Monday, January 28, 2013


Well, wouldn't you know - another boring Midwestern state.  Like it’s neighbor Illinois, Indiana includes plenty of colorless Brookevilles, Plainfields, Fairmonts, and Greenwoods.  Similarly, the Hoosier State also likes to borrow, with no shortage of Topekas, Syracuses, Philadelphias, Norways, and Athenses.

Actually, the only thing that seems to make Indiana distinctive in any way is its use of lots and lots of “new’s.”  I’m talking New Philadelphia, New Pittsburgh, New Chicago, New London, New Paris … 

Just to be super, super boring, though, they made sure that plenty of these made a complete set.  What that means is that you’ve got Philadelphia and New Philadelphia, Washington and New Washington, London and New London, Lisbon and New Lisbon ... 

So, here we go …  Sigh.

10. Chili

Some ground beef; a can of beans; another of tomatoes; some chili powder; a little garlic, cumin, and oregano … and you’ve got yourself a town!

Well, I found plenty of references to the dish, the restaurant, the pepper, and even a band (The Red Hot Chili Peppers, to be exact).  Not a whole lot on a town in Indiana named Chili however.  (Though I did learn it’s pronounced CHAI-lai, with two hard i sounds.  How disappointing.)

It looks like it’s in the north central part of the state, along the Eel River.  Mmm, eel chili!  My personal fave.

Note bottom left
(available on Amazon!)

9. Solitude

I’m guessing there’s a fair amount of that in this state.  I’m not sure how necessary it is to advertise the fact like this though.

Solitude seems indeed to have plenty of just that.  The only place I could find anything on it was Google Maps.  There, I could spot about a dozen houses and a dump.  Solitude’s in the lonely, far southwest part of the state, the little toe between the Wabash and Ohio Rivers.

It seems entirely appropriate that one of the first results I got on Google for this place was the following:

Meet Senior singles in Solitude, Indiana (

8. Zulu

I found a couple of sites that said Zulu was “named after the African tribe.”  Well, duh.  Enquiring minds wants to know why it was named after the African tribe.  It’s not what immediately comes to mind when tasked with naming a new settlement – for me at least.

Zulu’s in the northwest part of the state, along the Lincoln Highway, old US 30.  It looks like we’ve got a dozen houses, an RV store, and a Mexican restaurant.

And an old garage from
Lincoln Highway days

7. Nulltown

I looked and I looked, but I just couldn’t find this place.  So strange …

Seriously, I could find this place.  I just couldn’t find that much on it.  It looks like we’re in the east central part of the state.  I see a couple dozen houses, a couple dozen trailers, and … whoa! … an airport!  The Nulltown Wingnuts Ultralight Airport, to be exact.  Not every little burg get’s its own airport, you know.

Interestingly, I was able to find a source for the name.  According to History of Fayette County, Indiana (1885), this place was named after the Null brothers, Michael and Israel, who built a mill there.  It was settled way back in 1815 or thereabouts.

Downtown Nulltown

6. Bean Blossom / Beanblossom

This town was named for Beanblossom Creek, which makes sense.  But the creek itself was named for some guy named Beanblossom … which makes no sense at all. 

That said, does tell me that Beanblossom is a legitimate surname.  It comes from the Swiss German Bohnenblust, a compound of bohne (“bean”) + blust (“blossom”).

This tiny town in the south central part of the state is one happening place.  I’m talking the oldest bluegrass festival in the country, a BikerFest, and a blues festival.

I don’t know why any town
would want bluegrass fans

5. Buddha

The unofficial capital of Indiana’s Zen Triangle, in the south central part of the state, Buddha includes a cliff-side monastery, several impressive stupas, numerous temples, a 30-foot gold-covered statue of the Master, and the official residence of the Dalai Lama of the Midwest.

Actually, Buddha’s a diminutive burg with a dozen houses, one business (J&J Construction), and … er … well, that’s about it.  Interestingly, though, there is some information out there on proper pronunciation.  Like Chili, above, it’s not pronounced like you’d think.  It’s traditionally pronounced “BOO-dee.”

There are also several theories out there about how it got its name:

  • Suggested by a travelling salesman
  • Named after a hobo of said name (and who was himself short, fat, and bald)
  • Named after the original settlers, named “Bodey”
The last theory, especially given the pronunciation, definitely gets my vote.

