Monday, July 29, 2013

North Carolina

North Cackalacky!  My home state.  Birth place of barbecue, NASCAR, Cheerwine, and Andy Griffith.  The Tar Heel State.  The Old North State.

Man, was this one hard!  I’m familiar with pretty much every town in this post – if I haven’t actually driven through them, eaten lunch there, gassed up, or stayed overnight.
And familiarity breeds content.  You see a place often enough, and you have to really think whether Erect is as obscene, Lizard Lick as odd, and Shelmerdine as funny as they all sound.
Oh well.  Wish me luck!
10. Zebulon *

Obscure Greek letter?  Bad guy from Battlestar Galactica?  Moon of Neptune?
This place was actually named after Civil War governor Zebulon Vance.  He was a pretty popular guy, so there’s also a Vance County and a Vanceboro.
Too bad his first name wasn’t Jack or something though - “Zebulon” is quite a mouthful.  It’s actually from the Bible.  It was one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and means “dwelling,” or “habitation.”
Zebulon’s pretty big time for North Carolina.  I’m talking 4,400 people, as well as being the home of the Carolina Mudcats, the Class A+ team of the Cleveland Indians. 
Z-town (I just made that up) is just west of Raleigh, and officially part of the Research Triangle Park metropolitan region.
Formerly atop Leith Mercury,
this cougar is now at Howden Classic Cars
(and also gets a tip at

9. Chocowinity

This is just fun to say.  Go ahead, try it yourself.
Where this one comes from is a little up in the air.  I’ve got some sources saying it means “fish from many waters,” but others saying it means “otter” or possibly “little otters.”  Formerly, it was called Godley’s Cross Roads and Marsden.  As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with chocolate.
Chocowinity is in the eastern part of the state, and has 800-plus people.  The town’s official slogan is “the one and only” … which sounds like a pretty safe claim to me.
Cornhole tournament
Twin Lakes RV Resort
Chocowinity, NC
8. Boger City

I really wanted to put Boogertown here, but it’s unfortunately too tiny to make it onto my atlas.  So, Boger City will just have to do.
This one’s from the local textile mill owner, by the way – one Robert Boger.  And that surname is from the German for “bowman,” or “archer.” 
As for Boger City, it’s actually not too far from me, just a hop, skip, and a jump northwest of Charlotte.  It’s got about 550 people.  BC is best known as the home of NASCAR legend Dick Trickle (real name!)
By the by, the author actually watched a baseball game in Boogertown.
7. Bat Cave *

Holy ZIP code, Batman! 
Well, this one’s pretty self-explanatory.  Yup, there’s a cave nearby with a lot of bats.  Yup, it was named in the days before television and comic books.
The author has actually been to Bat Cave a couple of times.  It’s just up the Broad River Gorge from Chimney Rock State Park, one of my faves – great trails, views, waterfall, gift shop, elevator to the top, and more. 
A friend of mine used to live in a part of Charlotte whose ZIP code was the same as Bat Cave’s but with two numbers transposed.  Somehow or other, he got mail from Bat Cave all the time.  We thought it was really hilarious.  I guess we were pretty easily amused. 
I want one of these
6. Old Trap

So, I’m assuming there’s a New Trap out there somewhere, as well as perhaps a North Trap, or a West Trap, a Trap Acres, and maybe even The Villages at Trap Plantation.  (There actually is a Trap, NC.  I’m not sure, however, that there’s any relation between the two.)
This one comes from a Colonial era grog shop that served as a “trap” for the local Colonial males.  Supposedly, it got its name from the local Colonial females.
Old Trap is in the far northeast part of the state, on a little peninsula that juts into Albemarle Sound.  For such an ancient place (settled before the 1660s), there’s very little on it.  There’s certainly very little there today – basically, a crossroads, some farms, and some houses.
No, not that kind of trap
5. Toast *

I’m a  big fan too, but I’m not sure it’s worth naming a town after.
The Town of Toast is in the northwest part of the state, right to next to Mt. Airy, Andy Griffiths’ hometown and his model for Mayberry.  In fact, Toast is actually mentioned in The Andy Griffith Show – in episode 249, "A Girl for Goober."
Though there are almost 2,000 Toasters, I really couldn’t find anything on it.  If anyone can help me out – especially with the origin of the name – I’d be much obliged.
I thought this might also be a good place to mention that there is a Crisp in the Tar Heel State as well.
Cars made out of toast!  Imagine!
4. Spivey’s Corner *

