French villages and a sort of resolution

January 23, 2017

(This article was first published on Maëlle, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Sort of introduction to this post and hopefully the next ones

I usually don’t have any New Year resolution. However, recent tweets about productivity – from people I actually find productive and inspiring – made me ponder a bit on my unfinished side projects. My main 2016 side-project was submitting and defending my PhD thesis, and I’ve written a few R packages, so I’m overall quite happy.

But in 2016 I also started stuff without delivering. In particular, I prepared small data projects in Github repositories with a very precise README because I didn’t have a blog and planned to start one after my PhD thesis. Then I created my blog (thanks Nick!) and… only re-posted an analysis of mine from another blog. My nice repositories are still lying around and they represent quite a few of my West Side-project Story unfinished buildings. I’ve decided transforming some of my usable data projects into blog posts was a nice step towards being or at least feeling more productive.

Let’s start today with my visualizations of names of French villages!

Note: the analysis was originally prepared here and advertised on Twitter

Inspired by this work about names of villages in Germany, I wanted to have a look at the names of French villages. I decided against looking at prefixes and suffixes because I got a more poetical idea: looking for water and saints in my home country.

I got a file of all French villages names and geolocation from Geonames, which you can find in the data folder. Thanks to Bob Rudis for providing me with the link. The data is distributed under this license.

A first look at the data

ville <- read_tsv("data/2017-01-24-kervillebourg_FR.txt", col_names = FALSE)[, c(2, 5, 6)]
names(ville) <- c("placename", "latitude", "longitude")
placename latitude longitude
Recon, Col de 46.30352 6.82838
Lucelle 47.41667 7.50000
Les Cornettes de Bise 46.33333 6.78333
Ruisseau le Lertzbach 47.58333 7.58333
Le Cheval Blanc 46.05132 6.87178
Jougnena 46.71667 6.40000

Names of rivers and see

Here I selected names of towns and villages that include the names of a few rivers in France, or the word “see” (“sur-Mer”). This is by no mean an exhaustive representation of such names since I only chose a few rivers and a single pattern of name.

I created new variables that are Booleans by looking for given pattern in names, like “sur-Mer”, then I only filtered the lines where one of the pattern was found, and used tidyr::gather function to end up with the long format you see below.

water <- ville %>%
  mutate(mer = grepl("sur-Mer", placename))  %>%
  mutate(rhone = grepl("sur-Rhône", placename))  %>%
  mutate(somme = grepl("sur-Somme", placename))  %>%
  mutate(loire = grepl("sur-Loire", placename)) %>%
  mutate(seine = grepl("sur-Seine", placename)) %>%
  mutate(rhin = grepl("sur-Rhin", placename)) %>%
  mutate(garonne = grepl("sur-Garonne", placename)) %>%
  mutate(meuse = grepl("sur-Meuse", placename)) %>%
  gather("name", "yes", mer:meuse) %>%
  filter(yes == TRUE) %>%
  select(- yes)
placename latitude longitude name
Villers-sur-Mer 49.32264 0.00027 mer
Villefranche-sur-Mer 43.70470 7.30776 mer
Vierville-sur-Mer 49.37237 -0.90709 mer
Veulettes-sur-Mer 49.85162 0.59719 mer
Ver-sur-Mer 49.32987 -0.53118 mer
Vaux-sur-Mer 45.64606 -1.05841 mer

Then I made an artsy map thanks to the "watercolor" maptype of ggmap and to my beloved viridis. The zoom I chose makes the map only for the métrople, I don’t even include Corsica.

map <- ggmap::get_map(location = "France", zoom = 6, maptype = "watercolor")
ggmap(map) +
  geom_point(data = water,
             aes(x = longitude, y = latitude, col = name)) +
  scale_color_viridis(discrete = TRUE, option = "plasma")+
  ggtitle("French placenames containing the name of a river or 'see'") +
  theme(plot.title = element_text(lineheight=1, face="bold"))+
  theme(text = element_text(size=14))

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-5

It was also, I must say, a nice lesson in French geography for me.

Saint et Saintes

In French, towns such as “Saint-Ouen” and “Sainte-Anne” can easily be partitioned into cities named after a saint man (saint) and cities named after a saint woman (sainte). Thinking of this prompted me to have a look at the distribution of such place names with a similar strategy than for rivers.

saints <- ville %>%
  mutate(saint = grepl("Saint-", placename))  %>%
  mutate(sainte = grepl("Sainte-", placename))  %>%
  gather("name", "yes", saint:sainte) %>%
  filter(yes == TRUE) %>%
  select(- yes)
placename latitude longitude name
Ygos-Saint-Saturnin 43.97651 -0.73780 saint
Canal de Vitry-le-François à Saint-Dizier 48.73333 4.60000 saint
Vitrac-Saint-Vincent 45.79585 0.49356 saint
Vineuil-Saint-Firmin 49.20024 2.49567 saint
Villotte-Saint-Seine 47.42893 4.70571 saint
Villiers-Saint-Denis 49.00000 3.26667 saint

Here is the result on a map.

ggmap(map) +
  geom_point(data = saints,
             aes(x = longitude, y = latitude)) +
  ggtitle("Places named after a saint man or woman") +
  theme(plot.title = element_text(lineheight=1, face="bold")) +
  facet_grid(. ~ name) +
  theme(text = element_text(size=20))

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-7

Well, I cannot say I’m surprised!

Back when I published this small work only on Github and Twitter, I was pleasantly surprised to see a more elaborate analysis inspired by mine, so if this post made you curious about analysis of French placenames with R, head to Cérès Carton’s repository! And after this, I’ll just warn you to brace yourself for more old repos recycling from me.

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