From Buddha’s MySpace page
(Don’t ask.  I haven’t a clue)

4. Bippus

“Oh, Harry, you’re such a bippus.”  “Get your hands off my bippus, young man!”  “Man, breaking down in the desert sure was a major bippus in our plans.”  Take your pick.

Actually, the town was named for George J. Bippus, who got the railroad to lay tracks through it. tells me the surname is Moldavian (?!?!) and – somewhat mysteriously – “unexplained.”

Bippus claims one famous son, broadcaster Chris Schenkel.  There is also a Bippus State Bank, which recently celebrated its 100-year anniversary.  Finally, Bippus has its own blog, from some cranky farmer guy with a lot of time on his hands.

Remember this dude?

3. Toad Hop

As far as I can tell, this place was named after the frogs, called “hop toads,” that come up out of the adjacent Big Sugar Creek when it floods.  Not exactly sure why the two words switched place unfortunately.

This diminutive burg of 100 is basically a suburb of Terre Haute.  It’s on the National Road, old US 40. 

Old US 40 bridge near Toad Hop
(Sorry, I’m a sucker for these old highways)

2. French Lick

When you put “French” in front of a word, it usually implies something dirty and/or impolite – French kiss, French letters, French leave, French postcards, the French disease.  I’m not sure I even want to know what a “French lick” is.

Turns out it was simply a French trading post near a salt lick.  It was originally called Salt Spring, and the springs there gave rise to its importance as a spa town.  Casinos, celebrities, and even the Chicago Cubs (who came there for spring training in 1943) were all part of the mix. 

Nowadays, the town of 1,800 is home to the totally refurbished French Lick Resort, which includes a couple of hotels, a casino, multiple golf courses, and stables. 

Oh, almost forgot …  It's also the birthplace of the greatest basketball player EVUH! – the “Hick from French Lick,” the great Michael Jordan.

The Michael Jordan Birthplace National Shrine and Casino

1. Gnaw Bone

This one is pretty funny in itself.  But what really makes it so great is its etymology.  Turns out Gnaw Bone started out as Narbonne, after the town in southern France.  Stick that in your southern Indiana hillbilly translatin' machine, and that's what you get.

Gnaw Bone likes to style itself as the “flea market capital of the world.”  There’s one for every five Gnaw Boners. 

Gnaw Bone is also home to the world-famous Gnaw Bone tenderloin, a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich served at the local Gnaw Mart.  Read more here and here.

All parking is strictly forbidden 
within the Gnaw Bone city limits

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Indiana Beach, Farmland, Forest, Home Place, Southwest, South Center, Center Point, Central, Center
  • Short & sweet – Tab, Toto, Max, Bud, Duff, Delp, Kelp, Art, Ade, Amo, Ari, Ora, Ege
  • Just a little out of place – just way, way too many
  • A bad case of the news – New Richmond, New Pittsburgh, New Chicago, New Washington, New Boston, New Philadelphia, New Amsterdam, New London, New Lisbon, New Paris
  • A bad case of the cities – Michigan City (but also Michigan Town), Rome City, Star City, Gas City
  • Numerically oriented – Nine Mile, Twelve Mile
  • Native American mouthfuls – Loogootee, Mishiwaka, Tippecanoe
  • Atypical adjectives – Alert, Correct, Domestic, Carefree, Fickle
  • Abnormal nouns – Exchange, Eminence, Economy, Leisure, Windfall, Cyclone, Raccoon, Trout, Walnut, Bourbon, Pimento, Aroma, Sulphur, Petroleum, Fiat, Surprise, Speed, Speedway, Jockey, Deputy, Lamplighter, Daylight, Lapel, Stone Head, Story
  • Unconventional verbs – Advance, Retreat, Roll
  • Fun to say – Phlox, Mongo, Otterbein, Oolitic, Tunker, Trevlac (Calvert backwards), Salamonia, Churubusco, Kokomo
  • Orthographically challenged – Azalia, Artic, Disko, Scircleville (there is also a Circleville), Cumback, Grammer
  • Just plain weird – Needmore (there are actually two), Town of Pines, Peppertown, Jimtown, Judyville, Ray’s Crossing (look, there he goes now!), West College Corner, Central Barren, Royal Center, Young America, Switz City, Spraytown, Starlight, Moonville, White Cloud, Steam Corner, Crows Nest, Roachdale, Loafers Station, Beehunter, Popcorn, Antiville
  • I’d like you to meet – Earl Park, Mariah Hill, Rob Roy, Newton Stewart, Santa Claus, Rocky Ripple
  • Ghost towns – Africa, Door Village, Prophet’s Town, Monument City, Quick City, Old English, Asphaltum