Well, gollee!  This sounds like something straight out of Mayberry RFD.  Hmm ...  But was it Gomer or Goober who was originally from Spivey’s Corner?
So, would you believe there was a guy named Spivey, who lived at a crossroads here?  “Spivey” is actually from the Scots, and means “cripple.” 
The town was formerly West Crossroads, which, actually, sounds just fine to me.  Hey, if it ain’t broke …
This burg of 400 and some is in the eastern part of the state, between Raleigh and Wilmington.  In fact, I used to drive through it constantly on my way to college.  There wasn’t much then, and there isn’t much now.
SC’s main claim to fame is the National Hollerin’ Contest.  Wikipedia puts it well, stating that the contest:
was inaugurated to revive the almost-lost art of “hollerin’,” a sophisticated [sic] vocal tradition that served as a means of long-distance communication between individuals as well as an amusing form of entertainment, before the widespread adoption of the telephone.
They’re not shy in Spivey’s Corner, NC
3. Fuquay-Varina

They’re both bad enough, but put ‘em together … 
The Fuquay comes from an early local settler.  And that surname comes from the French Fouquet, which comes from the German Volker, which means “people.”
The Varina comes from the wife of the local postmaster.  Its origins are probably just straight white trash.  By the by, Varina was also the name of Mrs. Jeff Davis.
The two started out as separate towns, but grew together over the years.  Today, little F-V is all growed-up.  It’s got over 87,000 people, is one of NC’s fastest growing towns, and acts as a bedroom community for Raleigh and the Research Triangle Park.
The author had chem lab with Miss Fuquay-Varina, Duke University, fall semester, 1976
2. Nags Head * / Goat Neck

Nags Head is the much better known of these two, but I’m really not sure why anyone would want to name their town after any part of the anatomy of farm animals.
The name “Nags Head” may possibly come from the lights that “wreckers” used to place around the necks of horses, which they would then lead across the sand dunes along this bit of coastline.  The idea was to have ships think they saw the lights of other ships in a safe harbor.  The ships would then wreck on the beach, and the “wreckers” would descend on the ships.
Goat Neck was simply a peninsula of land where goats congregated.  By the way, there are also a Gum Neck and a Scotland Neck in North Carolina.
Today, Nags Head is a very popular beach town, with a population of 2,700 full-time residents and God knows how many in the summer.  The author spent several enjoyable summer vacations here as a young boy. 
Goat Neck, on the other hand, seems to be a wide spot in the road on a peninsula sticking out into Albemarle Sound.  I can spot a couple of houses and lots and lots of pine trees.  So, if you’re looking for vacation spots named after the anatomical parts of farm animals, you might want to try Nags Head first.
Only $4.75 per pound
1. Kill Devil Hills *

