Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Another boring New England state.  As you may have already learned from Maine, these states like to go with a limited set of very basic names, making sure that each one has an east version, a west version, a center version, and so on. 

Well, the Bay State may have set a record here, with Harwich.  In particular, we’ve got
  • Harwich
  • North Harwich
  • South Harwich
  • East Harwich
  • West Harwich
  • Harwich Port

And while we’re speaking of breaking records, I do have to mentions Massachusetts’ Webster Lake, which sometimes goes by a slightly longer Native American name:


and sometimes by it’s full, official, 45-letter appellative monstrosity:


It means “neutral fishing water” in Nipmuc.  Some wag at the local newspaper claimed it was for the much more imaginative “You fish on your side, I’ll fish on mine, and nobody fish in the middle.”

10. Heaven Heights

Heaven help us!

I’ll bet you didn’t know that heaven was part of East Freetown, in the southeast corner of the state of Massachusetts.  Yup, it’s a on a little promontory overlooking Long Pond.  I count several dozen houses and a lone real estate office.  So, looks like there’s still plenty of room left.

Yes, heaven is for real!

9. Feeding Hills

The hills have mouths!

Actually, the cows on these hills have mouths.  And the hills have grass.  And cows eat grass.  And the townsfolk of Springfield wanted their cows to eat, so they could have milk.  So, they led them here … And Feeding Hills was born!

FH is actually a neighborhood of Agawam (see below).  It’s in the western part of the state, right on the Connecticut border.

Feeding Hills has one famous daughter, Anne Sullivan, the woman who taught Helen Keller.

8. Lobsterville

I wanna live here!

Lobsterville is a crossroads on Martha’s Vineyard, not too far from West Chop, Gay Head, and Chilmark (see below).  There’s not a whole lot there except for some really expensive beach-front “cottages,” a rocky beach with very cold water, and extremely limited parking.

BTW, there is a restaurant of the same name, at the opposite end of the island in Oak Bluffs.

Just pitch your towel wherever you like!

7. West Chop

How much west would a westchop chop, if a westchop could chop west?

Though there is an East Chop, there’s no plain ol’ Chop.  The two chops are basically points of land at the beginning of Vineyard Haven Harbor, one of the few natural harbors on Martha’s Vineyard.  There is a West Chop Lighthouse, and an East Chop Lighthouse as well.

“Chop” is just an old-timey word for “jaw.”  If you take a map of the Vineyard and tilt it sideways, the two points of land do indeed look like a pair of “choppers.”

West Chop has meant super-swanky houses and very rich and well-connected people for some 120 years.  So, if you’re name is Kingman Brewster and you’re the former president of Yale and ambassador to the Court of St. James, you’re probably fit right in!  I’m not so certain about the rest of us.

Welcome to my humble chapeau!

6. Onset

n., “the beginning of something, esp. something unpleasant.”

Actually, that’s what the word means in English.  In Agawam, it’s something entirely different – “sandy landing place.” 

Onset was developed about 150 years ago as a summer retreat for spiritualists. Yup, people used to spend their summers, not lying on the beach, but communicating with the dead.  Onset later became known for its “lavish living, drinking and gambling.”  These days, it’s busily gentrifying.

Love those old postcards

5. Cuttyhunk

Still not back on the mainland yet.  Cuttyhunk is the name of one of the Elizabeth Islands, a series of islands that comes off the little peninsula that ends at Woods Hole.  The one and only town on the island of Cuttyhunk is named ... [drum roll] ... Cuttyhunk as well.

Cuttyhunk comes from the Wampanoag poocuohhunkkunnah, which means “point of departure” or “land’s end” or perhaps "get your elbow off the keyboard."  I see no relation between these two words myself, but I’ll just take their word for it.

BTW, Cuttyhunk is not the oddest of the Elizabethans.  In full, they include:
  • Pasque
  • Penikese
  • Naushon
  • Nashawena
  • Nonamesset
  • Veckatimest
  • Uncatena 
  • The Weepeckets

4th of July parade
(I hope it’s candy he's throwing)

4. Gay Head *

Wait a minute.  I thought Provincetown was down the Cape.

Gay Head was named for the “gaily colored cliffs seen from the west when approaching the island from the sea.”  Sadly, Gay Head is now Aquinnah, and was renamed by the local Wampanoag.  It means "land under the hill” in their language, and refers to the beach that lays under the cliffs.

Today, that beach is famous for being one of the few nude beaches in our Puritan republic.  300-some people call Aquinnah home, about one third of them Native Americans.

So gay

3. Assinippi

The favorite Massachusetts town of all 4th grade boys.

We’re back on the mainland for this one.  Assinippi is just SE of Boston.  It looks pretty sprawly. 

Oh, almost forgot …  It’s from the Wampanoag and means “rocks in water.” 

Local arts scene,
Assinippi, MA

2. Teaticket

There was once a man from Teaticket …

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything on the origin of this one.  My guess is it was probably originally Teatucket.  Based on some other Massachusetts names, it sounds like “tucket” means “water.”  So, “tea water”?  I don't know ...