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Geez, what a boring state.  It seems to be all Springfields and Centervilles and Oaklands and This Park and That Grove.  Another common theme is just hijacking a name from someplace else: Columbia, Mt. Vernon, Princeton, Charleston, Paris, Monticello, Lexington, Trenton, Troy …

And some areas of the state just seem to show a determined lack of originality.  So, you’ve got a city named Round Lake, huh?  Well, why not add Round Lake Park, Round Lake Beach, and Round Lake Heights right next to it?  Think you’re already all set with Rockford?  Not so fast.  You’ve got Rockton, Rock Grove, and Rock City to add to the mix too.

It is a big state, though.  So, with a little elbow grease, here’s what I was able to come up with ...

10. Muddy

Geez, couldn’t this at least have been Muddy Grove?  Muddy Park?  Muddy Heights?  Muddy Landing?

This town of less than 100 is on the Saline River, in the southern part of the state.  It was originally built to house workers – mostly Slovakian immigrants – in a local coal mine.

Muddy’s main claim to fame is once having the smallest post office in the U.S.  A larger one was built in 2002, but the old one is still there.  The town’s also got an old Russian Orthodox church and an historic coal tipple (whatever the heck that is).

Small, old & obsolete

9. Oblong

Formerly called Rectilinear, the town’s name was changed purely for orthographic reasons.

Seriously, as far as I can tell, the town fathers platted this place on a little piece of rectangular prairie.  Continuing in that tradition, my Google search results show plenty of links to “oblong real estate.”  I also found a store called Oblong Auto Parts, as well as the Oblong Children’s Christian Home.  There is also an Oblong High School, whose teams are called the Oblong Panthers.

None of these, however, can compete with a famous headline, "Oblong Man Marries Normal Woman," that appeared in a local newspaper about 40 years ago.  (Normal is in the middle of the state, right atop Bloomington - see below.)

Go Oblong Panthers!

8. Grand Detour

Not sure what’s so exciting about a detour, but hey, who am I to judge?

Turns out “grand detour” is basically French for “big bend.”  Some early French traders and trappers named the location for a big cinch in the Rock River where they built a trading post.

Grand Detour is famous as the place where John Deere invented the steel plow, “the plow that broke the plains.”  The John Deere Historic Site includes an archaeological site, an exhibit hall, a blacksmith shop, Deere’s home and – of course – a GIFT SHOP!

Mr. Deere moved on (to Moline), so Grand Detour’s pretty sedate these days.  The town of 400-some people is in the northwest part of the state.

Available at the GIFT SHOP!

7. Humm Wye

“Why hum?”  “Why not?”  “Because it annoys the hell out of me.  It’s like one step above whistling.”  “Alright, fine.  Whatever.  I’ll stop”

As far as I can tell, a family named Humm lived along a Y in the road here.  We’re back down south for this one, practically across the Ohio River from Kentucky.  And that’s about all I can find out about Humm Wye.

6. Aroma Park

Hmm, they don’t say what aroma exactly …  I’m hoping it’s pizza.

According to Edward Callary’s Place Names of Illinois (University of Illinois Press, 2008), the town was:
founded in 1852 by Alvin and Slocum Wilber, who created the word Aroma by playing on the name of their friend and associate James L. Romer. Reportedly, possible confusion between Aroma and Aurora led to changing the name to Waldron in 1872. It was changed back to Aroma, and the word Park was added about 1915.

An unknown Internet denizen (“Moongrrl”) who lives there tells us:

In the summer, there's the sweet, cloying scent of corn pollen mixed with black dirt, freshly cut grass, and warm, stagnant water when the Kankakee is low. All year, it smells of car exhaust, both gas and diesel, plus greasy food from the local restaurant. Depending on the direction of the wind, it used to smell of pig manure, but not anymore (low pork prices drove the small farmers out of business in the late 1990's).

