Created By: dalek955 on April 1, 2011 Last Edited By: Perey on January 30, 2013

Mount Justamountain

It's not the locals' name for that landmark, but the mapmaker thought it was.

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Trope
A common way for an explorer in a foreign land to assign names to landmarks is to simply continue using whatever name the locals use. Unfortunately, learning that name can be tricky, especially considering that the explorer often does not share a language with the locals, and the locals might not be happy about a strange man constantly asking questions. As a result, whether due to simple misunderstanding, or blatant trolling you can end up with names that translate to things like "Mount Just a Mountain," "Lake I Don't Know What You're Talking About," or the "Get Out of Here Stranger River."

There are several possible variations on this theme, including:
  1. A plain description, or a snippet of conversation, is mistaken for the name of a landmark.
  2. The explorer did get the name for a landmark, but not the one he thought it was.
  3. The locals deliberately mislead the explorer about the name, usually giving something funny or rude In the Local Tongue.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

Film

Literature
  • According the The Light Fantastic, when an explorer of the Discworld pointed to a forest and asked "what's this?", a local answered with "skund"--meaning "your finger you fool"--leading to the Forest of Skund. Similarly, the nearby Mount Oolskunrahod means "who is this fool who does not know what a mountain is?"
  • Played with in the Island in the Sea of Time series.
    • The Bronze-Age African, press-ganged as a guide by the Tartessians, is frustrated that they don't call him by his name, but by a word in his language meaning "man". Of course he said he was a man. He wasn't sure about them at the time.
    • When a Nantucketer expedition is travelling across North America, they are aware of this trope, but can't do much about it, since they don't spend enough time in one language area to be sure that place-names don't actually mean "that's a lake" or "why are you pointing at that mountain?"
  • Inverted in Dragonlance. Mount Nevermind is so called because no adventurer had the time and nerves to listen the whole gnomish name of the mountain.

Live-Action TV

Tabletop Games

Video Games

Real Life
  • Finnish Lapland is filled to the brim with the "blatant trolling" variety, many of them rather explicit. The cartographers understood the names just fine, but used them anyway--although they would conveniently "forget" to dot the i's and cross the t's, thus making the names innocent.
    • For example, many ponds are called Villulampi, which is roughly equivalent to Flick Pond.
    • One of the most famous names (although it's just completely innocent nonsense) is Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä, the longest placename in Finland.
  • Austria reportedly has its share of "blatant trolling" names, too. The story goes that the emperor sent surveyors out so he could create a map. Those surveyors then bugged all the locals with their questions. Since that got rather annoying after a while, the locals decided to have their evil ways with the surveyors. And that's how a certain area in Austria ended up with names that roughly translate as "Tit Mountain", "Ass Chasm", and the like.
  • When French explorer Jacques Cartier reached the New World, the Iroquois people used the word kanata to direct him to their village. Cartier mistakenly thought they meant the entirely land itself and the French began using it to refer to the entire New World that fell under their control. Fast forward a few hundred years and the word is now used to describe the second-largest country in the world, Canada.
  • Macau allegedly owes its name to this. The explorers landed near a temple and asked what this place was called; the locals responded with the name of the temple (Maa Gok), which ended up being used (in its Portuguese approximation) as the name of the whole peninsula.
  • A common urban legend about the kangaroo's English name is that "kangaroo" was a Guugu Yimithirr phrase for "I don't understand you." (It actually comes from gangurru; the Guugu Yimithirr name for the grey kangaroo.)
  • Yucatan allegedly means something along the lines of "sorry, I don't understand what you're saying".
  • Lake Nyassa (also known as Lake Malawi) was named like this. Livingstone asked locals about the lake. They answered "lake", or in their language, "nyassa".
  • In the Texas panhandle, there is a city named Mobeetie, which translates into "buffalo dung".
  • The Yanomamö in Venezuela are forbidden to speak the names of deceased people. When anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon visited and got used to the culture and language, he started asking natives for genealogy. They decided to make the most of their situation, and uphold the taboo, by just making up names. This quickly degenerated into a lot of vulgarity and Unfortunate Names. Somewhat averted because Chagnon caught on to what they were doing and stopped.
Community Feedback Replies: 63
  • April 2, 2011
    peccantis
    Don't know if this is close enough, but...
    • Finnish Lapland is filled to brim with joke names the locals made up on the spot just to have a laugh at cartographers. Many originally involved explicit terms, so the cartographers conveniently "forgot" to cross their tees or otherwise misspelt, explaining the frequency of, for instance, ponds called Villulampi (equivalent of Flick Pond). One of the most famous names (although completely innocent, and utter nonsense) is Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä, the longest placename in Finland.
  • April 2, 2011
    dalek955
    That totally counts.
  • April 2, 2011
    MC42
    • When French explorer Jacques Cartier reached the New World, the Iroquois people used the word kanata to direct him to their village. Cartier mistakenly thought they meant the entirely land itself and the French began using it to refer to the entire New World that fell under their control. Fast forward a few hundred years and the word is now used to describe the second-largest country in the world, Canada.
  • April 2, 2011
    vijeno
    Real Life:

    • Once upon a time in Austria, the emperor sent surveyors out so he could create a map. Those surveyors then bugged all the locals with their questions. Since that got rather annoying after a while, the locals decided to have their evil ways with the surveyors. And that's how a certain area in Austria ended up with names that roughly translate as "Tit Mountain", "Ass Chasm" or the like. At least that's how I've heard it.

    Ha, I just read the first reply to this. It seems this was good practice in quite a few countries...
  • April 2, 2011
    pathfinder
    Played with in the Island In The Sea Of Time series. Examples:-

    The Bronze Age African, press-ganged as a guide by the Tartessians, is frustrated that they don't call him by his name, but by a word in his language meaning 'man'. Of course he said he was a man. He wasn't sure about them at the time

    When a Nantucketer expedition is travelling across North America, they are aware of this trope, but can't do much about it, since they don't spend enough time in one language area to be sure that place-names don't actually mean 'that's a lake' or 'why are you pointing at that mountain?'
  • April 2, 2011
    Fanra
    Similar but not the same is in Larry Niven's Known Space, with the planet "We Made It". Their capital, which was the site of their colony ship's landing, is called Crashlanding City. Also Mount Lookitthat. It was named when the pilot of the first colony slowboat to reach the world, looking for a safe landing place, spotted the mountain and exclaimed "Lookitthat!"
  • April 2, 2011
    Micah
    Mount Nevermind in Dragonlance. Someone who knows Dragonlance should fill in the details so I'm not just copying a wikipedia article.
  • April 8, 2011
    bluepenguin
    Macau allegedly owes its name to something like this: the explorers landed near a temple and asked what this place was called; the locals responded with the name of the temple (Maa Gok), and it (or rather a Portuguese-ified version of it) ended up being used as the name of the whole peninsula.
  • April 9, 2011
    foxley
    A common urban legend about the kangaroo's English name is that "kangaroo" was a Guugu Yimithirr phrase for "I don't understand you." (It actually comes from gangurru; the Guugu Yimithirr name for the grey kangaroo.)
  • April 13, 2011
    Sackett
    Needs a clearer name, Trick The Map Maker?
  • April 20, 2011
    dalek955
    Bump.
  • April 20, 2011
    jaytee
    This seems related to another YKTTW, Planet Dirt or something.
  • April 20, 2011
    neoYTPism
    This could use a better description.
  • May 2, 2011
    dalek955
    Any volunteers for an improved description?
  • May 3, 2011
    peccantis
    IMHO the description isn't failing, It might not be brilliant but it works. Let Wiki Magic do what it does.
  • May 6, 2011
    BraveHoratio
    bump
  • May 7, 2011
    Ryuuma
    • Real Life: Yucatan means something on the lines on "Sorry, I don't understand what you're saying".

    In the Dragonlance example, Mount Nevermind is called like that because no adventurer had the time and nerves to listen the whole gnomish name of the mountain.
  • May 7, 2011
    MetaFour
    • In Mostly Harmless, an alternate-universe Earth is named Now What, after the first words spoken after the discovery of the planet.
  • May 15, 2011
    peccantis
    Index: Naming Conventions. Check if we have a joke or prank index. If not, add to the humour index.

