My Very Own Folk Etymology

California.

The true derivation: California is named after a fictional exotic country.

My take on it, long before I knew that:

“Cali” = “beautiful”, from Greek “καλλι-” (borrowed by Latin as “calli-”);

“forn” = “oven” (as in “al forno”) AND “brothel” (as in “fornication”), from Latin “fornax” and “fornix” respectively, both of which appear to lead back to PIE “*gwher-”;

finished off with the suffix “-ia”, common at the end of place names (Utopia, Philadelphia, Asia, Russia, Ethiopia, Colombia, etc), often carrying the meaning of “the place where …” or “the place of …”;

giving something like “Beautiful Oven-Place, With Fornication”.

In my extremely narrow experience, having visited Los Angeles for a couple of weeks one summer, I can confirm it’s both beautiful and an oven. I saw no particular evidence for brothels or fornication, but I did see many people whose desperate pursuit of hotness was clearly not limited to high temperatures.

3 Likes

I very much appreciate this etymological branch.

2 Likes

Look up folk etymology vs false etymology. It’ll make you mad (or at least it did to me haha).

2 Likes

fornication (n.)

c. 1300, from Old French fornicacion “fornication, lewdness; prostitution; idolatry”

idolatry (n.)

“worship of idols and images,”

Idolatry = image worship
Idiolatry = self image worship

Realize
The sense of “understand clearly, comprehend the reality of”

You can’t see California without Marlon Brando’s eyes

Fun huh