I think I prefer pizza.

It’s south of Chicago, at the intersection of the Kankakee and Iroquois rivers.  It’s got about 800 people, an elementary school, a fire department, and lots and lots of corn fields.

Did I mention the corn fields?

5. Downers Grove *

The town fathers kicked around “Bummerville,” “Bad Scene,” “Unpleasant Situation,” and “Depressing Experience,” but seeing as this was Illinois, they felt they just had to get “grove” in there somehow.

Yup, you guessed it.  This place was founded by some guy named Downer.  They’re very proud of their lack of an apostrophe, by the way.  “Apostrophe-free since 1873” is the unofficial motto. 

This depressing, apostrophe-free place just so happens to be a major metropolis.  I’m talking almost 50,000 people, plus corporate headquarters for such companies as Sara Lee, FTD, Pepperidge Farm, and Abercrombie & Kent (yes, Abercrombie & Kent – it’s a travel agency).  Of the 23 “notable people” listed on Wikipedia, I’ve actually heard of three of them: "wrestler" Randy Savage, comedian Emo Phillips, and “actress” Denise Richards. 

And nothing says “major metropolis” 
like your name on a water tower

4. Mooseheart

Remember this movie?  You know, with Mel Gibson?  The one about William Wallace or Wallace Williams or whatever his name was?  You know, the guy who led our rebellion against George III?  He painted his face red, white, and blue, remember?

Actually, that explanation makes a lot more sense than how Mooseheart actually did get its name.  Turns out the Loyal Order of the Moose have a children’s home here.  Some local congressman, who just so happened to be a member of the group’s Supreme Council, got to name it.

Crazy name aside, it actually sounds like a wonderful place.  There was even a movie about it, City of Children

It’s just down the road from Downer’s Grove, by the way.  Almost forgot …  Illinois also includes a Buffalo Hart.

You knew this was coming, didn’t you?

3. Lowpoint

Am I detecting a theme here?  Amidst all those Pleasant Groves and Merrywoods and Sunny Glades, do you think there might be a subtle dark undercurrent to contemporary Illinoisan life?  Downers Grove, Lowpoint.  Downs and Lost Nation are out there too.  I’m just sayin’ …

According to an article in a local paper (thanks Facebook!), I learned that the town happened to be on the lowest point on an early stagecoach line.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything on how such a name might subtly affect the subsequent local inhabitants’ outlook on life … though you know it’s gotta take a toll.

It’s in the middle of the state, near Peoria.  Using Google Maps, I can spot a post office, a radio station, a junkyard, a bunch of houses, and not much else.

Hmm, if I didn't know better,
I'd swear we were in Aroma Park

2. Bigfoot

I definitely would have thought I’d find this one in Washington State.  Or maybe Oregon or Alaska or northern California.  Definitely not Illinois.

Turns out Bigfoot was a guy, a Native American guy – in particular, a chief of the Potawatomi.  A couple of interesting facts about Bigfoot the town:
  • It’s actually half in Illinois and half in Wisconsin.
  • Most people call it Bigfoot Prairie

And they say no remains have ever been found?!?!

1. Preemption

I think this was the one vocabulary word I missed on the SAT. 

According to Callary (see above), the name stems from "the preemption laws passed by the U.S. Congress that gave squatters the right to 'enter' (register) their land with the government and purchase it later when the tract became legally available for sale.  The preemption laws protected settlers from claim jumpers and from having to bid against speculators at open auction."  Now, use it in a sentence!

Preemption is in the northwest part of the state, at the intersection of 67 and 17.  It looks like we’ve got a post office, a barber shop, Hammond’s Cycle Works, and three additional streets, 171st, 266th, and 268th.