Teaticket is in the southeast part of Massachusetts, at the beginning of the Cape.  It’s got 2000 people, and is officially part of the larger town of Falmouth.  Looks like the biggest attraction in Teaticket proper may be a Walmart.

“The image above shows a DCA Tea Service ticket 
dating from before November 1973, entitling the bearer 
to one cup of tea (or coffee).”  www.airwaysmuseum.com

1. Braintree

Yes, I do realize many people already have some familiarity with this one.  I mean, it’s a large-sized town, and it’s where famous folks like John Adams, John Q. Adams, and John Hancock hail from.  But the image it brings up in my head is just so frightening, I had to make this one numero uno.

Like so many towns in New England, this town was named after a town of the same name in Old England.  Where that name comes from, however, is not so certain.  I quote from Wikipedia:

The origin of the name Braintree is obscure. One theory is that Braintree was originally Branoc's tree, Branoc apparently being an old personal name. Another theory is that the name is derived from that of Rayne, which was actually a more important settlement in Norman times. Braintree, Essex was also called Brantry and Branchetreu in the Domesday Book and this means "town by the river". The River Braint is another possible origin. "Tree" comes from the Saxon suffix, more usually spelt "try", denoting a big village. In many early American Colonial documents, it is referred to as Branktry. The name "Braint" is well attested as a river name in Britain; there is a river of that name in Anglesey, and it may be conjectured that it was the name of the Blackwater in pre Saxon times, although the Celtic name "Bran" is also used widely for rivers (derived from the British word for a crow and thought to refer to the dark or crow-black appearance of such a river, making it a good fit for a river now called "Blackwater"). Here again, the reference to a river would indicate that Braintree literally means "town (or village) by the river". The suffix to either Braint or Bran is the common Britonnic "Tre" widely found in Wales and Cornwall, but also noted in towns such as Daventree, with the meaning of initially a farm or settlement and later a town. Another variation can be seen in various Medieval Latin legal records, where it appears as "Branktre"

Hmm, sounds like somebody may have too much time on their hands.

"In the center of the Haunted Woods there is a tree... a very unusual tree. This tree, of course, is the Brain Tree! The (very large) citizen of the Haunted Woods has a constant thirst for knowledge, and he needs you to supply him with it!" (jellyneo.net)

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – New Boston, Central Village, Rock
  • Just a little out of place – Florida, Texas, Wyoming, Monterrey, Peru, Oxford, Sherwood Forest, Wales, Scotland, Berlin (including West & South), Savoy, Egypt
  • Numerically oriented – Three Rivers, Five Corners, Sixteen Acres
  • Native American mouthfuls – Agawam, Acushnet (yup, where the golf company got started), Winnecunnet, Nonquitt, Cotuit, Quidnet, Cummaquid, Nipmunk Pond, Tatnuck, Nabnasset, Nantucket, Segraganset, Sippewisset, Quinsigamond Village, Seekonk (“wild goose”), Squantum, Chicopee (“violent water”), Mashpee, Squidnocket
  • Too many words – Town Crest Village, Mile Oak Center, Turkey Hill Shores, Phillipston Four Corners, Beach Buzzards Bay (you’ve gotta admire the alliteration though)
  • Abnormal nouns – Orange, Accord, Turnpike, Sandwich*
  • Fun to say – Shattuckville, Plumbush, Housatonic, Tewksbury*, Tyngsboro*, Zoar, Quaise, Polpis
  • Just plain weird – Monument Beach, Painting Island, North Carver, Gray Gables, Blissville, Roosterville, Loudville, Richmond Furnace, Old Furnace, Hoosac Tunnel, Chilmark, Little Neck, Marblehead, Hicksville, Belchertown, Tinkertown, Woods Hole
  • Too much Westport – South Westport, Westport Point, Head of Westport, Westport Factory
  • I’d like you to meet – Otis (including North, East & West), Dudley Hill, Kent Park, Dorothy Beach, Priscilla Beach (sisters?), Shirley Center, Holly Woods
  • Ghost towns – Dana (mostly below the Quabbin Reservoir), Dogtown (actually the topic of a book)

* - author has visited

Monday, March 18, 2013


Maryland was founded as a refuge for English Catholics.  And crabs.  It was the site of much action in the War of 1812, and the Star-Spangled Banner was written during a bombardment of Baltimore.  Plus crabs.  It was a border state during the Civil War, with the important battle of Antietam occurring within its boundaries.  Crabs too.  It’s centered around the picturesque Chesapeake Bay, but also includes beautiful mountains and Atlantic beaches.  More crabs!  Famous sons and daughters include:
  • Babe Ruth
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Francis Scott Key
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • H.L. Mencken
  • Crabs, crabs, crabs!

10. Secretary

The town council is thinking about changing the name to Administrative Assistant.  Some like the alliteration.  Some think it makes the place sound more modern.  On the other hand, some think “Executive Assistant” sounds classier.  And some think both are a little long, favoring “Admin” instead.

So, where did it come from?  It's named after Lord Henry Sewell, Secretary of the Province of Maryland in the late 1600s.  I understand he could type 50 words a minute.