Kill Devil Hills is just up the coast from Nags Head.  If you go a little further north, you’ll run into the wonderfully named Kitty Hawk and Duck.  South, you’ll hit Whalebone, Waves, Salvo, and Frisco.  And on the barrier islands south of the Outer Banks, you’ll run into Salter Path.  In addition to having wonderful beaches that stretch from the Virginia to the South Carolina border, the NC coast also has some pretty funny town names.
The name “Kill Devil Hills” dates back to Colonial times, when powerful rum was nicknamed “kill devil” (i.e., it was strong enough to “kill the devil”).  The most likely story was that locals here really liked to drink the stuff.
Apart from being a great beach town, KDH’s main claim to fame is being the site of the first powered flight in human history.  Yup, this is where Orville and Wilbur first took off.
Some Kill Devil Hills trivia:
  • There’s a band out there named Kill Devil Hill
  • Grave Digger monster truck driver Greg Anderson (no relation) lives here
  • KDH hosts a wooden bat collegiate summer league team called the Outer Bank Daredevils
Orville and Wilbur (I’m assuming)
Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g –  Acre, Flat Rock*, State Road*, Centerville, Middletown, Townsville (after one Edmund Towne)
  • Short and sweet – Ash, Elf, Ela (Cherokee for “earth”), Eno*, Enka (short for Nederlandische Kunstzyde Fabirken), Enon, Nebo, Bina (formerly Berlin), Faro, Fig, Cid, Surl*, Chip, Spot (formerly Hog Quarter)
  • Just a little out of place – too dang many
  • Just a little off-color – Cheeks, Bottom, Climax, Hookerton, Hornytown, Erect
  • Numerically oriented – Seven Springs, Seven Paths, Seven Devils*, Old Hundred*, Fourway (from the name of a gas station)
  • Orthographically challenged – Askin*, Bunyan, Winfall*
  • Native American mouthfuls – Tomotla, Tusquitee, Junaluska*, Altamahaw, Nantahala* (“land of the noonday sun” – a gorge), Lake Toxaway* (“red bird,” in Cherokee), Rockyhock (“where combs are made”), Scuppernong, Cooleemee* (“where the white oak grows”)
  • Atypical adjectives – Democrat, Republican, Royal, Oriental, Marble, Wood, Wise*, Hasty (after a local landowner), Quick (formerly Kill Quick), Small (a railroad official), Micro
  • Abnormal nouns – Bath, Fountain, Ocean*, Gulf (geographic center of NC), Globe, Star, Intelligence (site of Rockingham County’s first school), Cycle, Welcome* (formerly Hinkelsville), Warbler, Pilot, Guide, Maiden*, Cashiers* (pronounced “cashers”), Spies (pronounced “speece”), Farmer, Walnut*, Almond, Cranberry*, Hothouse, Stem, Fork, Finger*, Ledger, Day Book, Coats, Suit, Tuxedo, Bandana, Relief, Riddle (after Charles Riddle, postmaster), Cricket, Calypso*, Baton, Burden, Husk, Speed (after Mr. E.T. Speed), Flats
  • Unconventional verbs – Advance, Comfort, Blanch (after one Blanche Moore), Bluff, Butters*, Supply*, Spear*, Spray (formerly Splashy), Flay
  • Fun to say – Virgilina, Norlina*, Pineola*, Skibo, Cerro Gordo* (after a Mexican-American War battle), Pactolus, Pfafftown (after one Peter Pfaff), Pungo, Cumnock (formerly Egypt), Conetoe, Coinjock, Crumpler (Civil War hero), Momeyer, Misenheimer*, Shelmerdine
  • Just plain weird – Spindale*, Tramway, Topnot, Gamewell (from Mr. Gamewell Tuttle), Gumberry, Windblow, Jugtown, Shacktown, Poortown, Lovejoy (formerly Queen), Paint Gap, Pink Hill, China Grove*, Snow Camp, Silk Hope, Half Moon, Level Cross, Tin City, Texaco Beach, Old Dock*, Swanquarter, Black Jack, Birdtown* (after the Bird Clan of the Cherokee), Boomer (from the nickname of the local postmaster), Bunnlevel, Burnt Mills, Bear Poplar, Bear Grass, Bee Log, Banner Elk*, Blowing Rock*, Bug Hill*, Bald Head Island*, Frying Pan Landing, Pumpkin Center*, Vade Mecum (Latin for “go with me”), Meat Camp, Shoofly, Stumpy Point, Lizard Lick, Loafers Glory, Grabtown, Needmore, Whynot
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Ruth, Mable, Mamie*, Mollie, Lizzie, Bettie, Bertha, Stella, Otto, George, Earl, Clyde*, Stanley*, Frank*, Faust*, Hamlet*, Yorick*, Montezuma (formerly Bull Scrape), Trent Woods, Maggie Valley*, Bonnie Doon*, Kitty Fork, Jenny Lind, Eli Whitney
  • Ghost towns – Buffalo, Mortimer*

You’re probably asking yourself how I managed to become such an expert on NC town names.  Well, I owe it all to distinguished North Carolina historian William Powell.  In addition to his landmark history of the state, he also put together a pretty neat gazetteer. 

* - author has visited

Monday, July 22, 2013

NYC and Long Island

So, this is our third post for New York.  The first two covered upstate towns from A to K and the second those from L to Z.

So, what do I attribute all this craziness to?  It’s actually two things.  They’re bad enough all by themselves, but put ‘em together, and we’re talking about three whole posts of major weirdness.  What am I talking about here?  Indians!  And Dutchmen!!

10. Canarsie

Canarise has long been the butt of jokes, as much for its remoteness and rusticity as for its funny name.

For the name, we can blame the Indians.  “Canarsie” means “fenced land,” or “fort,” in Lenape.

Canarsie’s part of Brooklyn, and sounds like a pretty rough neighborhood.  It does have an impressive list of famous sons and daughters though:
  • Basketball player John Salley
  • Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
  • Mother of Invention Warren Cuccurullo
  • KISS drummer Peter Criss
  • Basketball player (and wonderfully named) World B. Free


9. Half Hollow Hills

I got kind of lazy on this one.  It seems like HHH may be a town on Long Island, but almost all I could find on it was information about a school district of the same name.  As to how many people live there, where it is exactly, and stuff like that … well, your guess is good as mine.

I do know where it got its name, though ...  So, about halfway between Huntington and Babylon, there’s, like, this hollow?  And this hollow kinda, like, had some hills around it?  And then, like – somewhere along the line? – the “way” kinda dropped out? 