I’m a total sucker for old train stuff

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Junction, Stone, Rock, Big Rock, Flatville, Farmerville, South Standard, La Place, The Burg
  • A bad case of the cities - Farmer City, Valley City, Clay City, Illinois City, North City, West City, Standard City, Frog City
  • Short & sweet – Perks, Birds, Wing, Golf, Polo, Mode, Time
  • Just a little out of place – there are so many of these, it ain’t funny
  • Just a little off color – Effingham (“Hey Doris, where’d you put the effing ham?  Easter’s tomorrow!”), Woody
  • Numerically oriented – Third Lake, Eight Mile Prairie, First Pommier (French for “apple tree”), Half Day
  • Native American mouthfuls – Pecatonica, Oquawka, Oskaloosa, Kahokia, Kankakee, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Aptakisic
  • Atypical adjectives – Crisp, Normal
  • Abnormal nouns – Justice (world's largest stained glass window), Energy, Media, Metropolis (lots of Superman stuff), Bureau, Kinsman, Sandwich, Moonshine, Fishhook, Passport, Gays, Disco
  • Unconventional verbs – Roots, Boos
  • Fun to say – Iuka, Winkle, Boody, Matoon, Skokie, Keenlyville, Pinckneyville, Pankeyville, Mulkeytown, Vandalia, Dongola
  • Just plain weird – Romeoville, Future City*, Prophetstown, Papertown, Teutopolis, Illiopolis, Fancy Prairie, Enchanted Forest, Bible Grove, Lively Grove, Garden of Eden, Cornland, Foosland, Sailor Springs, Bone Gap, Blue Mound, Cave in Rock, Chicago Lawn, Bigneck, Hooppole, Timewell, Carlock, Grand Chain, America, Little America, Space Valley, Pluto Center, Goofy Ridge, Pinkstaff, Roachtown, and - of course - Chicken Bristle
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Ken Rock, Alan Dale, Carol Stream

* - author has visited

Monday, January 14, 2013


Idaho has an interesting name origin story itself.  In fact, “Idaho” is an invented word. 

Turns out some mining lobbyist came up with it, claiming it meant “gem of the mountains” in Shoshone.  (The closest actual Indian word is idahee, which means “enemy” in Plains Apache.)   Ah well, just one more pig in the poke from K Street.)

10. Cabinet

This odd one comes from the nearby Cabinet Mountains.  Right then.  Case settled.  On to #9 …

What?  Oh, you’re wondering why the mountains were named that?  Well, aren’t we particular today?  If you insist …

According to the U.S. government, the name comes from “early French explorers who observed that the mountains resembled a series of closets or cabinets.”  Um, if you say so, Uncle Sam …  Kind of sounds like that old John Denver song, if you ask me.  You know, “Friends around the campfire, and everybody’s high …”

Couldn’t find much on Cabinet.  Except, of course, for all those DIY stores and contractors who want to help me “build the perfect kitchen” and assume I live in Boise. 

In fact, I couldn’t even find Cabinet on Google Maps, but only on Mapquest.  From the latter, it looks like it’s a handful of scattered houses and buildings along the Clark Fork River and the Montana Rail Link railroad.  There’s a nearby dam, fittingly named the Cabinet Gorge Dam.

I’m sorry, I just don’t see it

9. Headquarters

C’mon.  Headquarters of what?  The Trilateral Commission?  The Idaho State Police?  The Bildergbergers?  The Clearwater County Soil and Water Conservation District?  The Illuminati?  Smersh? 

Turns out Headquarters got its name because it was the center of logging operations for the Potlatch lumber mill, in the somewhat-nearby city of Lewiston.  The railroad’s gone now.  Subsequently, there’s not much left of Headquarters. 

This place looks pretty darn remote.  In fact, the first two “suggested searches” on Google for it are “headquarters idaho wolf attack” and “headquarters idaho wolf kill.”  Yikes!  Read all about it right here.

Headquarters in its heyday (ca. 1960)

8. Macks Inn

Right next to Rick’s CafĂ©, Moe’s Tavern, and Joe’s Garage …  (And that’s Casablanca, The Simpsons, and Frank Zappa for those of you out there not in the know.)

I’m afraid Macks Inn is no more.  Well, I mean, the Inn is still there.  But the village is no longer.  I mean, it’s still there too.  It just …  It just got renamed.  Mack’s Inn (the inn, not the town) is now in Island Park (the town).

According to Wikipedia, the renaming came about as follows:

The city was incorporated by owners of the many lodges and resorts along U.S. Route 20 in 1947, primarily to circumvent Idaho's liquor laws that prohibited the sale of liquor outside of city limits.  It is only 500 feet (150 m) wide in most locations and, at 33 miles (53 km), claims to have the longest "Main Street" in the world.