This town of 530 is on the Eastern Shore.  It’s at the mouth of the Warwick River, which is actually a small creek that feeds into the much larger Choptank (see below).  I see a church, a school, a bank, and some restaurants, including this one …

Makes me hungry
(website right here)

9. Rosaryville

A priest was assigned a small church in the Alaskan Maryland backwoods.  After a couple of years, the bishop stopped by to see how he was doing. 
"Ah, Bishop, it's really lonely here. I couldn't have made it without my Rosary and two martinis a day."
The bishop replied, "You know, a martini would taste good right now."
The priest agreed and yelled into the kitchen, "Hey, Rosary! Fix us a couple of martinis, will ya!?"

Sorry.  This was about all I could find on Google for “rosary jokes.”

Rosaryville was supposedly named after a local church, probably Holy Rosary or Our Lady of the Rosary – though I couldn’t find either on Google Maps.

This town of 11,000 is right next to Andrews Air Force Base.  Within its city limits, it features two colonial mansions, Mt. Airy and the wonderfully named His Lordship’s Kindness.  Other than that, it looks like it’s got a fair amount of DC sprawl.

Rosaryville Elementary goes down
in the Prince Georges County Science Bowl

8. Pomonkey

Okay, I could come up with some god-awful joke about some unfortunate simian getting shot into space or something about bananas or organ grinders, but I’ll spare you.  This time.

Pomonkey is named after the Pamunkey Tribe of Native Americans.  Haven’t a clue where that comes from unfortunately.

This hamlet of maybe a dozen buildings is on Pomonkey Creek, which flows into the Potomac below DC.  It was once the site of the Pomonkey Spoon Factory (which really sounds funny, for some reason), and is not too far from Mattawoman, Allens Fresh, Pomfret, and Accokeek (see below).


7. Mattawoman

Originally called Whatawoman after an early settler, Lucretia Plunkett, who founded the town, ran the general store, home-schooled eight kids, farmed 40 acres, and was a Cub Scout Den Leader and team mom for six different sports.

Seriously, it’s actually named after Mattawoman Creek, which comes from the Algonquian Mataughquamend and means “where one goes pleasantly” (love it!).

The town actually looks fairly well populated.  It’s unincorporated, though, so just kind of blends in with the DC sprawl, without having much character of its own.

By the way, there is also a Mattapex, MD.  As far as I can tell, that means “junction of waters.”

6. Lutherville-Timonium *

Now, Lutherville’s bad enough.  But what the heck is a “timonium”?  Chemical element?  The pandemonium that happens when Tim Tebow gets into a game?  The name of a local mansion that was in turn named for a tower in ancient Alexandria built by Marc Antony?  Yeah, C!  I’m going with C, Regis!  (Lutherville was named after Martin Luther, BTW.)

Well, here’s our first stop in the Baltimore area.  L-T is just north of the Beltway, and home to almost 16,000 commuters.  Timonium claims to have “City Convenience and Country Comfort.”  It’s home to the Maryland State Fair.  BTW, Maryland also features a Linthicum and a Lapidium.

Lutherville claims a historic district, as well as a number of current and former famous residents, both above and below ground:
  • Spiro Agnew
  • Pam Shriver
  • Don Shula
  • Johnny Unitas

A little history

5. Allens Fresh

Well, perhaps you should just slap him. 

Allens Fresh is named after Allens Fresh Run.  My guess is there was once a Mr. Allen who may have used this creek to send rafts of tobacco downstream during Spring freshets (little floods).

The run turns into the Wicomico River, which itself flows into the Potomac.  It looks like we’ve got ten buildings, a bridge, and not much else.

One of them freshets.  Ouch!

4. Romancoke

No, I didn’t ask what you wanted to drink.  I asked you where you come from.

Romancoke is actually an Algonquian word, meaning “circling of the water.”  Which, I’m afraid, makes it sound kinda like a toilet, if you really want to know.

It’s on Kent Island, which was once somewhat remote, but is now basically a stepping stone for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  Romancoke is not big enough to be a “census-designated place,” so is classified as an “urban cluster” instead.  Kind of chocolate?  Bad experience in the inner city?

There’s a Romancoke VA as well.

3. Crapo

Yeah, it’s pronounced “cray-po,” and it’s actually somebody’s name, but it’s still a very popular entry on crazy town name lists, so I’m including it here.  Too bad they didn’t throw an extra “p” in there.  That would have given us some pretty great search results, like:
  • Crappo Homes for Sale (they’re falling down)
  • Crappo Mortgage Rates (they're really high)
  • Crappo Weather (it’s raining again)
  • Crappo Jobs and Employment (there are none)
  • Crappo Lawyers (pretty much all of them)

The surname is from the French crepeau, or crepaux, meaning “curly-haired.” God, that sounds so much classier.  One "famous" Crapo is the current US senator from Idaho, Mike Crapo.

We’re back on the Eastern Shore for this one – pretty much in the middle of absolute nowhere.  I see a post office and maybe three other buildings.

Post office = big time!

