[Tagging] Can OSM become a geospatial database?

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny at gmail.com
Mon Dec 10 02:26:10 UTC 2018

On Sun, Dec 9, 2018 at 6:19 PM EthnicFood IsGreat
<ethnicfoodisgreat at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Most probably you would not want to look for all "brooks", because
> > "brook" is just one of multiple words that mean the same thing. There is
> > no semantic difference between a "brook" and a "stream" in general
> > nowadays. Its just that in different regions of the english speaking
> > world different words were commonly used, and people in America used
> > whatever word they were familiar with.
> So true.

Yes, indeed. In my part of the world, common words in the name of a
watercourse include:

river - Usually but not always a major river: the Hutchinson River or
Bronx River are pretty small over most of their length. Can also be a
tidal channel (East River, Harlem River). A major river will usually
keep its name even in the estuarine environment. (Hudson River
salinity varies but is usually still salt in Tarrytown in a dry
season, and the river is tidal as far as Troy.) To the north of me
there are many small streams named 'river' because English conquerors
translated French 'rivière', which refers to the order of a
watercourse and not its size (a 'fleuve' flows to the sea, a 'rivière'
to fresh water).

creek - can be any size from a trickle to a sizable river like the
Schoharie Creek, or can be a tidal estuary.

kill - can be any size from a trickle to a mid-size river (Roeliff
Janssen Kill, Normanskill, Catskill, Kaaterskill, Sawkill, etc.), or
can be a tidal estuary (Arthur Kill, Kill van Kull). Usually named by
Dutch settlers.

brook - Usually small, will sometimes still cross over to 'river' by
OSM's definition. Often named by Dutch settlers, but the English also
used 'brook' to translate French 'ruisseau'.

run - Usually small.

stream - Usually small.

fork - Any size, generally a tributary of a larger watercourse.

branch - Any size, generally a tributary of a larger watercourse.
(Farther south, 'branch' can mean any small stream.)

inlet, outlet - Used for (usually small) watercourses that are short
and connect a lake or pond to another waterbody.

The fact that the name of a watercourse indicates any one of these
words most emphatically does NOT provide any reliable indication about
its type, order, size or variablilty.  The Schoharie Creek is a major
river with several hydroelectric power stations and reservoirs along
its length. The Marble River up in Franklin County is only a few km
long, and I can wade or rock-hop it pretty much anywhere along its

And they are NOT misnamed. Sorry, but English doesn't work that way.
Putting a different word in the 'name' field of any of these
watercourses would be 100% wrong. 'Schoharie Creek' can be called 'the
Schoharie' colloquially when it's unambiguous, but call it 'Schoharie
Brook' and people will look at you as if you have two heads. The
Normanskill isn't the 'Normanskill Creek' or 'Normanskill River', nor
is it the 'Norman Creek' or 'Norman River' - its name is what it is.

You cannot expect English to follow the grammatical rules of Russian.

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