Macks Inn the town was started around Mack’s Inn the inn.  Both were founded by William H. (“Doc”) Mack, beginning in 1916.  The area’s located on a fork of the Snake River famous for its fishing.  It’s also pretty close to Yellowstone National Park. 

I’m not sure if Doc
started this one or not

7. Riddle

What do you get when you combine a tiny town, a mysterious ranch, two western states, and a very confused writer?  I don’t know.  I’m stumped.  Tell me!

I am so confused.  There is a town in Idaho called Riddle, in the southwest corner of the state.  The Wikipedia article for it says it’s named after the Riddle Ranch (which is in turn named after the Riddle family).  The Riddle Ranch, however, is in Oregon, about 700 miles away.  And just to top it all off, there is a business called Riddle Ranches, in Idaho, but an hour and a half away from Riddle.  I am so confused.

Does this mean I can’t trust Wikipedia?  Please tell me that’s not so.  I’m not sure what I would do without it.

Could be Idaho,
could be Oregon,
could be Peru for all I know

6. Chubbuck

This has got be some Native American word, right?  It probably means something cute and crazy, like “where the woodchuck makes love” or “plain of the ugly pumpkins” or “elk gizzard incident.”

Unfortunately, it’s named after a railroad conductor named Earl Chubbuck.  He loaded beets here. 

Today, Chubbuck’s a “suburb” of Pocatello.  It has about 14,000 people, along with its own elementary school, library, and SHOPPING MALL!  Yup, Chubbuck’s big time, folks.  We ain’t talkin’ about no Cabinet, Headquarters, or Riddle here, my friends. 

Chubbuck’s finest

5. Syringa

I don’t know about you, but this name just brings up visions of medical waste on New Jersey beaches, or perhaps a park where junkies hang out in The Bronx.  Definitely not the beautiful wide open spaces of Idaho.

Wouldn’t you know …  It’s the Idaho state flower.  Also, the “g” is hard.

Syringa’s on the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River, in the Clearwater National Forest.  The two businesses I could identify in town – Riverdance Lodge and Lewis Clark Trail Cabins – both cater to the tourist trade.  Looks like a beautiful area.

Philadelphus lewisii

4. Cocolalla

Native American?  Spanish?  Baby talk?  Very poor spelling of Coca-Cola?

Well, it turns out it is Native American.  It’s Coeur d'Alene Salish for either “deep water” or “very cold.”  Or, perhaps – and this is only my theory – “very cold, very deep water.” 

The town is named after a lake, and is located at the north end of it.  Looks like we’ve got a post office, a church, an RV park, a cemetery, a little light manufacturing, and someplace called “Wolf People.”  Thank you, Google Maps.

Man, those are …
I mean, that is a big one

3. Mud Lake

Few know it, but “Mud Lake” was the working title of Tchaikovsky’s balletic masterpiece.  Think frogs instead of swans.

Would you believe there are no less than 10 mud lakes in Idaho?  Ours is in Jefferson County, and is the namesake of our little metropolis of 400.  The closest real place is Idaho Falls. 

The very helpful site tells me its – when I google “mud lake idaho” – that there are “thousands of things to do near Mud Lake from places of interest to outdoor recreation to sightseeing and tours to arts and culture.”  Imagine my surprise when I clicked on the link and got “no results found.” 

Watch your step!

2. Culdesac

How nice to see a developer call a spade a spade for once.  No The Villages at Cheshire Glen.  Skip Olde Hamptonwicke.  The heck with Chumley Heath Crossing.  Just plain ol’ Culdesac.  I love it!

From what I can tell, Culdesac was the end of the line for a local little railroad that made its way out here from Lewiston.  There was also a historic mission here (to the Nez Perce).

Today, we’re talking about 400 people.  One of the main drags in Culdesac appears to be called Culdesac Ave. (by the way, it is not).

And just in case you couldn’t read it:

In 1863 this area was a “shebeen” (outlaw headquarters) and murder and robbery of travelers were common place. This valley was on the main and original Nez Perce Trail leading into Montana through Elk City. Homesteaders moved into the fertile valley and by 1900 two towns were growing. One called Culdesac located at the end of the railroad terminal and the other at the east end of the valley called Mellen. The citizens of both towns applied for a post office under the one name of Cul-de-sac. The post office was granted, but the department suggested the people adopt the name Magnolia. This stood until through a citizens petition the post office was renamed Culdesac. In 1903 the towns consolidated and adopted the name Culdesac. With a population of 400 the town grew rapidly, boasting all of the businesses of a larger town. A number of fires over the years burned out complete town blocks and greatly damaged growth. However, a school, businesses and homes have been re-built, and farming is now the chief industry.

