Bringing Mapping to the Classics Course: An Adventure

My Greek and Latin Roots of English course recently published their Name Etymology Map to the Futures site (you can check it out and participate here).

However, since many names originated in other parts of the world before coming to the US our map doesn’t quite work as a layer for the “CUNY Map of NYC.

I started to get a bit worried — what could a Classics course offer an effort to map New York City? What kind of “data” could a class about words possibly plot?

I think we’ve figured it out.

The Name Etymology Map was inspired by a project the students completed earlier in the semester where they were asked to use the tools they had learned in the course and apply them to their lives. My trusty “word detectives” complete several of these “applied-etymology” projects throughout the course including this “Classical Moments” project below.


A Classical Moment is anytime you spy something in our modern world that is either a derivative or allusion to something from the Ancient Greek and Roman world. For this project, I would like you to focus on words. Look around you at some of the names of companies, brands or objects that you see or use everyday. How many of these craft their name from Latin or Greek roots?

For this project, I would like you to find 7 Classical Moments and write a paragraph describing what they are and the etymology of the company, brand or item name. Why do you think the maker or creator chose to use a name with a Greek and Latin root?

For example (I found this simply through Google!):

On the brand name “Verizon”

The symbol was selected because it uses the two letters of the Verizon logo that graphically portray speed, while also echoing the genesis of the company name: veritas, the Latin word connoting certainty and reliability, and horizon, signifying forward-looking and visionary.


Since I’ve asked the students to look around them and use their everyday lives as inspiration for this project – and since the students live in NYC – I realized we may have some “data” for the CUNY Map of NYC after all!

In the upcoming weeks my class will be discussing how we can map our Classical Moments project as a layer for the CUNY Map of NYC. I hope to keep you updated and have a fantastic finished product to present on May 22. In the meantime, take a look around you the next time you’re on the subway, walking down 34th or just relaxing around the city — you might be surprised to realize how very Classical New York really is.



  1. Dear Irene, This is fabulous and creative. (I actually think your name map should also be included in the CUNY Maps of NYC because it emanates outward from your CUNY students—I want to be as broad as possible!) But this new one promises to be beautiful. Will they be using their phones to photograph? That will add wonderful images to your map. I love the way this Classical New York will (the lesson of the basketball player and the gorillas) suddenly transform NYC into Greek and Rome. Once they have been directed to look, they will see ancient Greece and Rome everywhere. In fact, since reading this assignment I am too.

    You have transformed our world—that’s what a classroom and a course does, changes the compass point. From your CUNY class out into NY and to the world beyond: that’s what the CUNY Maps of NYC project is supposed to do, emphasize the way our formal education can make the world full of new possibilities. It is about connection and expansion. Symbolized by the map, it’s a new way of seeing. Thank you for this and for your creativity.

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