Fury in the Half Hollow Hills!
(It’s a little kids’ basketball team, by the way)

8. Flatbush

Wow, this place sounds scary!  The first two “searches related to ‘flatbush ny’” on Google include “flatbush ny crime” and “flatbush ny zombies.”  The second one is a hip hop group.  The first one seems very much for real.  Even the Wikipedia article talks a lot about crime, drugs, and gangs. 

It also, though, points out Flatbush’s incredible diversity – mentioning, in particular, its Haitians, West Indians, and Africans.  Historically, Flatbush was a working class neighborhood with lots of “ethnics” – Jews, Irish, and Italians.  It was the site of Ebbets Field, whose Dodgers were much beloved by the locals.

Famous sons and daughters (all totally fictional, interestingly) include:
  • Bugs Bunny
  • Mario
  • Luigi
  • The Incredible Mr. Limpet

Oh, the name?  This time, we can blame the Dutch.  It’s from vlacke bos, which means “flat woods,” or “wooded plain.”

It’s not a good thing when Google Images
returns a lot of stuff like this

7. New Dorp

Meet the new dorp.  Same as the old dorp.

Well, wouldn’t ya know.  It’s those damn Dutch again.  “New Dorp” is from the Dutch “Niuew Dorp,” and means “new village.” 

So, you’re probably wondering what happened to Old Dorp.  Well, as it just so happens, New Dorp took the place of Oude Dorp (“Old Dorp”), which was destroyed in the Peach War of 1655.  You remember the Peach War of 1655, don’t you?  In case you’ve forgotten:

The Peach War had began [yup, "had began"] when an Aquehongan squaw was shot for picking a peach in a New Amsterdam orchard.  Angry Native Americans went on a rampage.  The militia responded, several lives were lost, and fighting soon extended into Staten Island.  Unfortunately, Oude Dorp was decimated. (

New Dorp’s on Staten Island, and was originally settled in 1671.  It’s where the Vanderbilt family hails from originally.  Recently, it was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Sandy.
Go Central Cougars!
(So, what’s a central cougar, anyway?)

6. Ronkonkoma

Pronunciation: ron-KON-kuh-muh

Etymology: Algonquian, “boundary fishing place”

Score: Dutch 2, Native Americans 2

We’re back on Long Island for this one.  The name Ronkonkoma applies to both a lake and a town.  The town’s main claim to fame is being the last stop on the main line of the Long Island Railroad. 

There’s also a great story about the lake.  I quote from

Supposedly, Ronkonkoma was the name of an Indian princess who fell in love with a white settler who lived near the lake.  Upon their meeting, the princess and the settler immediately fell in love, but their union was forbidden by her father.  Every night, they would sneak out to send messages of love to one another.  Ronkonkoma would paddle her canoe out to the middle of the lake, where she would then float a message the rest of the way to her lover waiting on the opposite shore.  This continued for years, until one day the princess was unable to deal with this arrangement and snapped.  She sent a final farewell note to her lover.  He received it on the shore and minutes later, the canoe washed up in front of him as well.  Inside it was the princess’s body––she had committed suicide in the middle of the lake.  He too committed suicide out of anguish over the death of his one true love.

Since that day Ronkonkoma has haunted the lake, becoming known to many as the Lady of the Lake.  Angered because she wasn’t allowed to love in life, she now drags one man into the lake each year.  People say that at least one person has drowned each year in Lake Ronkonkoma for the past 200 years, the large majority of them male.  Many others have reported being drawn by some unseen force out to the center of the lake, as if something was trying to drag them in.  These souls have been able to resist the pull of the Lady of the Lake, and have been lucky enough to live to report the existence of this strange phenomenon.

Spooky!  Sexy!  Spooky/sexy!

5. Yonkers

And the Dutch leap back into the lead!

This one’s from the phrase jonkeers, which means “the young gentleman’s.”  That young gentleman was one Adriaen van der Donck, who just so happened to own the place.

Today, Yonkers is the fourth most populous city in New York State, with around 200,000 people.  It’s just north of Manhattan and The Bronx. 

Yonkers was the site of the first Otis Elevator plant and the first FM radio broadcast.  It’s also home to Sarah Lawrence College.  And finally – at least according to Wikipedia – it has “a national reputation for racial tension.”

Famous sons (no daughters, I’m afraid) include Steven Tyler, David Berkowitz, Sid Caesar, and Jon Voight.

In World War Z, the Battle of Yonkers was the United States Military's first large scale, official engagement of the Zombie War.  The battle was an absolute catastrophe.  If any one event can be singled out as the point when zombies officially became the dominant race on the planet, it was Yonkers.  (

4. Yaphank

Well, we’re coming into the final stretch here, sports fans, and the score is all tied up.  As it stands, it’s Dutch 3, Native Americans 3. 