2. Accident

This one actually comes from a Colonial era surveying accident.  No, not the kind where somebody gets hurt.  Just a little miscalculation between friends, that’s all.

The land was originally known as the Accident Tract.  Unimaginative, tone-deaf, or perhaps slyly humorous early settlers simply kept the name for their new town.

This one is in the very western corner of Maryland – just to make our tour of Maryland complete.  You know, that little hook that ends things rather abruptly and stabs right down into West Virginia.  (I gotta tell ya, of all the states, Maryland’s pretty much got the weird shape prize wrapped up.)

We’re talking  about a little burg of about 325 Accidentals in total here.  We’ve also got a library, a post office, an elementary and high school, and some businesses (including the wonderfully named Accident Garage).

BTW, Friendsville (see below) is just to the west.

Main Street accident
(er, I mean, “Main Street, Accident”
- ah, the power of punctuation)

1. Scientists Cliffs

One, I’m not sure why the developers or town fathers wanted to attract scientists in the first place.  Two, I didn’t realize scientists were so attracted to cliffs.  Heck, the place is right on the water.  You’d think Scientist Beach or Scientist Shores would have sounded a lot more appealing.  But, then again, I’m only an engineer.  What do I know?

Ready for this one?  This place was established as a summer colony for scientists by forest pathologists Flippo and Annie Gravatt (yup, Flippo).  They were originally attracted to the blight-resistant chestnut trees in the area.  Later scientists were attracted to the cliffs, which include one of the largest collections of Miocene fossils in the world.  Honestly, I can’t make this stuff up.

It’s just southeast of DC, on the western side of the Chesapeake.  About 120 houses are permanently occupied.  Alternate names include Flippos Folly, Annes Aggravation, and Pathologists Quagmire. 

English major keep out!

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Maryland Point, Maryland Line, Maryland City, Oldtown*, Middletown, Halfway, Avenue, Street, North East, Public Landing, Suburbia
  • Short & sweet – Champ, Chance, Fork, Rocks
  • A bad case of the ‘villes – Beachville, Churchville, Friendsville, Loveville, Downsville, Gingerville, Wolfville, Beltsville*, Barrelville, Cockeysville, Claggetsville, Scaggsville, Chewsville, Dentsville
  • A bad case of the ‘burgs – Ruthsburg, Ladiesburg, Fiddlersburg, Fowblesburg, Finksburg, Frizzelburg
  • Just a little out of place – Newark, Texas, Phoenix, Hollywood, California, Pasadena, Pomona, Londontown, Oxford, Paris, Waterloo, Berlin (shark from Jaws), Vienna, Lisbon, Mt. Etna, Moscow, Damascus, Aloha
  • Native American mouthfuls – Honga, Wango, Nikep, Choptank, Nanjemoy, Pokomoke City, Piscataway, Chicamuxen, Accokeek
  • Too many words – East New Market, George Island Landing, Font Hill Manor, Fort Washington Forest, Cape Isle of Wight, The Crest of Wickford, Amberly of Kings Court
  • Atypical adjectives – Paramount, Level, Savage* (and Mt. Savage), Boring, Rumbley, Apple Green
  • Unconventional verbs – Issue, Chase, Hurry
  • Abnormal nouns – Canal, Unity, Gratitude, Security, Stronghold, Sunshine, Sparks, Delight, Crescendo, Mayo, Bivalve, Detour, Parole, Fearer
  • Fun to say – Motters, Cresaptown, Crumpton, Finzel, New Glatz, Benevola, Pomfret, Pumphrey, Von Bibber
  • Hard to say – Elioak, Glenelg, Gnegy Church
  • Just plain weird – Eckhart Mines*, Fair Play, Rising Sun, Allview, West Friendship, Love Point, Sweet Air, Big Pool*, Tall Timbers, Rippling Ridge, Lime Kiln, Putty Hill, Flintstone*, Cavetown, Joppa Town, Mousetown, Redhouse, Tammany Manor, Charleston Furnace, American Corners, Seat Pleasant, Sandy Bottom, Port Tobacco, Port Deposit, Point of Rocks*, Elk Neck, Quaker Neck, Christ Rock, Pendennis Mount, Borden Shaft, Basket Switch, Long Green, Dames Quarter, Funkstown, T.B.
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Perry Hall, Charlotte Hall, Quincy Orchard, Glen Burnie* (giant crash test dummy), Chevy Chase*, Prince Frederick, Madonna

* - author has visited

Monday, March 11, 2013


Ah, our first New England state.  Interestingly, they seem to be just as boring as those out in the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas).  They do, however, have their own unique way of being boring.

For some reason, every New England state seems to have only 100 or so town names to work with.  What do they do when they go over that number?  Why, they simply add a prefix:

  • East
  • West
  • North
  • South
  • Upper
  • Lower
And if things get real crazy, they might substitute a suffix instead – Center, Falls, Mills, and so on.

And that’s what behind such creative extravanganzas as:

  • Poland, ME
  • E. Poland, ME
  • W. Poland, ME
  • Poland Springs, ME
How does the post office keep ‘em all straight?

