Where does the name Waxahatchee come from?

Katie Crutchfield strums a guitar beside Waxahatchee Creek in this still from the music video of “Coast to Coast.”
Waxahatchee is a Brooklyn-based music project headed by Katie Crutchfield.

The music press tell us that Waxahatchee is the name of a creek in Alabama. In January 2011 Crutchfield “was living at her parents’ house on Waxahatchee Creek, nursing the bruises of a few bad relationships and wondering what to do with her adulthood.” A severe snowstorm, unusual for Alabama, confined her to the house, and she started writing music: “song after song about loneliness, ambivalence and relationships failing to last or fulfill.” 1

Now there are two albums, American Weekend and Cerulean Salt. She’s playing tonight at Bottletree Café here in Birmingham. So this seems like a perfect time for me to geek out about exactly where the name Waxahatchee comes from, and what it meant.

The name contains a mystery.

Indian names

If you’re one of those people who’s satisfied to hear that Waxahatchee is “an Indian word,” you can stop reading. Go sit under your nylon-stringed dream catcher. If you care to know which Indians, what language they spoke, and so on, then read on. Continue reading “Where does the name Waxahatchee come from?”

Answer: Hate the South

This Friday marks the first anniversary of one of the meanest pieces of writing I’ve seen from a liberal pen. It is Sara Robinson’s piece for Alternet (picked up by Salon) on “conservative Southern values” as an existential threat to our republic. While there’s a glimmer of truth to Robinson’s portrait of what she calls […]

How Opa-locka got its name

View of a white building with a dome and tower, resembling a mosque, with palms and a live oak in the foreground.
Opa-locka City Hall. The Moorish architecture has been typical of the city since its founding by aviator Glenn Curtiss in 1926. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Locator map of Opa-locka, FloridaOpa-locka is a small city in the Miami metropolitan area of south Florida.

Its unusal name is supposed to have an Indian or “Native American” origin. But there is no documentation for the name before about 1926. That’s when the aviator Glenn Curtiss founded the city, during the 1920s craze for Florida real estate.1

When Curtiss first scouted the site, he was told that its “Indian name” was “Opa-tisha-wocka-locka.” He shortened this to “Opa Locka,” which sounded vaguely “Arabic-Persian” to him. This was the era of wildly popular “Arab” movies such as The Sheik and The Thief of Bagdad. So Curtiss dressed up Opa-locka in fanciful Moorish style to match the mood of the time.

The original name of the site almost certainly comes from the Creek/Seminole language. Most likely, it was Vpelofv rakko (“up-pee-LO-fa THLA-ko”), meaning “big hummock.” A hummock (or hammock) is an area of raised land within a swamp.2 Continue reading “How Opa-locka got its name”

The Joels and their Islamic Antichrist

Heard the one about the Islamic Antichrist?

That’s the latest story seeking to grant American Christians a license to hate in the name of love. Muslims, the story goes, are willing dupes of Satan, anxiously waiting for the arrival of their messiah, called the “Mahdi.” This mighty ruler is the person identified in the Bible as the Beast and the Antichrist.

Just ask Joel Richardson. Haven’t heard of him?

Joel Richardson is a painter and lay preacher who has turned out books arguing that the Antichrist will be Muslim. Islam, therefore, is evil. He often remembers to add that all Muslims are not necessarily evil. It’s just that they follow an evil belief system that serves the Devil.

Richardson seems to think he has been chosen by God to “release new prophetic understanding concerning the end times.”1 Mostly this understanding consists of reading the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation as if they explicitly refer to Islam.

Of course, no one had heard of Islam until A.D. 622, nearly six centuries after the New Testament was finished.2 People would probably give Richardson a hard time if he claimed to find references to Coca-Cola or NASCAR in the Bible.3 How then does Richardson justify finding Islam in there?

Well, he says he did a lot of reading about Islam. Books about “Islamic eschatology.” But more important, Joel Richardson has a personal hotline to the Lord. Continue reading “The Joels and their Islamic Antichrist”