    Add and categorise the listed examples, then ready for launch.
  • May 16, 2011
    Cidolfas
    I wonder if we can expand this to any case where someone would simply take a word another character says literally when naming things. In that case, the name of Magrat's baby, Esmeralda Margaret Note Spelling of Lancre would count.
  • May 16, 2011
    RickHawthorne
    'Kangaroo' was originally thought to mean 'I don't know' in the native regional language of Australia.
  • May 19, 2011
    ginsengaddict
    You know that thing, where you bump up a ykttw?

    Needs A Better Title
  • May 21, 2011
    peccantis
    IRL:
    • Lake Nyassa (also known as Lake Malawi) was named like this. Livingstone asked locals about the lake, they answered "lake", or in their language, "nyassa".
  • June 2, 2011
    Medinoc
    If nobody launches this by the time I muster the energy, I'll launch this as Your Finger You Fool (and I'm sure we already had that. Lost in The Great Crash maybe?)
  • June 2, 2011
    dalek955
    I'm still waiting for the five hats. Also, I need more non-Real Life examples.
  • June 2, 2011
    Rolf
    only 2 examples shown in sandbox. I'll wait a bit.
  • June 2, 2011
    neoYTPism
    This could use a better description. I am still not sure if I have figured out what the idea of this trope is supposed to be.
  • June 3, 2011
    dalek955
    The trope namer is when the local tells the explorer that "that thing to the north" is in fact the finger with which the explorer is pointing at, in this case, a forest.
  • June 20, 2011
    dalek955
    Bump. I want to launch this, but I need more non-RL examples.
  • July 18, 2011
    Aielyn
    • In one episode of MASH, Hawkeye and BJ are lost and have crashed, destroying their vehicle. They come across a North Korean soldier who is quite happy to "surrender" to them. They decide to try to get him to help them find their way back to the 4077. Hawkeye bends down and draws up a mock map on the ground, showing where they are, at the intersection of two dirt roads, and then say they want to get from here (the intersection) to "Here; MASH 4077," pointing off to one side. The soldier makes a gesture like "I can help you", stands on the mock map, and then steps over to the place Hawkeye pointed to.
  • July 19, 2011
    pinkdalek
    I like how the RL examples are half innocent mistakes, and half blatant trolling.
  • August 14, 2011
    somerandomdude
    Related to In The Local Tongue.
  • August 15, 2011
    FastEddie
    Needs a name that does not sound like dialog.
  • August 15, 2011
    peccantis
  • August 15, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
  • August 15, 2011
    unclerupee
  • August 15, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
  • August 15, 2011
    CompletelyNormalGuy
    If so many people are confused by the description, I guess I'll give writing a description a try. If people find the following to be clearer than the existing description, I'll put it in it's proper spot.

    A common way for an explorer in a foreign land to assign names to landmarks is to simply continue using whatever name the locals use. Unfortunately, learning that name can be tricky, especially considering that the explorer often does not share a language with the locals, and the locals might not be happy about a strange man constantly asking questions. As a result, whether due to simple misunderstanding, or blatant trolling you can end up with names that translate to things like "Mount It's a Mountain," "Lake I Don't Know What You're Talking About," or the "Get Out of Here Stranger River."

    See also: In The Local Tongue.
  • August 15, 2011
    randomsurfer
  • August 16, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    That makes a bit more sense. Thanks @ Completely Normal Guy
  • August 16, 2011
    Shnakepup
    I like Mount Just A Mountain as well.
  • August 16, 2011
    KamenZero
    To me, the name doesn't seem to be fitting at all, especially when compared to the description of the Trope Namer. The joke is suppose to be that they say "Who is this fool -blahblahblah" but did they also say "That's your finger, you fool"? So it kind of doesn't make sense, both as a title and as related to being the Trope Namer.. I agree with Mount Just A Mountain.

    Also, if the troper who makes the YKTTW doesn't really.. well.. update for a while, does the trope become Up For Grabs or..?
  • August 17, 2011
    dalek955
    I got the title from a Discworld book, but now that I really think about it it really isn't a good title. Oh well.
  • August 18, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Then change the title, dalek. It's easier to change now than it would be to change after the trope is launched.
  • August 19, 2011
    GuesssWho
    I think Your Finger You Fool makes sense: "What's that thing?" "Your finger, you fool!"