10. North New Portland

Case in point!  Case in point!

North New Portland is a tiny town in the western part of the state.  It’s just north of … [drumroll] … East New Portland!  And, yes, there is a New Portland – but it’s way over to the west.  It’s not as far away as Portland, however, which is way over to the east, on the coast.  (BTW, Portland was named after Portland, England, which is way, way, way over to the east.) 

East and North had next to nothing on them, but I did find some things on New.  I especially loved the totally random description of this town that I found on Wikipedia, so I’m sharing it here verbatim:

New Portland is a town in Somerset County, Maine.  It is perhaps best known for its Wire Bridge, a cable suspension bridge completed in 1866 that is the last remaining bridge of its type in Maine, and possibly the U.S.  Much of North New Portland's Main Street burned to the ground in the fire of 1919, including a hotel.  The annual town fair draws large crowds from around, and is held in September.  The population was 718 at the 2010 census.  The town was given to the residents of Falmouth (now Portland) by the Massachusetts legislature to repay them for their loss when the British fleet burned Falmouth in 1775.

9. Allagash

Now, I might believe Allaglow, Allatwitter, Alladither, and Allaflutter.  But Allagash?  I don’t know.  I’m just not buying it.

Turns out it’s not English at all, but is from the Penobscot walakeskihtek, which means “bark stream.”  I do have to wonder, though, how they got “allagash” out of walakeskihtek.  Lost a little something in the transcription, eh?

Allagash the town is in the very far north of the state, and has just over 200 people.  Allagash is also a river, which has been preserved as part of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a part of the National Wild and Scenic River system.  It looks really beautiful.

And I think we’ve probably all heard about the Allagash Brewing Company, no?  Maybe even sampled some of their products.  But did you know that the brewery is in Portland? – almost at the opposite end of the state, 350 miles and 6 hours away.

Global warming
hits Allagash

8. Falmouth Foreside

Foreside’s weird enough.  Combine it with a second word, then make sure they’re both alliterative – and, hey, I think we’re really onto something here.

Falmouth Foreside is actually part of Falmouth proper.  I’m not totally sure why townsfolk couldn’t have called their burg just Foreside.  (Actually, it sounds like a lot of natives do.)

By the way, Falmouth is from the English town.  Foreside probably gets its name because it’s right on the water, with Falmouth several miles inland.  “Foreside” is an old-timey word that means “front side or part” (and sounds a lot like “foreskin” [snicker]).  There is also a Cumberland Foreside in Maine as well.

Yours for a mere $8,450,000!

7. Caratunk

The sound an old lobsterman makes when he falls down the stairs at the old folks’ home?

Well, maybe not.  You do have your choice of two possibilities though:

  • “scraped field,” unknown American Indian language
  • “forbidding, or crooked, stream,” Abenaki
Maybe some native Abenaki speakers out there could let me know for sure.  Thanks in advance!

This town of 70 is way back in the woods.  In fact, the Appalachian Trial passes right through it.  Seasonal residents outnumber permanent ones two-to-one. 


6. Mattawamkeag / Passadumkeag

Now, what are the chances that, if I stuck my elbow on the keyboard twice, both attempts would end in the same five letters?  Huh?

Actually, these two mean, respectively:

  • Gravel bar at the mouth
  • Above the gravel bar
So, putting my linguistic sleuthing skills to use, I’m going out on a limb here and hypothesizing that “keag” means “gravel bar.”  Now if I only knew what language it did that in.

These two actually have lots more in common as well.  They’re both:

  • In east central Maine
  • Named after rivers, where those rivers join the Penobscot
They’re also just 30 miles apart.

Yours for only $19,000!

5. South Arm

Not that far from East Leg, just down the road from Elbow Falls, right next to West Ankle, and a stone’s throw from North Nostril.

Well, this is pretty boring, but this place is actually named after the south arm of a lake, Lower Richardson Lake.  It’s in the “lovely Rangeley Lakes Region of Maine's Western Mountains” (www.visitmaine.com).  All I can make out are some docks on the lake and some houses back in the trees.

By the way, there’s also a South Arm, Michigan and a South Arm, Tasmania.

4. North East Carry

I’m assuming there is also a North West Carry, South East Carry, South West Carry – and perhaps even a North-North-East Carry, a North-North-West Carry, and a …  The possibilities are endless!

By the way, “carry” is just an old-fashioned term for “portage.”  The portage here was from Moosehead Lake to the Penobscot River.  As Moosehead is the source of the Kennebec River, this portage was pretty important.  Thoreau actually wrote it up.

The town has a couple of houses, a couple of docks, and a couple of commercial buildings, including Raymonds Country Store.  Almost forgot …  NEC is in the upper western part of Maine – i.e., absolute nowhere. 

Are you real enough
for Raymonds Country Store?
Huh?  Are you, punk?

3. Eggemoggin

 No, eggemoggin does not mean “signature breakfast sandwich.”  It means “fish-weir place.”   Yumm ...

Eggemoggin is on Little Deer Isle, in Penobscot Bay.  I’m talking prime tourist territory here – cottages, lodges, inns, artist’s studios, country stores, you name it.

