Names behind the places we live

Peel Region: Now and Then … and Again

By Rochelle Burns, PhD, social historian


The names of the places in which we live become identifiers — for us and others referring to us.


Yet, like the three examples below, all names keep changing according to the ‘personalities’ of those linked with the names.


First example. Peel Region. It has so many ‘personalities’ today because of its diverse, vibrant population. It bears little resemblance to the staid Englishman after whom it was named, Sir Robert Peel.


The two-time Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1834–1835, 1841–1846) was best known for his introduction of London’s Metropolitan Police Force in 1829. The idea caught on and soon spread to the whole of the UK. In an affectionate gesture to its founder, the officers were soon dubbed ‘bobbies’, after his first name, Robert.


Second is the name ‘Mississauga’. Internationally known today because it houses   Canada’s busiest airport, Pearson International, it had a totally different ‘personality’ when Europeans first arrived in the 1600s.


One of the First Nations groups the French traders found in the area was the Algonquian Mississaugas. It is generally believed the name ‘Mississauga’ comes from the Anishinaabe word ‘Misi-zaagiing’, meaning ‘those at the Great River-mouth’, probably referring to the Credit River.


Third, there is Bramalea. The name was created by a farmer, William Sheard, who combined ‘Bram’ from Brampton (incorporated as a village in 1853 and taking its name from Brampton, in England), ‘Mal’ from Malton (then a neighbouring town, now part of Mississauga), and ‘Lea’ (an Old English word meaning meadow).


Just as the names you were given are seen by others as having the aura of the personality you choose for yourself, so, too, is it with the place in which you live.


No matter its origin, the name of the place in which you live takes on the aura of the personality of its present residents.


Photo: Sir Robert Peel portrait: the man after whom Peel region is named. Photo credit: Parliament.UK

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