1. Magic City / Atomic City

It was just too hard to pick one of these for the grand prize.  So, like any event that involves kids younger than high school these days, everyone’s a winner!

Not completely sure what the magic is in Magic City.  It’s one of those barely there kind of places.  There is a Magic Reservoir though.  And that, in turn, was created by the Magic Dam.  I’m assuming the water it holds is magic water, which makes magic waves along the magic shoreline, where magic fishermen cast their magic lines for magic fish.

I guess we all know what the magic is in Atomic City.  That would be radioactivity!  Rads and rads of it.  Atomic City is right next to the Idaho National Laboratory, formerly the much-scarier National Reactor Testing Station.  Great description of the town on Wikipedia:

There is one store and one bar in Atomic City; the store no longer sells gasoline, due to new laws pertaining to its underground gas tanks.  Most of the people who were raised in the town have now passed on, and many of the current residents are retired.  There is an RV park on the south end of town with full hook-ups, and stock car races are held in the summer.

I guess that Wikipedia article
may be a little out of date
(And who are those guys anyway?)

Honorable Mention:

  • Some more cities – Malad (French for “sick” or “ill”) City, Butte City, Sugar City, Moose City, Thunder Mountain City
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – American Falls, Oldtown, Mt. Idaho, Idaho City
  • Short & sweet – Pearl, Paul, Roy, Henry, Pine, Bear, Bridge, Bliss, Bench, Bone, Stone, Felt, Naf
  • Just a little out of place – Dixie, Atlanta, Harvard, Princeton, Naples, Moscow (home of the University of Idaho), Paris
  • Numerically oriented – Twin Falls, Twin Groves, Three Fork
  • Native American mouthfuls – Kootenai, Pocatello
  • Atypical adjectives – Sweet, Gross, Tensed, Deary, Chilly
  • Abnormal nouns – Squirrel, Sunbeam, Triumph, Soldier
  • Unconventional verbs – Crouch, Coolin
  • Fun to say – Tuttle, Dingle, Shoup, Rathdrum, Ponderay, Stites, Waha
  • Just plain weird – Smelterville, White Bird, Fish Haven, Priest River, Warm River, Warm Lake, King Hill, Harpster, Chilco, Cold House, Black Cloud, Good Grief, Slickpoo, Beer Bottle Crossing (look, there goes one now!), Dickshooter
  • Ghost towns – Yellow Jacket, Hump Town, Stibnite, Czizek

Monday, January 7, 2013


I’ve actually got a bunch of relatives here, and have been plenty of times myself.  So, this stuff never sounds quite as weird to me as it does to everyone else.

To tell you the truth, they all just sound like really bad Scrabble racks to me.  Ah well, here goes …

10. Honouliuli

Little Johnny had no trouble with Montpelier and Tallahassee.  Who would have thought he’d bow out of the spelling bee at Honolulu?

Just to make things interesting , Honouliuli is actually right next to Honolulu.  The name means something along the lines of “blue harbor” or “dark bay.”  “Honolulu” itself means “sheltered bay.”

Honouliuli was the site of an internment camp during WWII.  There’s not much there today except for a wastewater treatment plant.

And tourists just love
waste water treatment plants

9. Kealakekua *

I swear this one has more syllables than it does letters.  If that’s possible.  It means “the god’s pathway,” from an imprint in a cliff that a god supposedly slid down on.

Kealakekua Bay is where Captain Cook was killed.  The bay is actually on the other side of the town of Captain Cook from Kealakekua.  They’re all on the Big Island, just down the coast from Kona.

Today, Kealakekua is home to 1,600 people and a hospital.  The park on Kealakekua Bay is famous for snorkeling and kayaking.

I know Kealakekua personally from the song “My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua,” a Hawaiian music standard.  I grew up with Hawaiian music playing constantly on my Dad’s stereo.  When my wife and I honeymooned there, she was amazed that I knew the lyrics to all the songs, from "Aloha Oe" to "Tiny Bubbles."

