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


  1. You Forgot 'Satans Kingdom' https://goo.gl/maps/Jft3GEdMCqj

  2. Yeah, probably too little to get past my rules for inclusion. It'd definitely be my #1 otherwise.