But wait!  Yes, Yaphank is officially Native American!  The Native American's leap into the lead!

It’s from the word yamphanke, by the way, which means “banks of a river.”  It was originally called Millville, but seeing as New York already had about 18 of those …

This town of 6,000 is a little further out on Long Island.  Some interesting tidbits about Yaphank:
  • It’s the site of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, which has garnered seven Nobel Prizes
  • Irving Berlin once wrote a musical comedy called Yip Yip Yaphank
  • Camp Siegfried, a German-American Bund (Nazi) summer camp was located there

And you thought I was making that up

3. Flushing

Take that Native Americans! 

Flushing is an Anglicization of the Dutch city Vlissingen.  I’m assuming this was done before the days of indoor plumbing.

Flushing is part of Queens, and has a population of 175,000.  It dates back to 1645. 

You may have heard of the Flushing Remonstrance (what, no?), a Dutch document that allowed Quakers to worship within the town limits.  It’s what’s behind Flushing’s claim to be the “birthplace of religious freedom in the New World.”

Flushing was home to the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, hosts the US Open, and is also where the New York Mets call home.  It’s well known for its diversity, and has a large Chinatown.

A typical Mets fan
at Flushing’s Citi Field

2. Far Rockaway

And that, you evil Dutchmen!

This is from the Munsee, and means “sandy place.”  Early variants include Requarkie, Rechouwakie, Rechaweygh, Rechquaakie, Reckowacky, and Raechkoewyhaiqckygh (okay, I made that one up).

Is there a Near Rockaway?  As a matter of fact there is.  It’s actually the old name for East Rockaway.  There is also a Rockaway Park.  All of these places are stretched out, from east to west, along a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic on the southern side of Long Island. 

There’s a large Jewish  population in FR.  Some famous Jewish sons and daughters include:
  • Psychologist Joyce Brothers
  • Physicist Richard Feynman
  • Business magnate Carl Icahn
  • Folk singer Phil Ochs

It was hit pretty hard by Sandy too.


1. Throggs Neck

Little is known about Throgg …

But all we really care about is whether he was Dutch or Native American, right?  Well, wouldn’t you know … He was  English.  Throg is short for Throckmorton.  He owned this land, back in Colonial times.

As for the “neck,” it’s just another peninsula – this one sticking out into Long Island Sound from the southeast part of The Bronx.  It’s basically a stepping stone for the Throgs Neck Bridge, which links The Bronx with Long Island.  There is considerable controversy about how to spell the place – one g, two g’s, apostrophe …

So, final score: Dutch 4, Native Americans 4. 

Oh, almost forgot …  This area also includes a Little Neck and a Great Neck.  And - let me tell ya - that’s a lot of neck.

Go Throggs Neck 10 and Under Girls Softball Thunder!

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – East New York, Landing, Ridge, East Meadow, Centereach, Middleville
  • Short & sweet – Rye*
  • Just a little out of place – Charleston, Bohemia, Babylon
  • Native American mouthfuls – Tuckahoe, Massapequa
  • Miscellaneous mouthfuls – Head of the Harbor, Village of the Branch
  • Abnormal nouns – Queens*, Utopia
  • Fun to say – Maspeth, Blauvelt, The Bronx*, Bath Beach, East Islip, Fort Salonga, Quogue
  • Just plain weird – University Gardens, Russian Gardens, Old Field, Ozone Park, Brightwaters, Lake Success, Sag Harbor, Scarsdale, Muttontown, Hicksville
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Chauncey, Howard Beach, Bethpage

* - author has visited

Monday, July 15, 2013

Upstate New York, L - Z

It seems only fitting that the Empire State has three whole posts of weird town names.  Last week, we did Upstate A to K.  This week, it’s Upstate L to Z.  Next week?  Stay tuned for NYC and Long Island.

10. Neversink

And the award for most ironic town name in the State of New York goes to ...  Neversink!

Yup, would you believe the original town of Neversink is now beneath the waters of the Neversink Reservoir?  Honestly, I can’t make this stuff up.

There’s a couple of possibilities for the origin of this one.  The one I like best is that it’s from the Algonquian and means “mad river.”

The town’s website tells me that Neversink is known for its:

  • Little World’s Fair
  • Pumpkin Party
  • Time and the Valleys Museum
  • Barn quilts

Be sure to check out that website to figure out what the heck I could possibly be talking about here.


