United States Board on Geographic Names

Last updated
United States Board on Geographic Names
United States Board on Geographic Names logo.png
Board overview
FormedSeptember 4, 1890;130 years ago (1890-09-04)
Board executives
  • Tara Wallace, Chair
  • Marcus Allsup, Vice-Chair
Website www.usgs.gov/core-science-systems/ngp/board-on-geographic-names OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

The United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) is a federal body operating under the United States Secretary of the Interior. The purpose of the board is to establish and maintain uniform usage of geographic names throughout the federal government of the United States. [1]

Contents

History

On January 8, 1890, T. C. Mendenhall, superintendent of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey Office, wrote to 10 noted geographers "to suggest the organization of a Board made up of representatives from the different Government services interested, to which may be referred any disputed question of geographical orthography." [2] President Benjamin Harrison signed executive order 28 [3] on September 4, 1890, establishing the Board on Geographical Names. [3] "To this Board shall be referred all unsettled questions concerning geographic names. The decisions of the Board are to be accepted [by federal departments] as the standard authority for such matters." [2] [3] The board was given authority to resolve all unsettled questions concerning geographic names. Decisions of the board were accepted as binding by all departments and agencies of the federal government.

The board has since undergone several name changes. [4] In 1934, it was transferred to the Department of the Interior. [4]

The Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names was established in 1943 as the Special Committee on Antarctic Names (SCAN). [5] In 1963, the Advisory Committee on Undersea Features was started for a standardization of names of undersea features. [6] [7]

Its present form derives from a law of 1947.

Operation

The 1969 BGN publication Decisions on Geographic Names in the United States stated the agency's chief purpose as:

[Names are] submitted for decisions to the Board on Geographical names by individuals, private organizations, or government agencies. It is the Board's responsibility to render formal decisions on new names, proposed changes in names, and names which are in conflict. [The decisions] define the spellings and applications of the names for use on maps and other publications of Federal agencies [4]

The board has developed principles, policies, and procedures governing the use of domestic and foreign geographic names, including underseas. [6] The BGN also deals with names of geographical features in Antarctica via its Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names.

The Geographic Names Information System, developed by the BGN in cooperation with the US Geological Survey, includes topographic map names and bibliographic references. The names of books and historic maps which confirm the feature or place name are cited. Variant names, alternatives to official federal names for a feature, are also recorded.

The BGN has members from six federal departments as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, the Government Publishing Office, the Library of Congress, and the US Postal Service. The BGN rules on hundreds of naming decisions annually and stores over two million geographical records in its databases at geonames.usgs.gov. State and local governments, and private mapping organizations usually follow the BGN's decisions.

The BGN has an executive committee and two permanent committees with full authority: the 10- to 15-member Domestic Names Committee and the 8- to 10-member Foreign Names Committee. Both comprise government employees only. Each maintains its own database. [2]

Conflicts

Although its official purpose is to resolve name problems and new name proposals for the federal government, the board also plays a similar role for the general public. Any person or organization, public or private, may make inquiries or request the board to render formal decisions on proposed new names, proposed name changes, or names that are in conflict. Generally, the BGN defers federal name use to comply with local usage. There are a few exceptions. For example, in rare cases where a locally used name is very offensive, the BGN may decide against adoption of the local name for federal use. [8]

The BGN does not recognize the use of the possessive apostrophe, and has only granted an exception five times during its history [9] , including one for Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. [10] [11]

In federal mapping and names collection efforts, there is often a phase lag where a delay occurs in adoption of a locally used name. Sometimes the delay is several decades. Volunteers in the Earth Science Corps are used to assist the US Geological Survey in collecting names of geographic features.