So damn picturesque
I think I’m gonna puke

2. Molunkus

n, slang (chiefly US), “A large, clumsy person.”  Also see “galoot,” “oaf,” “klutz.”

Actually, that’s not even close.  Turns out molunkus means “stream in ravine.”

Well, there does happen to be a Molunkus Stream, as well as a Molunkus Lake.  The town isn’t much, though – basically, a Y intersection and maybe 4 buildings.  It’s in the east central part of the state, way out in the woods.

In fact, it seems the main economic activity there is camping, fishing, and providing guides for hunting.  One of the outfitter-type enterprises there, Katahdin Valley Outfitters, has a website that features some crusty, Maine-guide-type of character named Molunkus Harry.

Harry, Molunkus

1. Meddybemps

“Oh, don’t be such a meddybemps, Ursula!  I dare say!”

“Meddybemps” actually comes from the Passamaquoddy, and means “plenty of alewives.”  Not a phrase I personally use everyday, but hey, it could come in handy.  (Oh yeah – an alewife is a kind of fish.)

We’re talking about 150 people here.  Near the coast, almost on the Canadian border.  Oh, it’s also the home of the Meddybemps Howler, the bigfoot of the Maine woods.  Look, there’s proof!

Howler and friend (er, relative?)

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Old Town, Centerville
  • Short & sweet – Jay, Sound, Starks
  • Just a little out of place – Hartford, Princeton, Richmond, Monticello, Charleston, Detroit, Dallas, Mexico, E. Peru (& W. Peru), Belfast*, Oxford, W. Paris (& S. Paris), Frankfort, Dresden, Vienna, Belgrade, Stockholm, Denmark, Norway, Sweden (& Sweden Mills), Moscow, Madrid, Lisbon Falls (Moxie Museum), Sorrento, Naples, Rome, Athens, Carthage, S. Lebanon, Levant, Orient, China, Purgatory
  • Numerically oriented – Number Four, Twelve Corners
  • Native American mouthfuls – Kokadjo, Ogunquit, Oquossuc, Androscoggin (“turbid, foaming, crooked snake”), Skowhegan, Seboomook, Kennebunkport*, E. Millinocket, Wytopitlock
  • Atypical adjectives – Gray, Strong, Starboard, Mainstream, Moody
  • Abnormal nouns – Freedom, Friendship, Harmony, Crystal, Sunrise, Lookout, Moosehead, Lobster, Grindstone
  • Unconventional verbs – Weld
  • Fun to say – Ogontz, Quimby
  • Just plain weird – Mount Desert Island*, E. Vassalboro (& N. Vassalboro), Robinhood, Christmas Cove, Cape Porpoise, Biddeford Pool, Shin Pond, Soldier Pond, Beans Corner, Bachelors Crossing, Prouts Neck, Owls Head (oldest minivan), Bald Head, Vinalhaven, Jemtland, Jackman, Jimpond, Norridgewock, Squa Pan, Plaisted (really, really drunk?), Misery Gore
  • Odd ‘villes – Oceanville, Winterville, Upper Frenchville, Stacyville, Cornville, Suckerville
  • I’d like you to meet – Alfred, Eliot, Eustis, Milo
  • Ghost towns – Flagstaff, Riceville, Dead River

By the way, I usually don’t do street names, but a Sun Journal article listed these beauts, so I just had to share:

  • Katies Crotch
  • Alcohol Mary
  • Jackass Annie

* - author has visited

Monday, March 4, 2013


“Sportsman’s Paradise,” huh?  Yup, that’s been the motto on Louisiana license plates since, I don’t know, the Model T?

I’m sure the huntin’ and fishin’ is pretty good there.  That said, aren’t there some other things Louisiana is famous for?  Nawlins?  Cajun food?  Mardi Gras?  The Super Bowl?  Crawdads?  The Big Easy?  Zydeco?  The bayou?  The French Quarter?  Towns with really funny names?

Yeah, that last one!  So, laissez les villes folles rouller

10. Bastrop

Sounds like it might be something rendered backwards.  You may be familiar with Remlap, AL, which is Palmer in reverse.  Hmm, Portsab’s not really ringing a bell though, is it?

Would you believe this is actually somebody’s name?  Yup, it’s named after Felipe Enrique Neri, the Dutch Baron de Bastrop.  Hold on – it gets even better …

Our Baron was actually born Philip Hendrik Nering Bögel.  He fled to the US after being accused of embezzlement.  There, he passed himself off as a nobleman, got involved in land speculation, and tried to establish a colony that fell apart for lack of funds.  Just the kind of guy who needs some immortalizing.

Bastrop the town is a metropolis of over 10,000 people, in the upper northeast part of the state.  It’s the birthplace of baseball hall of famer Bill Dickey; a governor, Luther Hall; and a number of major league athletes. 

Oh, and also Ronnie Coleman
(he’s a professional bodybuilder,
just in case you’re not familiar with him)

9. Frogmore

It’s a royal castle in England, a kind of stew, the name of a couple of famous plantations, a software company, and also a small Louisiana town.  It’s all these and more.  It’s Frogmore! 

