Sunday, June 18, 2006

Can You Topo This?



Toponymy is the study of place names. It comes from the Greek topos, a place, and onoma, a name. It is a serious field of study; there is even a permanent United Nations commission soberly known as the Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN).
http://unstats.un.org/unsd/geoinfo/

Toponymy involves history, etymology, and geography, of course, but I’m bypassing all that and going straight for the funny bone. I confess: it’s the silliness of some place names that attracts me. It’s shallow and sophomoric on my part, but life is serious enough already; a day without a snicker and a snort can be oppressive.

So here are a few strange place names that I’ve encountered. If I’ve missed some of your favorites, let me know.

  • AL: Burnt Corn
  • AK: Eek
  • AZ: Horse Thief
  • AR: Toad Suck
  • CA: Weed
  • CO: Last Chance
  • CT: Giant Neck
  • DE: Slaughter Beach
  • FL: Picnic
  • GA: Experiment
  • HI: Volcano
  • ID: Hellhole
  • IL: Oblong
  • IN: Santa Claus
  • IA: What Cheer
  • KS: Speed
  • KY: Rabbit Hash
  • LA: Waterproof
  • ME: Purgatory
  • MD: Mousetown
  • MA: Sandwich
  • MI: Hell
  • MN: Sleepy Eye
  • MS: Hot Coffee
  • MO: Tightwad
  • MT: Joe
  • NE: Magnet
  • NV: Jackpot
  • NH: Rye
  • NJ: Cheesequake
  • NM: Truth or Consequences
  • NY: Horseheads
  • NC: Lizard Lick
  • ND: Beach
  • OH: Mudsock
  • OK: Greasy
  • OR: Talent
  • PA: Intercourse
  • RI: Tarbox Corner
  • SC: Coward
  • SD: Tea
  • TN: Soddy Daisy
  • TX: Cut and Shoot
  • UT: Helper
  • VT: Satan's Kingdom
  • VA: Lick Fork
  • WA: Humptulips
  • WV: Left Hand
  • WI: Disco
  • WY: Chugwater

I can't promise that these aren't apocryphal stories, but two of the towns above appeared in unintentionally hilarious headlines. A paper in Waterproof, Louisiana, is said to have carried this headline for a tragic story: Waterproof Men Drown. And in Illinois, not too far from the farming community of Oblong, there is a city named Normal. A society section headline allegedly read, Normal Man Marries Oblong Woman.


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