9. Truthville

From Yahoo Answers:

You are traveling by foot when suddenly there is a fork in the road.  You are trying to get to a town called Truthville, where everybody always tells the truth and never lies.  You know that one of the paths leads to Truthville, but that the other leads to Lieville, where everybody always lies and never tells the truth.  There is a stranger standing in the fork in the road, and they are from either Truthville or Lieville, but you can't tell which.  You can ask this person only one yes or no question to help you find your way to Truthville.  What do you ask?


Point to a path and ask, "Is this where you live?"

-  If you are pointing to Truthville, and the person you ask is from Lieville, he will say “yes.”
-  If you are pointing to Truthville, and the person you ask is from Truthville, he will say “yes.”
-  If you are pointing to Lieville, and the person you ask is from Lieville, he will say “no.”
-  If you are pointing to Lieville, and the person you ask is from Truthville, he will say “no.”
-  If you receive a “no,” go the other way.  If you receive a “yes,” go in that direction.

The real Truthville is in the northwest part of the state, right on the border with Vermont.  It’s basically a crossroads, with scattered homes and farms, and right next to the Mettawee River.

The 200-year-old Truthville Baptist Church

8. Tonawanda

Okay, so there’s this chick named Wanda.  And she happens to be a little on the heavy side …

This is actually most likely from the Tuscarora tahnaw√°•teh, which means “merging water.”  It could also mean “swift waters,” which would certainly describe the Niagara River as it heads towards those famous falls.  Too bad, though, it wasn’t named after its first settler, one Henry Anguish.

This metropolis of 15,000 is just north of Buffalo.  Wolf Blitzer went to high school here!

I understand it gets a little cold there

7. Saugurties

No, for the thousandth time, it’s not Socrates, it’s Saugurties!

The name comes from the Dutch word for “little sawyer.”  And what exactly is a “little sawyer”?  Well, it was actually just an affectionate way to refer to one Barent Cornelis Volge, an early settler who ran a sawmill here.

This city of almost 20,000 is up the Hudson, just north of Poughkeepsie.  Some Dutch guy bought it from the Indians for a piece of cloth, a blanket, some coarse fiber, a loaf of bread, and a shirt. 

In more recent times, Saugurties was famous as the location of Big Pink, the house where Dylan and The Band hung out and wrote and performed some great music .  The town also has a horse show and a garlic festival (or is that a garlic show and a horse festival?).

I’m not sure I totally get it,
but I do love old postcards

6. Schenevus

Go ahead, say it out loud.  Isn’t that wonderful?  (And, yes, that first syllable does start with a “sk.”)

It means “hoeing of corn,” in some Indian language.  Or perhaps “speckled fish.”  It could also be after one Chief Schenevus.  Heck, it might even mean “heart-shaped Jacuzzi,” or “pickled herring,” or “used snowmobile for sale.”  And that’s the beauty of the Internet, isn’t it?

Anyway, this town of 500 in the Catskills is a town of 500, in the Catskills.  (Honestly, that’s about all I could find out about it.)  Oh yeah, it’s just a little south of Cooperstown.

Chief Schenevus 

5. South Schroon

Oh man, schroons!  Last time I took some of them, I got so twisted.  I saw all these lights and these colors and …  Ah heck - it's pronounced "skroon."

Okay, so, what exactly is a “schroon”?  Well, a quick look around the Internets wasn’t encouraging:

  • “not precisely known”
  • “There is without question a problem of derivation with its name.”
  • “some believe …”
  • “said to be …”
  • “There is no documentary evidence to prove this conclusion.”

Given all that, there are two main candidates:

  • A Native American word for “large lake”
  • Named by French soldiers in honor of the Widow Scarron, who subsequently became the Madame de Maintenon and second wife of Louis XIV of France

South Schroon is at the southern tip of Schroon Lake.  It looks like a dozen houses or so and a few commercial buildings of some sort or other.

It’s pretty, but it’s not that pretty
(View of Schroon Lake, Thomas Cole, 1838)

4. Skaneatles

Dang!  I was so hoping this was pronounced “skuh-NEE-tuhls.”  Instead, it looks like it’s “skuh-nee-AT-liss.”  Kind of like “skinny atlas.”  That’s still pretty good though.

However you pronounce it, it means “long lake” in Iroquois.  We’re in the lake region here (and, yes, there is a Skaneatles Lake).  Looks very quaint and historic.  About 2,700 people.

It’s main claim to fame may be a utopian community that was started here, by The Society of Universal Inquiry and Reform, in 1843.  Though it only lasted three years, it sounded pretty interesting – basically a bunch of early commies.