The BGN does not create a place name, the BGN responds to proposals for names from federal agencies; state, local, and tribal governments; and the public. The BGN does not translate terms, but instead accurately uses foreign names in the Roman alphabet. For non-Roman languages, the BGN uses transliteration systems or creates them for less well-known languages. [2]

Publications

The BGN currently publishes names on its website. In the past, the BGN issued its decisions in various publications under different titles at different intervals with various information included. [4] In 1933, the BGN published a significant consolidated report of all decisions from 1890 to 1932 in its Sixth Report of the United States Geographic Board 1890–1932. [4] For many years, the BGN published a quarterly report under the title Decisions on Geographic Names. [4]

Other authorities

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>The World Factbook</i> Reference resource produced by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with almanac-style information about the countries of the world

The World Factbook, also known as the CIA World Factbook, is a reference resource produced by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with almanac-style information about the countries of the world. The official print version is available from the Government Printing Office. Other companies—such as Skyhorse Publishing—also print a paper edition. The Factbook is available in the form of a website that is partially updated every week. It is also available for download for use off-line. It provides a two- to three-page summary of the demographics, geography, communications, government, economy, and military of each of 267 international entities including U.S.-recognized countries, dependencies, and other areas in the world.

Geographic Names Information System Geographical database

The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is a database that contains name and locative information about more than two million physical and cultural features located throughout the United States of America and its territories. It is a type of gazetteer. GNIS was developed by the United States Geological Survey in cooperation with the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) to promote the standardization of feature names.

Romanization of Russian Romanization of the Russian alphabet

Romanization of Russian is the process of transliterating the Russian language from the Cyrillic script into the Latin script.

The romanization or Latinization of Ukrainian is the representation of the Ukrainian language using Latin letters. Ukrainian is natively written in its own Ukrainian alphabet, which is based on the Cyrillic script. Romanization may be employed to represent Ukrainian text or pronunciation for non-Ukrainian readers, on computer systems that cannot reproduce Cyrillic characters, or for typists who are not familiar with the Ukrainian keyboard layout. Methods of romanization include transliteration, representing written text, and transcription, representing the spoken word.

The National Map

The National Map is a collaborative effort of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and other federal, state, and local agencies to improve and deliver topographic information for the United States. The purpose of the effort is to provide "...a seamless, continuously maintained set of public domain geographic base information that will serve as a foundation for integrating, sharing, and using other data easily and consistently".

Romanization of Bulgarian

Romanization of Bulgarian is the practice of transliteration of text in Bulgarian from its conventional Cyrillic orthography into the Latin alphabet. Romanization can be used for various purposes, such as rendering of proper names and place names in foreign-language contexts, or for informal writing of Bulgarian in environments where Cyrillic is not easily available. Official use of romanization by Bulgarian authorities is found, for instance, in identity documents and in road signage. Several different standards of transliteration exist, one of which was chosen and made mandatory for common use by the Bulgarian authorities in a law of 2009.

The GEOnet Names Server (GNS), sometimes also referred to in official documentation as Geographic Names Data or geonames in domain and email addresses, is a service that provides access to the United States National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's (NGA) and the US Board on Geographic Names's (BGN) database of geographic feature names and locations for locations outside the US. The database is the official repository for the US Federal Government on foreign place-name decisions approved by the BGN. Approximately 20,000 of the database's features are updated monthly. Names are not deleted from the database, "except in cases of obvious duplication". The database contains search aids such as spelling variations and non-Roman script spellings in addition to its primary information about location, administrative division, and quality.

Khmer romanization refers to the romanization of the Khmer (Cambodian) language, that is, the representation of that language using letters of the Latin (Roman) alphabet. This is most commonly done with Khmer proper nouns such as names of people and geographical names, as in a gazetteer.

Sigsbee Deep

The Sigsbee Deep, is a roughly triangular basin that is the deepest part of the Gulf of Mexico named for Commander Charles Dwight Sigsbee, USN, Assistant U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, commanding officer of the USC&GS George S. Blake which discovered the feature during its mapping of the Gulf of Mexico. As described below there is some confusion of names that apply to the basin or a particular point in the basin with both being found in technical and popular literature applying to both basin and the coordinates.

BGN/PCGN romanization refers to the systems for romanization and Roman-script spelling conventions adopted by the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) and the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use (PCGN).

BGN/PCGN romanization system for Russian is a method for romanization of Cyrillic Russian texts, that is, their transliteration into the Latin alphabet as used in the English language.