I can hear it now

8. Laupahoehoe *

All of these places seem to stop at 10 letters.  But this one …  This one goes to 11!

Laupahoehoe means “smooth lava flat.”  You may be familiar with pahoehoe, the smooth, ropy lava, as well as aa, the rough, jagged kind.  The latter makes a great (and completely legal) Scrabble word, by the way.

Twenty-four students and teachers were killed here by a tidal wave in 1946.  Today, the town of not quite 600 people has a train museum, a beautiful park, and a music festival.  It’s on the northeast shore of the Big Island.  It has its own song, “The Boy from Laupahoehoe.”  But, then again, doesn't every town in Hawaii?

Very large tourists,
Laupahoehoe Point

7. Ulupalakua

Why do I feel like I’m in Finland? 

Ulupalakua is on the slopes of Haleakala, the enormous volcano on Maui.  It includes a ranch, winery, nursery, and school.

The name means “breadfruit ripening on the backs of carriers.”  Catchy, no?

Would you believe this place has its own song as well?  I couldn’t pass up sharing these lyrics:

Is `Ulupalakua
The pangs of the cold evening air
The home of the cowboys

My lei is an adornment
Of `Ulupalakua
The sweet scent of ginger is
Truly beautiful

Tell the refrain
Of `Ulupalakua
The pangs of the cold evening air
The home of the cowboy

Like the song says

6. Aiea *

Consonants?  We don’t need no stinkin’ consonants.

Not to be confused with the Association of International Education Administrators, the Association of Irish Energy Agencies, or the Arizona Indian Education Association (none of which I made up!) …  This town of 9000 is just on the other side of Pearl Harbor from Honolulu. 

It’s named after a type of native holly, Ilex anomola.  If my Latin is still up to snuff, I think that means “anomalous holly.”  Catchy, no?

Aiea is famous for its bowling alley
(I kid you not)

5. Kuliouou

I’d like to buy a consonant.

This one means “sounding knee,” from a native drum that was somehow or other attached to one’s knee.  (Don’t ask – haven’t a clue).

It’s a suburb of Honolulu, and features a great trail along the ridge overlooking the town, as well as one up the valley.  There are actually a surprising number of good hikes in the mountains right above Honolulu.   Just make sure you take plenty of water – and, er, some consonants – with you.

4. Kokomo

Whoa!  I think we took a wrong turn comin’ outta that tiki bar, Mabel.

Well, here’s another place with its own song.  Unfortunately, the Beach Boys seem to be singing about some place in the Caribbean.  They’re definitely not singing about the city in Indiana, I know that much.

Kokomo’s a real place in Hawaii, though.  It’s along the eastern Kauai coast.  Doesn’t look like there’s a lot there however.

Almost forgot …  It means “tree entering.”  “Tree entering?”   Yup, “tree entering.” 

Hmm, I think we got
the wrong Kokomo here

3. Nonopapa

Nonopapa is on the island of Niihau.  The "town" is little more than a tide station however.

Hawaii also features a Papa.  That one means “forbidden.”  So, I guess “Nonopapa” means “definitely not forbidden.”  Actually, it means “invalid.”  Just as weird, if not weirder, if you ask me.

A quick search of “nonopapa” on the Google, gives us a Louis Armstrong song, some Japanese sites, and a couple of cute kid videos on YouTube.

Beautiful Pebbles from Nonopapa, Niihau Mesh Hat
£12.30 on Zazzle

2. Haiku

We knew this was going to happen, didn’t we?

Haiku is on the north shore of Maui.  Population (including neighboring Pauwela): about 8,000.

This one means either “sharp break” or “speak abruptly.”  Take your pick.

And here’s my attempt at a little haiku myself:

Sports Illustrated
Photo shoot in old Haiku
Booty in jungle

1. Spreckelsville *

Man, how did this one get here?  And what’s a spreckel anyway?

Well, it turns out it’s a last name.  Spreckelsville was named after sugar baron Claus Spreckels. 

Claus built the largest sugar mill in the world here in 1880.  Today, it’s got about 400 people.   It’s on the north shore of Maui, one of the first towns on the road to Hana. 

Herr Spreckels
(looking rather like another
Claus I happen to know)

* - author has visited