As mentioned in my previous post about the significance of Nahom, in a recent presentation at an ex-Mormon conference, a man who says he is “addicted to truth” made the claim that his searching had revealed that among 3-letter consonant groupings for place names, NHM was one of the most common. So common that you could find it almost anywhere you looked, making the occurrence of Nahom/Nehem/NHM in the Book of Mormon to be “lacking in significance.” As a reminder, here is the transcript of his comments on this topic:
We have NHM in Germany, Austria, Iran, Zimbabwe, Angola, Israel, Canada, and basically everywhere you look you can find those 3 letters. I’m sure there’s a dozen companies named NHM that all around the world as well. Basically, if it was QXP, that would be more significant because those are more rare across the languages of the world. But NHM happened to be some of the most common letters. So the significance of NHM is lacking.
This was said while displaying a slide entitled “Significance of NHM” with the following list of direct hits:
- Noham, Germany
- Noham, Austria
- Nohom, Iran
- Nhime, Angola
- Nahum, Israel
- Anhim, Canada
- Nhaem, Vietnam
- Enham, United Kingdom
- Nahme, Bulgaria
- Nahoma, Namibia
- Nhamuai, Mozambique
- Nhime, Guinea-Bissau
- Nahma, Michigan
- Nahimha, Tanzania
- Naham, Israel
Apart from completing missing, or completely obfuscating, the real point about Nahom being confirmed as an ancient burial place in exactly the location required for Book of Mormon plausibility, Johnson’s misdirection about whether Nahom/NHM is a novel name in its own right raises further interesting questions upon closer examination. We have already pointed out (citing Warren Aston) that Nahom/NHM is an exceedingly rare name in the Arabian Peninsula, which is relevant to the debate. What is not relevant to the debate is whether related NHM placenames also occur on other lands. But Johnson’s intriguing tactics on this point may be relevant to understanding his approach to data when he makes other supposedly objective, data-based claims on Book of Mormon authorship.
Something about that list of NHM names bothered me as soon as I saw it. I’ve traveled to a few parts of the world and have looked at many maps and many names, and just didn’t recollect ever noticing any of these places before. Would these have been obvious clues rendering NHM-based place names fairly obvious for a 19th-century plagiarizer and conman (per Chris Johnson’s views of Joseph)? Granted, the whole premise of his argument is blatantly misguided—the key issue is that Nahom, common name or not, is rare in Arabia and is placed at exactly the right spot, reachable from Jerusalem by heading south-southeast, and within a few miles of the only place along the ancient incense trails where one can turn due east, as Nephi’s group does, and survive to reach the coast. Add to that the massive significance that Nahom, the place where Ishmael was buried, turns out to be an ancient burial place in the Arabian Peninsula and a bonus for having the NHM name attested to have been in that place in the 7th century B.C. (Lehi’s day) by ancient altars from the tribe of Nihm that were recently discovered. Add to that the amazing fact that going nearly due east from Nahom doesn’t just get one to the coast, but to a remarkable candidate or two for the place Bountiful as described in the First Nephi 16 and 17. These are stunning finds of massive significance, regardless of how often NHM names are used in other parts of the world. Whether Africa, Germany, and North America are sprinkled with NHM names or not doesn’t detract from the value of the Arabian Peninsula evidences for Book of Mormon plausibility.
But for the moment, let’s accept Johnson’s premise that the significance of finding Nahom is somehow related to how common NHM names are anywhere in the world as, perhaps, inspiration for Joseph’s plagiarism, and then explore the significance, if any, of his list. It turns out that there are some possible serious gaps in his argument about NHM being so common. I may be missing something, so let me know if I have erred in my searching, which is entirely possible. Here’s what my searching reveals about these places:
Noham (Germany and Austria): There is nothing for Noham in Wikipedia. Google finds nothing for Noham, Austria. There are hints of something for Noham, Germany. But not much can be found until searching is done for Nöham.
Then we find this on the German Wikipedia at http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nöham_(Dietersburg):
Nöham ist ein Pfarrdorf in der Gemeinde Dietersburg und war bis zur Zusammenlegung mit Dietersburg am 1. April 1971 eine eigenständige Gemeinde. Nöham liegt an der Staatsstraße 2112 zwischen Pfarrkirchen und Arnstorf und hat etwa 500 Einwohner.
This states that Nöham is a parish village with about 500 inhabitants. If it’s almost invisible to the modern world today, I don’t think it could have served as some kind of inspiration to Joseph Smith.
Nohom, Iran: Finding something on this place is much easier than it was for Noham. Something relevant shows up right away in Google: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nohom, where we read this:
Nohom (Persian: نهم) is a village in Sarfaryab Rural District, Sarfaryab District, Charam County, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 186, in 39 families.
Not even big enough to be a parish village, I fear, little Nohom has a population in 2006 of just 186 people. Any chance it was there in 1830? Known to Joseph?
