Q&A on the News

Q: Is there available for purchase a pamphlet or book listing the whereabouts and significance of the Civil War historical markers situated throughout the state?

-- Gary Furin, Atlanta

A: Yes, the Georgia Civil War Commission's book, "Crossroads of Conflict: A Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia," was published in observance of the war's 150th anniversary. The book, by historians Barry L. Brown and Gordon R. Elwell, covers 350 historic sites by region, with maps, driving directions, historical information, photographs and other information. More information about Civil War sites in Georgia, along with the book (an autographed copy priced at $22), is available at www.gacivilwar.org.

Q: A recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the discovery of the whaling vessel The Two Brothers that sank in 1823 mentioned Moby-Dick. I've often wondered why a whale, albeit a fictional one, was given such a peculiar name. And is the name indeed hyphenated?

-- Dan Cowles, Cumming

A: Moby Dick is not hyphenated in the novel. The name is connected to an article titled "Mocha Dick: Or the White Whale of the Pacific," published in May 1839 in the New York Knickerbocker Magazine. The story recounted the capture of a violent giant white sperm whale that had attacked ships and crews. The whale was seen near the island of Mocha, and the word "Dick" was a generic name like "Tom" or "Jack," which also appear in Herman Melville's novel. Melville never explained the origin of Moby, and scholars have offered suggestions. One theory is that one of Melville's friends was named Richard Tobias Greene and he had begun "The Story of Toby," so "Toby Dick" would have been combined with "Mocha Dick" to form "Moby Dick."

Lori Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or e-mail q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).