Name of Pittsburgh

The name of the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has a complicated history. Pittsburgh is one of the few U.S. cities or towns to be spelled with an h at the end of a burg suffix, although the spelling Pittsburg was acceptable for many years and was even held as standard by the federal government from 1891 to 1911.

The BGN/PCGN romanization system for Belarusian is a method for romanization of Cyrillic Belarusian texts, that is, their transliteration into the Latin alphabet.

Antarctic Place-names Commission

The Antarctic Place-names Commission was established by the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute in 1994, and since 2001 has been a body affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria.

BGN/PCGN romanization system for Kazakh is a method for romanization of Cyrillic Kazakh texts, that is, their transliteration into the Latin alphabet as used in the English language.

BGN/PCGN romanization system for Kyrgyz is a method for romanization of Cyrillic Kyrgyz texts, that is, their transliteration into the Latin alphabet as used in the English language.

Oregon Geographic Names Board

The Oregon Geographic Names Board is responsible for recommending names for geographic features in the state of Oregon. The board submits its recommendations to the United States Board on Geographic Names for approval. In 1959, administrative responsibility for the board was transferred from the state government to the Oregon Historical Society.

Matataua Glacier, formerly Marchant Glacier is a glacier, about 7 nautical miles (13 km) long, which drains the slopes of Rampart Ridge between Mount Bishop and Mount Potter and flows northwest to the vicinity of Mount Bockheim, in the Royal Society Range, Victoria Land, Antarctica. It was named by the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names in 1994 after David R. Marchant, a glacial geologist at the University of Maine. In connection with Antarctic field work since 1985, Marchant discovered and used volcanic ashes to infer paleoclimate change and geologic stability in the McMurdo Dry Valleys and map the glacial history of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Marchant was put on paid administrative leave by Boston University in February 2018 for sexually harassing a graduate student in Antarctica.

Kornicker Glacier

Kornicker Glacier is a glacier draining northeastwards from the cirque bounded by Mount Liptak, Mount Southwick, Mount Milton and Mount Mullen in the southern Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica. The glacier flows along the northwestern side of Petvar Heights and merges with the terminus of the southeast-flowing Thomas Glacier as both glaciers emerge from the range.

Romanization of the Burmese alphabet is representation of the Burmese language or Burmese names in the Latin alphabet.

References

Footnotes

  1. "The United States Board on Geographic Names: Getting the Facts Straight" (PDF). United States Board on Geographic Names. November 2016. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Berlin, Jeremy; 18, National Geographic PUBLISHED September. "Who Decides What Names Go on a Map?". National Geographic News. Archived from the original on 2015-09-20. Retrieved 2015-09-19.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  3. 1 2 3 Exec. Order No. 28 (September 4, 1890; in English)  President of the United States of America . Retrieved on 16 July 2017. Wikisource-logo.svg The full text of Executive Order 28 at Wikisource
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Topping, Mary, comp., Approved Place Names in Virginia: An Index to Virginia Names Approved by the United States Board on Geographic Names through 1969 (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1971), v–vi.
  5. Meredith F. Burrill (1990). 1890-1990, a Century of Service: United States Board on Geographic Names. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.
  6. 1 2 "Advisory Committee on Undersea Features" Archived 2013-05-11 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 2013-10-18
  7. "Annual Report To the Secretary of the Interior Fiscal Year 2014" (PDF). Geonames. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-08-02. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  8. Donald J. Orth and Roger L. Payne (2003). "Principles, Policies, and Procedures" (PDF). United States Board on Geographic Names and Domestic Geographic Names. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 8, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2009.
  9. Apart from Martha's Vineyard: Carlos Elmer's Joshua View, Arizona; Clarke's Mountain, Oregon; Ike's Point, New Jersey; and John E's Pond, Rhode Island. "Gardens". QI. Season 7. Episode 1. November 26, 2009. (BBC Television)
  10. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324244304578471252974458308
  11. https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/politics-and-government/obscure-federal-rule-erased-apostrophes-from-place-names/

Bibliography