Nhema, Zimbabwe: A Google search for Nhema, Zimbabwe reveals Nhema is a last name, but I see no easy-to-find evidence of a noteworthy place name. When I search for “Nhema city Zimbabwe” I find a link a questionable claiming it is a place name: http://itouchmap.com/?c=zi&UF=10648647&UN=11361339&DG=PPL
This link has a map which points to an empty spot with no name east of Harare. Sorry, I’m not yet convinced that this is a notable place name in Zimbabwe. And even if it were, how could Joseph have known?
Update on Nhema, Feb. 10, 2016: Google Maps cannot find anything for Nhema, Zimbabwe, but offers a suggestion for “Nhema Close, Harare, Zimbabwe,” which reveals that Nhema Close is the name of a street in the eastern suburbs of Harare, as shown below. It’s not even a major street, just a short stretch of about 150 meters, and apparently a rather recently named modern street. If it takes this level of granularity to find examples of NHM names, it’s hard to believe that they are extremely common and insignificant.
Nhime, Angola: No such place shows up in Wikipedia. But a Google search shows that at least some weather services recognize the name, and a site called Wikimapia has an entry that tags it with “beach, village.” See http://wikimapia.org/13602991/Nhime-Angola-Provincia-de-Benguela. Google maps also shows a beach called Nhime in Angola. So this one exists. That’s progress. But significant? Knowable or useful to Joseph Smith? Unlikely. (Also see http://www.gazetteering.com/africa/angola/provincia-do-kwanza-sul/3346935-nhime.html.)
Nahum, Israel: The most interesting entry on Johnson’s list, in my opinion. This is promising because one could argue that Joseph might have recognized Nahom was a valid place name based on the occurrence of Nahum as a place in Israel. But as I mentioned in my initial post on the significance of Nahom, this argument also has a touch of weakness. Again, blame it on Wikipedia: Wikipedia’s article on Sde Nahum, Israel explains that it is a modern kibbutz founded in 1937. Population around 550. Not likely an influence for the Book of Mormon. What about Nehama, Israel? Wikipedia doesn’t seem aware of it, so it must not exist, I suppose. But there is an Israeli “Comfort Girls” band called Habanot Nechama. Is that the link? Or what about Nahma, Michigan? Another 500-person township. Founded 1881. Probably not an inspiration for Nahom.
Anhim, Canada: This is particularly puzzling. Where did Johnson come up with this one? Wikipedia hasn’t heard of it. Google Maps doesn’t seem to have it, and asks if maybe I meant Anaheim. Maybe I did. More on that later. Turning to Google search for Anhim, Canada, the only indication I can see of a possible place of that name — apart from my own previous blog post at Mormanity mentioning Johnson’s list – is a Google books result for River Palace that appears to mention Anhim, Canada. But when I go to that book, the apparent mention of Anhim, Canada is in fact, a rotated caption that says “Library and Archives, Canada”. Apparently the 90-degree rotation of small text was misread by Google. So strange. So again, we have another place on Johnson’s list that doesn’t appear to exist.
Nehama, Israel: Another potentially interesting item. I’m not sure it exists as a place name, though. Google’s top return for this term is the previously mentioned “Comfort Girls” band of Israel, Habanot Nechama. Not quite a hit for NHM. And not quite a place, but maybe a destination for modern music fans. I fear they came along too late to attract any farm boy groupies from upstate New York. A nice try, but alas, this one brings no comfort to Johnson’s argument.
Nhaem, Vietnam: Another place that puzzles me. Apart from the obvious question about whether transliterated Vietnamese place names were available for Joseph Smith to pluck as needed for his feverish and grueling work of plagiarizing a few words here, a few there, over and over to gradually string verses together, one also has to ask just where this place is and whether it is “significant”? There’s no Wikipedia page for any place named Nhaem (though a Wikipedia page for the obscure commune of Lvae in Cambodia shows that the commune includes 12 villages, one of which is named Doun Nhaem). But wait, there may be a place of this name with Vietnamese connections: Google’s top hit in my search is a Yelp entry for the Nha Em Restaurant and Bar in Vietnam – wait, my mistake, it’s a Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose, California. Ok, something physical exists for this one—an actual two-word place name—but this bar was probably not around in Joseph Smith’s day. The Cambodia listing, missed by Johnson, doesn’t exactly impress either and may not have been there in Joseph’s day. This one looks like a pretty wide miss at the moment.
Enham, United Kingdom: Now we’re talking. Folks, I’m happy to report that there is an actual place with a population and a history for this location. There’s not much information about it, but enough to show that Enham, England, known as Knight’s Enham until recently, actually exists, though the name today is not Enham but Enham Alamein. It was there in Joseph’s day. It is fair to list this one to show how common NHM is among the inhabitants of the earth, 804 of whom live in this sprouting metropolis. Yes, Enham Alamein is a small parish with a population of 804 according to a German website, CityPopulation.de. The population may have been smaller in Joseph’s day, but at least I think there were people there. The English 1841 Census shows 102 results for a search of people living in anything containing “Enham” in the place name. Rather small, in my opinion. Somehow I’m not sure that this would be the kind of thing that would rise to the attention of New York farmers. Perhaps we can add a colorful new link to the Solomon Spaulding theory to bring information about the obscure village Knight’s Enham to Joseph. But pending further creative work, it’s hard to see how this demonstrates NHM names are wildly common. Shouldn’t we be able to find some significant places likely to be known to Joseph given that we have such a common grouping of letters to work with?
