A map doing the rounds at the moment (thanks to a plug from flowingdata) is Derek Watkin’s brilliant map of “generic” terms for rivers in the United States (below).The map shows how different cultural and linguistic factors have influenced the naming of geographic features in the US. For example French settlers named the streams they encountered “bayous”.
The number of rivers in the US, combined with Derek’s brilliant design, make this a really compelling map. Inspired by this work I have quickly (with much less cartographic flair) extracted the major rivers and streams in Great Britain from the Ordnance Survey’s Strategi dataset and coloured them according to whether they are a “river”, “canal” (not sure if this really counts in terms of naming), “water”, “afon” (Welsh for river) and “brook”. You can see that a clear geography exists. I was not surprised by all the “afons” buy fish