As far as I can tell, the Louisiana town took its name from the Louisiana plantation.  The plantation, in turn, took its name from the royal castle.  The royal castle was named for “a proliferation of frogs in the marshy grounds.” 

Our town is in the north part of the state, on an oxbow of the Mississippi near Natchez.  There doesn’t seem to be much there other than the plantation.

Mmm, good!

8. Alluvial City

“Of, relating to, or found in sediment deposited by flowing water, as in a riverbed, flood plain, or delta.”  But of course! 

Fittingly, this place is right in the middle of The Delta.  It’s actually south and east of New Orleans, though not on the Mississippi.  If you know your Louisiana geography, you may be aware that that area is more water than land.  I spot about two dozen buildings, a couple of streets, and one business (a fishing charter).

Wasn’t able to turn up much on Google for Alluvial City, though I did find this:

Get a Phlebotomy Certificate | Phlebotomy Schools In Alluvial City LA
Top Phlebotomy Schools in Alluvial City, LA - Programs, Colleges, Degrees, Courses, Classes, Certification

I hate to tell you this, but there are no phlebotomy schools in Alluvial City.  Man, talk about bait and switch, huh?

Bayou La Loutre, between Alluvial City & Ycloskey
(yup, Ycloskely is Alluvial City’s neighbor)

7. Anacoco

I think I just like to say this one.  Anacoco, Anacoco, Anacoco.  Just imagine that with a nice reggae beat.

The town was named after the local Anacoco Bayou.  According to Louisiana Place Names, by Clare D’Artois Leeper, variants include:
  • Leaunacucu
  • Lianaucucu
  • Anacucu
  • Yanacoco
  • Yanecoocoo
  • Yanakoka
  • De Koocoque
  • Kan Coque 
  • Or pretty much anything you’d care to make up, I would imagine

Leeper goes on to explain that the first part is from the Spanish liana (“plain”), and the second from a Native American language (and meaning either “cuckoo prairie” or “nutgrass prairie” - but definitely "something prairie").

It’s in the western part of Louisiana, close to the Texas border.  It has 900 people, and boasts its own high school.  Go (totally non-PC) Indians!


6. Tickfaw

Wasn’t  Mr. Tickfaw the director of an orphanage in one of Dickens’ more obscure and lengthier novels?  Bleak TimesChuzzlewit & SonsThe Picklewick Expectations

The town is actually named after a nearby river.  Once again, we’ve got plenty of choices here, for your orthographic needs:
  • Tickfaw
  • Tickfoha
  • Ticfoha
  • Ticfaw
  • Tickfah

It means “pine rest” or, alternatively, “wild beasts shed their hair there” in Choctaw.  I vote for the latter.  Makes a good tongue-twister too.

Our town is just north of Lake Pontchartrain, and boasts a population of 600 people.  The local Catholic church is called Our Lady of Pompei.

And I just love this little nugget from Wikipedia:

It is known locally as a notorious speed trap, as the only way to get people to stop in Tickfaw is for the police to pull them over within city limits.

Hmm.  I wonder if the author may have had some personal experience with this.  

20th Annual Italian Festival
Tickfaw, LA

5. Head of Island

Okay, let me make sure I got this straight …  As far as I can tell, there is an island called Maurepas.  At the top of this island, is a village.  Some people call it Head of Island.  Others call it Maurepas. 

So, we’ve got a village called Maurepas that’s at the head of an island called Maurepas, but which is also called Head of Island (the village, not the island).  Any questions?

Head of Island is west of Lake Pontchartrain, not too far from Tickfaw and also French Settlement (see above and below).  It’s got its own high school (in fact, the town doesn’t seem to be much more than the high school and a little post office).  Needless to say, the school is called Maurepas High.

4. Dry Prong

Don’t you just hate it when your prong gets dry?

And especially when you built a mill right over it?  Here, let me explain (thanks, Wikipedia):

A family moved to the region in the 1870s to build a sawmill.  To power the mill, they built a water wheel, only to discover that the creek over which they had built it went dry every summer: the creek was a "dry prong".  The mill was soon rebuilt over a nearby creek which flowed all year, but the name stuck.

So, “prong” must mean a small creek or stream – kind of like “fork.”  Not what I was thinking at all.

Dry Prong the town is smack dab in the middle of Louisiana.  It’s got about 420 people, as well as its own junior high school. 

I’m sure all the commuters from Alexandria and Natchitoches
kick themselves everyday when they pass this sign

3. Waterproof

A raincoat?  Definitely.  Basements?  Yup.  Watches?  Sure.  A town?  Maybe not so much.

In this instance, “waterproof” really just means “floodproof.”  I guess the town fathers wanted to emphasize that, with those new levees on the nearby Mississippi, their town wasn’t quite as flood-prone as it used to be.

This town of 800 is just up the river from Natchez.  It was the site of a Civil War battle, and also includes more than its share of pretty famous sons and daughters:
  • Miss USA 1961, Sharon Renee Brown
  • Gen. Claire Chennault, of Flying Tigers fame
  • Pro Football Hall of Famer John Henry Johnson

The Waterproof water tower
(I love it!)

