In the mid–eighteenth century, inspired by sojourns through the Alps, aesthetes and Romantics embraced the notion of the Sublime, thereby popularizing a radically new way of regarding wilderness. High, imposing mountains still inspired fear and disquietude, as they always had, but the fear was now permeated with transcendent awe. Suddenly, the great peaks and glaciers of France and Switzerland were thought to be beautiful. Their breathtaking features were climbed, rendered on canvas, and named. Which explains why a great many geomorphologic terms in wide use today are of European origin—gendarme, for instance, which is the French word for policeman, and is used to describe lofty rock towers that stand like huge petrified sentries (for example, Cerberus Gendarme, a prominent sandstone spire that famously watches over a horseshoe bend of Zion Canyon in southwestern Utah). Such towers may also be labeled pulpits, pinnacles, spires, minarets, needles, and aiguilles—the latter being the French term for needles.

Jon Krakauer