Nahme, Bulgaria: Google doesn’t seem to find anything for this place.
Nahoma, Namibia: Ditto. Google recommends I search for Nujoma, Namibia instead. I’m not falling for that one.
Nhamuai, Mozambique: Google results don’t look promising, except that ITouchMap.com says there is a place of that name. But the map result that comes up looks like a blank spot in the hills without roads or obvious population. Strange.
Nhama, Angola: Wikipedia hasn’t heard of it. There are some weather sites listing it, and one place puts it on the map, but it looks like a rather uninhabited spot of jungle.
Nhime, Guinea-Bissau: Some weather sites show up in Google, but the closest thing to an indication of a real place name that I see is a page at GoMapper.com saying “Nhime is a place with a very small population in the state/region of Oio, Guinea-Bissau which is located in the continent/region of Africa.” Yawn.
Nahma, Michigan: Finally! A real place. One significant enough that Wikipedia actually recognizes its existence. Whew, just in time. What does Wikipedia have to say about this important place, close enough to Joseph Smith that perhaps word of its prominent and common name could have come to him for inspiration in writing the Book of Mormon? Let’s see:
Nahma Township is a civil township of Delta County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 499 at the 2000 census. Nahma was established in 1881 by the Bay De Noquet Lumber Company as the base for its upper Michigan lumbering operations.
Hmm. Tiny, obscure (no offense, dear Nahmians), and non-existent prior to 1881. Do I sense a pattern here?
Nahimha, Tanzania: Wikipedia hasn’t heard of it. But something must be there because some Islamic sites list prayer times. I finally found this at Chinci.com:
|Nahimha is a tidal creek(s) in the country of Tanzania with an average elevation of 3 feet above sea level. The location is sparsely populated with 36 people per mile2 . The nearest town larger than 50,000 inhabitants takes about 2:12 hour by local transportation.
An estimated 4.14% of the children below 5 years old are underweight.
A tidal creek, eh? I can see Joseph going for that, if only he had some way of knowing. This may be a real place, but it is tiny, obscure, and probably of no value to Johnson’s argument—which was a bit unfair in the first place since the consonants here are NHMH, not NHM. When it comes to arguments drawing upon Nahimha, it’s not just the children that are underweight.
Naham, Israel: Wikipedia reveals this was founded in 1950 and today has a population a little over 450. Not a hit.
It’s not just that a few of these names can be questioned due to minor oversights in scholarship and fact checking. Every one can be regarded as “lacking significance” and most appear to be bogus. The proffered list of NHM names is utterly worthless as evidence that NHM names are “among the most common” or that Joseph Smith could easily come up with the NHM root for a place name based on Johnson’s cornucopia of NHM hits. It looks like a rare and somewhat obscure root, even beyond the borders of Arabia, and even when one is willing to stretch it our with triple value endings and vowel prefixes.
A possibly glaring oversight in Johnson’s list is the omission of Anaheim, California, which would represent the most notable city for his PPT slide and the only one with a population bigger than an obscure farm village. Perhaps Johnson realized that many listeners might see through the Mickey Mouse nature of that argument, knowing that Anaheim wasn’t founded until after Joseph Smith’s day. One peek at Wikipedia’s entry for Anaheim would expose the weakness in that argument: “The city of Anaheim was founded in 1857 by 50 German-Americans. . . .” Schade! Too late to make Nahom trivial. But wait, surely the German-sounding name must be some ancient place name from Germany, right? Wikipedia brings further trouble here:
Anaheim’s name is a blend of “Ana”, after the nearby Santa Ana River, and “heim”, a common German language place name compound originally meaning “home”.
Ach du liebe! This must be why Johnson had to say auf widersehen to that argument. But Anaheim as an illustration of the insignificance of NHM is arguably no less viable than any of the other examples Johnson offers.
Does Johnson’s list of NHM names expose the insignificance of an interesting piece of Book of Mormon evidence, and help us better understand how easily Joseph Smith could have come up with an NHM-based placed name in the Arabian Peninsula? As Hugh Nibley might have said, “Noham, that’s not history.” It’s also not geography or cartography. Frankly, I find the arguments against Nahom to be lacking in significance.
Update, Dec. 23, 2013: Kudos to Mark Butler for identifying another interesting hit that was missed by Johnson: Niihima, Japan, which, according to Wikipedia, has over 100,000 people. Finally, a notable spot! Unfortunately, Wikipedia also gives this troublesome fact: “Niihama was founded on November 3, 1937.” Too late for Joseph Smith, but not too late for anti-Mormon fun. The NHM list would really have been much better and even more entertaining if Niihima had been included, along with Anaheim.
Say, do any of you know of other NHM place names that should have been on the list?