a real town located a little further southwest along the Welsh coast. Forth may be a reference to the Firth of Forth in Scotland, where "Firth" means estuary or fjord, and "Forth" is thought to mean "the open air". Aberforth would literally mean "the mouth of the river Forth", which is the location of Edinburgh in Scotland. Alternatively, "forth" in Welsh could be a soft mutated form of the Welsh name "Borth" (the name of a town - but not a river - a little further north along the coast), which is itself a soft mutated form of the word "porth" meaning port.
|Another mash-up of Sussex ("South Saxons") with the obsolete Wessex ("West Saxons") and never extant Norsex ("North Saxons"). Also southwest of West Norsussex.
|Would refer to a river crossing without water. "-ford" is a common placename element.
|There are many Framptons in the UK. It means "town on the river Frome" - and there are also several River Fromes. The name is famous thanks to rock musician Peter Frampton
|Bury St Edmunds
|see also "Southframpton"
|Cambridge and Oxford, the two most prestigious university towns, are correctly marked. Together, they form Oxbridge
|Possibly a joke about the royal patronage given to certain towns - for instance, Bognor Regis and Royal Wootton Bassett. Also Knighton (a King's friend?) is very close to this locale, and so is Kington.
|Near the England-Wales border
|Cair Paravel is the castle where the ruler of Narnia lives in the Narnia series.
|Camelot was (in legend) King Arthur's court.
|Near the England-Wales border
|The King Arthur myth did in fact originate in the Welsh culture. However, most sites associated with Camelot, such as Winchester, Glastonbury and Cadbury Castle, are in England.
|A pun on Nottingham, famous for Sherwood Forest, the legendary home of Robin Hood.
|A surname, best known as that of actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
|The surname of a famous actress is replaced with that of a famous actor
|A pun on the county of Hampshire. Generically a joking reference to any county, particularly of the West Country, to imply it is particularly prone to rain.
|An American TV channel.
|Presumably the placement is a reference to Welsh words such as "cwm" which use W as a vowel.
|The practice of hunting whales. May be a reference to other -ing towns like Reading (which is actually pronounced "redding", not "reeding"), and also to its location in Wales.
|Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a 2009 comedy film starring Kevin James
|Possibly a humorous contrast with Cumberbatch above, a highbrow British classical actor followed by a lowbrow American movie character.
|See Cambridge. Surprisingly, Randall made no attempt to troll readers by switching the locations of Cambridge and Oxford. Or he did, but ironically from the wrong 'correct' assumption!
|The moorhen is a waterfowl.
|Possibly punning on nearby Swansea.
|No joke - it seems funny to Americans because of the knitted sweater popularised by the Earl of Cardigan
|The actual Cardigan is on the west coast. The name may be punning on the city of Cardiff, capital of Wales, which is further south-west.
|BBC Channel 4
|A composite of Channel 4 and the BBC (UK TV operators) confusing the meaning of TV channel with a geographic channel. There is a BBC Four (digital TV channel) and a BBC Radio 4 (FM and digital radio) with an adoptive daughter-station (digital only, originally called BBC7), but none of these are ever really called "BBC Channel 4" by locals, and it is hard to say what detail 'an American' might think he knows.
|By virtue of being the capital and largest city, as well as a famous world city, London is one of the few cities in Britain that anyone, no matter how ignorant of British geography, can manage to name correctly.
|It is not unknown for foreigners and British alike (even some residents of London) to assume that London has a more central location in England (such as 'The Midlands') or even further towards the north. Randall seems to be more knowledgable than this.
|A reference to Greenwich Mean Time. Shown on the map near the London bourough of Greenwich through which the GMT meridian passes.
|A reference to the leader (at the time of publication) of the UK Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn.
|May be a confusion with the town of Corby although it is not near the location shown.
|A joke about the counter-intuitive pronunciation of Thames.
|Minas Tirith is the capital of Gondor in Lord of the Rings and is built on the side of a mountain.