2. Shongaloo

Early ’60 dance move, if I remember correctly. 

It’s actually from the Choctaw shakalo, which means cypress tree.

It’s in the northern part of the state, right on the Arkansas border.  Population: 180.  Given its size, it has a surprisingly long list of famous sons on Wikipedia (though, oddly, I’m not familiar with any of them):
  • Daniel Branton, former mayor of Shongaloo
  • Parey Pershing Branton, Sr., former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, the Webster Parish School Board, and mayor of Shongaloo; father of Daniel Branton
  • Robert L. Frye - Republican nominee for state education superintendent in 1972, was born in Shongaloo in 1927.
  • E.D. Gleason (1899–1959), member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1952 until his death in office
  • Mary Smith Gleason (1899–1967) of the nearby Evergreen Community succeeded her husband as a member of the Louisiana House from 1959-1960.
  • Talmadge L. Heflin, born in Shongaloo, is a Republican former member of the Texas House of Representatives.
  • Leland G. Mims (1901–1979), businessman and president of the Webster Parish Police Jury, the parish governing board, from 1956–1973, was born in the Evergreen Community southwest of Shongaloo.
  • Carlus D. Morgan (1917–2007), educator and member of the Webster Parish Police Jury from 1988–1992, resided in the Evergreen community.
  • J.L. Munn, member of the Webster Parish Police Jury from Shongaloo from 1936–1952
  • Franklin Sims, reptile expert in the 1970s; son of Samuel "Sammy" and Sheila Sims
  • Bobby J. Myers, Masters Degree Finance, University of Houston, former Captain, USAF, and Texas County Executive
Why am I thinking Daniel Branton might have authored this?

Shongaloo Civic Center
(I understand it sold out when Springsteen was here)

1. Zylks

Didn’t one of the Scooby-Doo characters say this when things weren’t going their way?

Turns out Zylks is a real honest-to-goodness family name.  What it means, and where it’s from, though, is not so clear.  One guess is it started out as Silk or Silks.  There’s another theory that it’s from the Polish word for “vein” or “tunnel.”  By the way, another form of the name is Zylka.  More than you probably wanted to know, right?

Zylks is about as far northwest as you can go in Louisiana.  Here, look:

Cool, huh?

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Homeplace, Midway, Center Point, Central, Centerville, Farmerville, Prairieville, Forest, Lacamp, LaPlace, College Town
  • Short & sweet – Trout, Clay, Mound, Bush, Trees, Frost, Sun, Star, Echo, Link, Ida, Iota, Bel, Ball, Point, Book, Mix, Mire
  • Numerically oriented – Fifth Ward, Four Forks, Many
  • Interesting S’s – Parks, Lushes, Lions, Epps, Starks, Swampers
  • A bad case of the ‘villes – Keithville, Charlieville, Marthaville, Crowville, Fishville, Downsville, Klotzville
  • Just a little out of place – Atlanta, Georgia, Princeton, Oxford, Iowa, Phoenix, Fairbanks, Hollywood, Liverpool, Hamburg, Lisbon, Sicily Island, Venice, Vienna, Transylvania, Albania, Athens, Arabi, Aloha
  • Native American mouthfuls – Kickapoo, Chinchuba, Coushatta, Natchitoches ("chestnut eaters," in Caddo), Opelousas ("black legs," in Choctaw), Ponchatoula, Tangapahoa ("corn cob," in Choctaw), Westwego
  • Orthographically challenged – Laark, Cornor
  • Atypical adjectives – Manifest, Saline, Standard, Supreme, Sharp, Kinder, Lucky
  • Unconventional verbs – Start, Reserve, Converse, Cut Off, Slaughter
  • Abnormal nouns – Pioneer, Empire, Triumph, Extension, Convent, Sulphur, Potash, Pigeon, Hurricane, Hicks, Vixen, Jigger, Belcher
  • Fun to say – Womack, Waggaman, Slagle, Niblett, Toomey, Bunkie, Dubberly, Kratz Springs, Fluker, Hico, Norco, Bosco, Serapta, Urania, Uneedus, Zenoria, Varnado, Barataria, Talla Benna
  • Just plain weird – Log Cabin, Dixie Inn, Oil City, Port Sulphur, Plain Dealing, Goodwill, Goodbee, Good Pine, Rosepine, Newlight, Samtown, Aimwell, Hotwells, Couchwood, Grand Cane, Bossier City (Mardi Gras Museum), Cow Island, White Castle, French Settlement, St. Bernard, New Roads, Fort Necessity, Happy Jack, Rattlebone Hollow, Cranky Corner, Goober Hill
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Roy, Archie, Lottie, Lucy, Effie, Ethel, Eunice, Bernice, Alden Bridge, Linda Lee, Jean Lafite, Eros
  • Going for a record – Napoleonville (13), Paincourtville (14)
  • Ghost towns - Anchorage, Hinkle, Burtville, Woodyard Bottom