    But Mount Justamountain works well too.
  • August 20, 2011
    peccantis
    I like Mount Justamountain too. Your Finger You Fool might make sense, but it isn't as immediately recognisable, and what's more, is of dialogue style, i.e. faces threat of instant cut by Fast Eddie.
  • August 20, 2011
    FastEddie
    Yep. It's dialog.
  • August 22, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    And Fast Eddie has spoken!

    Yeah, dalek, just give up on the Your Finger You Fool title, the trope won't last with that one. I say just go with Mount Justamountain and launch this already, we've waited long enough.
  • August 25, 2011
    Hadashi
    Your Finger You Fool works better for insertion and is a good reference. Mount Justamountain is harder and more obscure.
  • August 25, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^ But Your Finger You Fool isn't an option, because it's a dialogue-like title.

    Besides, I find Mount Justamountain more indicative anyway.
  • August 25, 2011
    peccantis
    Mount Justamountain is getting support, Your Finger You Fool was vetoed by Fast Eddie, how about you just launch it already?
  • August 25, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Maybe dalek isn't online at the moment, or maybe he/she doesn't have time to launch it.

    In any case, would any of us have your permission to launch it?
  • August 25, 2011
    terrafox
    This can happen with cities as well. In the Texas panhandle, there is a city named Mobeetie, which translates into "Buffalo shit".
  • August 25, 2011
    randomsurfer
    I'm obivously in the minority but I don't like Mount Justamountain. To quote Fast Eddie' forum sig line: "Goal: Clear, concise, and witty. Acceptable: clear." Confusing Foreign Word For Name is clear, or at least clearer.
  • August 25, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    You have a lot of real life examples already, but the Yanomamo in Venezuela are forbidden to speak the names of deceased people. When an anthropologist visited and got used to the culture and language, he started asking natives for genealogy. They decided to make the most of their situation and upheld the taboo by just making up names. This quickly degenerated into a lot of vulgarity and Unfortunate Names. Somewhat averted because the anthropologist caught on to what they were doing and stopped.

    If I can remember the name of this anthropologist, I will get back to this. I remember his first name is Napoleon.
  • August 28, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    I remember now. The anthropologist is Napoleon Chagnon, and the tribe's name has an umlaut over the second O (i.e., Yanomamö).
  • January 27, 2013
    Perey
    By reason of abandonment, this one's gone Up For Grabs. Let's see now...

    Okay, this seriously needs more fictional examples. I've changed the title per the consensus, added a laconic version, used Completely Normal Guy's description, and added all examples offered... except for the Known Space and Mostly Harmless examples (both Line Of Sight Name), the Discworld "Magrat's baby" example (not sure what that is, but it doesn't seem to be this), and the MASH example (I don't know what trope that counts as, if anything).
  • January 28, 2013
    Omeganian
  • January 28, 2013
    dvorak
    I thought we had this one...
  • January 29, 2013
    Arivne
    ^ This proposal was first added to YKTTW back in April 2011, so you may be remembering one of its prior appearances.
  • January 29, 2013
    Connorses
    I was gonna suggest an instance from a Discworld book but then I saw it on the list my bad ^^;
  • January 29, 2013
    Perey
    Omeganian: Unfortunately it doesn't look feasible to sort through that list to find which ones are examples of this trope, and which ones are simply partial/redundant translations.

    Of course, that does highlight a possible shortcoming of this trope. In real life examples, if not in fictional ones, how are we to distinguish between "the locals said 'it's a mountain'" and "the locals call it [The] Mountain"? As a concrete example, on the list we have Lake Nyassa, where nyassa means "lake". But maybe the locals actually called it Nyassa, "The Lake"? I think we need to avoid confusing this trope with multilingual Shaped Like Itself place names.

    And more to the point, does the present title ("Mount Justamountain") actively encourage that sort of confusion? At least the old title ("Your Finger You Fool") was clearly not about that (it just wasn't clear what it is about, to anyone who hasn't read Discworld).

    dvorak: Always possible, but I checked the Naming Conventions index and didn't see anything.
  • January 30, 2013
    randomsurfer
    According to one Urban Legend Nome Alaska got that name because the cartorapher wrote "? Name" and the guy transcribing it misunderstood it as "C [for 'Cape'] Nome."
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