|Clifton Village, in Bristol, is built on the side of the Avon Gorge so could be compared to Minas Tirith. Nearby Cheddar Gorge is famous for its steep cliffs that resemble the landscape from Lord of the Rings.
|Hogsmeade is the nearest village to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books.
|The fictional Hogsmeade was in Scotland. Randall shows the Channel Tunnel running from there, a possible reference to Hogsmeade's secret connections to Hogwarts.
|The Tube Map is the map of the London Underground, widely considered a masterpiece of design.
|Cam Newton is quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. "Cam-" is common for placenames on any of the several British rivers called "Cam", while "Newton" means "new town". Also possibly a pun on Camden Town, a touristic district in North London, although not its actual location on the map.
|Efrafa is a rabbit warren in the story Watership Down.
|According to the story, the warren is located roughly here - the real Watership Down is in Hampshire.
|Another Pokémon. "-sey" is a common suffix meaning "island".
|Playing on common place name elements, "oughghough" has no clear pronunciation under the rules of English. It could be "Uff-guff", "Oo-gow", "Uh-guh" or any combination of these sounds. The name looks similar to the real Loughborough ("Luff-bruh")
|Legend has it that Loughborough was once pronounced 'Loogabarooga' by a visiting Australian.
|A sundial is a clock using a shadow to tell the time.
|The location roughly corresponds with Stonehenge, an ancient stone circle that was likely used to track the sun (though as a ritual calendar, rather than a clock)
|Dobby is a character in Harry Potter.
|Similar to Derby.
|Another -bottom. Also a redundancy, as the "bottom" is the lowest place by definition.
|A confusion with Southampton which is nearby the location shown. The use of the postfix "frampton" is a reference to the "Frampton" elsewhere on the map, just as Southampton is distinguished from Northampton.
|Milford on Sea
|Frampton happens to be a common surname in the area.
|The real Blandford is a bit further east, in Dorset, roughly under the m in 'Southframpton'.
|Menthol is a chemical with minty taste that produces a cooling sensation, and is used in mints and flavoured cigarettes.
|Possibly a reference to Methil in Fife (but possibly not).
|Historically, this was the name for the ocean off the UK's west coast. According to the list of sea areas used in the UK's Shipping Forecast, that region of sea is called "Lundy"
|Tarp, short for tarpaulin, is a waterproof sheet for storage and weather protection.
- [A black-and-white map of Great Britain. The detail on the map is minimal, showing mainly the outlines of the land, chevrons representing otherwise sparse areas of high hills or mountains, and points representing cities. The only other features are a small drawing of a protractor south of one peninsula, and a lake with two small sailboats on the west side of the largest landmass. The caption in the upper-right states in large letters "A BRITISH MAP," then in smaller letters underneath, "LABELED BY AN AMERICAN." Most of the map's area is covered by labels for various features, which are listed below.]
[In Scotland, from north to south:] Helcaraxë Blick Everdeen Norther Sea (to the west) Highlands Loch Lomond Fjordham Glassdoor Eavestroughs Seasedge Meowth Chough Blighton Glutenfree [In England, from north to south:] Eyemouth Earhand Hairskull Lakebottom Braintree Skinflower Weedle Bjork Crewneck Paisley Eeugh Aidenn Basil Hillfolk Waterdown Borough-Upon-Mappe Cadbury Landmouth (to the East) The Shire West Norsussex Redsox Hamwich Lionsgate Keebler South Norwessex Kingsbottom Cambridge Frampton Nothingham Cair Paravel Dampshire Cumberbatch Oxford Paulblart Corbyn London GMT BBC Channel 4 (to the West) Minas Tirith Tems-Upon-Thames Tubemap Hogsmeade Cambnewton Oughghough Efrafa Chansey Sundial Lower Bottom Dobby Menthol West Sea (to the West) Blandford Southframpton Tarp Longbit [In Wales, from north to south:] Fhqwhgads Cabinetry Bloughshire Aberforth Dryford Kingsfriend Camelot The CW Whaling Moorhen Cardigan [In Northern Ireland:] Belfast Devoe [In the Republic of Ireland:] Dubstep
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