A Skaneatles High School tradition

3. Poughkeepsie

As if the name weren’t bad enough, would you believe that Poughkeepsie came in at number 18 on Forbes Most Miserable Cities 2013 list?  Here’s what they had to say:

Poughkeepsie residents must endure crummy weather and long commutes to work.  Their average commute of 31.9 minutes is the sixth highest in the U.S.  Property tax rates are also onerous.

Poughkeepsie does have the following things in its favor though.  In particular, it’s:

  • Known as the “Queen City of the Hudson”
  • A former capital of New York state
  • The home of elite Vassar College, as well the CIA (that’s the Culinary Institute of America, by the way)
  • The birthplace of Edward D. Wood, Jr., the worst movie director of all time

Oh, the name?  It’s from the Native American Wappinger language, from the phrase u-puku-ipi-sing. And that means “the reed covered lodge by the little-water place.”  Catchy.

If you say so

2. Killawog

Has Al Qaeda heard about this? 

Haven’t a clue on this one.  I figure it’s something Native American, long lost in the mists of history.  Interestingly, it was once called the much more prosaic “Union Village.”  Unfortunately, there was already one of those.  Locals appear to call it “The Wog.”

“The Wog” is just north of Binghamton, along I-81.  It’s got a fire department, a post office, a church, and maybe about 100 Killawoggers.

By the way, there is also a Kilowog out there.  He’s a fictional hero from DC Comics, part of the Green Lantern Corps – i.e., not a town New York.

Downtown K-Wog

1. Lackawanna

There is no absolutely no truth to the rumor that the motto of this town is, “Do it, Lackawanaa!”

As a matter of fact, Lackawanna means “stream that forks,” in Lenape.  What’s interesting about that, though, is that it actually applies to a river in Pennsylvania.

Lackawanna the New York town was actually named after the Lackawanna Steel Company.  Said company was headquartered in Pennsylvania, but had a big mill in Lackawanna (the New York town, that is).  All clear?

Lackawanna the New York town is just south of Buffalo.  It’s got 18,000 Lackawannians / Lackawannites / Lackawanners.

Honorable Mention: 

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Rapids, Tunnel, New York Mills, State Line, State Bridge, Town Line, Middletown, Model City, New City
  • Short & sweet – Pike, Lee, Sun, Oran, Obi
  • Just a little out of place – way too many
  • Numerically oriented – Twin Orchards, Three Rivers, Three Mile Bay, Orleans Four Corners, Pamelia Four Corners, Number Four, Thousand Island Park
  • Native American mouthfuls –  Ticonderoga, Unadilla Forks (“meeting place”), Oswegatchie, Mamaroneck, Schenectady (“beyond the pines”), Shagticoke
  • Miscellaneous mouthfuls – Upper Red Hook, Sabbath Day Point, South New Berlin
  • Atypical adjectives – Orange, Moody
  • Abnormal nouns – Sundown, Vesper, Veteran, Marathon, Triangle, Ushers, Towners, Pitcher, Pavillion, Paradox, Pyrites, Graphite, Surprise, Severance, Speculator, Sheds
  • Unconventional verbs – Stow, Rush, Purchase
  • Alliterative apotheosis – Loon Lake, Lime Lake, Vine Valley, Pillar Point, Prendergast Point, Painted Post, West Windsor, West Webster, North Norwich
  • Fun to say – Preble, Pifford, Tarrytown, Sloatsburg, South Otselic, Shongo, Queechy, Riparius, Sempronius, South East Owasco, Shinhopple, Slingerlands, Verplanck
  • Just plain weird – Reading Center, Middle Hope, Quaker Street, Olivebridge, Natural Dam, New Bolt, Vestal Corner, Mount Vision, Mohawk View, Owls Head, Retsof (“Foster” backwards), Swan Lake, Stormville, Steamburg, Sanitaria Springs, Sugar Loaf, Sugar Town, Oniontown, West Almond, Short Tract, Penn Yan (world's largest pancake griddle), Tuxedo Park, Weedsport
  • Too far north – North Victory, North Western, North Wilmurt, North Pole
  • Too many villes – Lampville, La Fargeville, Normansville, Pultneyville, Portlandville, Vermontville, Mechanicville, Messengerville, Lawyersville, Wellsville, Smartville, Shortsville, Starkville, Speedsville, Stittville, Swormsville, Wampsville, Whippleville
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Wayne (and Wayne Center), Randolph, Roscoe, Sherman, Otto, Ovid, Virgil, Romulus, Plato, Medusa, Lily Dale, Sandy Pond, Sharon Springs, Tracy Creek, Stacy Basin, Paul Smiths
  • Ghost towns (in NY?) – Love Canal (hint, hint, nudge, nudge, know what I mean? know what I mean?)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Upstate New York, A - K

It’s a big state.  Number one, there are plenty of people – and that’s including those outside of NYC too.  Second, there’s also a fair amount of land.  Put the two together, and we’ve set a new record for the number of posts for a single state.

This week, we’ll look at upstate towns from A to K.  Next week, those from L to Z.  And, finally, The Big Apple and Lawn Guyland.

10. Fish House

Well, I could find next to nothing about this place …  But I can recommend many, many excellent seafood restaurants throughout the Empire State.  There’s Morgan’s, and Cyril’s, Ed’s Chowder House, Foley’s, Clark’s, and Joe Willy’s. 

There’s also the Hamilton Fish House and the Stuyvesant-Fish House (neither of which even serve seafood), as well as Fish House Punch (which is a drink, and not something you’ll ever see in a boxing ring).  Go ahead, type in “fish house ny” on Google and see what you get.

This little town is part of the larger Northampton, and is just a little northwest of Albany.  The Conklingville Dam covered half the town in 1930, so the place now features a lot of lakefront property it did not have before.

Oh, the name?  Turns out a local squire had a fish camp in the area back in the 18th Century.

There you go!

9. Big Moose

Named after Ron “Big Moose” Nabronski, former offensive tackle for the Rochester Steamrollers …

Big Moose actually gets its name from Big Moose Lake.  As for the lake?  Well, there are plenty of moose around here.  And moose do get big.  So …

Big Moose the town is in the Adirondacks, and appears to be tres picturesque.

By the way, Big Flats, Big Tree, and Big Indian are also in NY.  And they say everything’s bigger in Texas!

Wow, it is pretty

8. Hollowville

Well, this could be an incisive judgment on suburban soullessness.  Honestly, though, it might just mean that this place is in a deep valley.

Hollowville is in the little strip of New York to the east of the Hudson.  It’s right between Coxsackie and Saugerties, and is actually part of the town of Claverack – all three of which are a heck of a lot of fun to say.

There’s not a whole lot to Hollowville (which seems fitting), but I do know it has a post office, as well as a trailer park and couple of dozen houses.

Said post office

7. Armonk

I think I just like to say this one.  Armonk, Armonk, Armonk.

It’s from the Algonquian, and means “beaver,” or maybe “fishing place,” or perhaps “headquarters of a large computer company” (okay, I made that last one up).

But, yes, that is indeed why Armonk sounds so familiar.  It is, in fact, the official headquarters of the International Business Machines Corp.  It also happens to be the headquarters of MBIA and Swiss Re as well.  Those are really big financial companies, though you probably have to work in the financial industry (like me) to have ever heard of them. 

And all that is why the average house price here is about a cool million.  It also explains why the average Armonkian pulls in a pretty respectable $120,000, close to tops in the country.

Now, I don’t think I could close this entry without mentioning famous son Dave Barry, probably my favorite humorist of all time.  Yup, Dave attended the wonderfully named Wampus Elementary School here, and was later named “class clown” at nearby Pleasantville High School.

Okay, who forgot to turn out the lights?

6. Cattaraugus

Sounds like an upper respiratory condition. 

Even better, though, is what this translates to in Iroquois – “bad smelling shore.”  The town is named after nearby Cattaraugus Creek, which owes its name to the natural gas that seeps out of its mud.

Cattaraugus is home to over 1,000 people.  Local industry includes Setterstix (lollipop sticks) and Chester-Jensen (“We know heat transfer!”).

Some of the fun local Cattaraugans
you can meet on Facebook

5. Cheektowaga

Heaven / I'm in heaven / And my heart beats / So that I can hardly speak / And I seem to find / The happiness I seek / When we're out together / Dancing cheek to waga

Well, I’m afraid Cheektowaga doesn’t translate into anything quite so elegant as that Berlin / Astaire classic.  In fact, it means “crabapple place.”  In Iroquois, that just so happens to be ji-ik-do-wa-gah.

Would you believe this place has almost 90,000 people?  It’s basically a suburb of Buffalo.  Cheektowaga has a huge Polish-American population – about 40% of Cheektowagans claim a Polish heritage.

Cheektowaga culture

4. Ausable Chasm

Man, that is one ausable chasm, huh?  Of all the chasms I’ve ever seen, that has got to be one of the most ausable.

Well, wouldn’t you know.  “Ausable” is not an adjective.  It does not mean the ability to be “aused.”  And it’s pronounced “aw-SAY-bul,” not “AW-suh-bul.”

Actually, it’s French.  The name comes from the Au Sable River, which runs through the chasm.  And au sable is simply French for “sandy.”  Sandy River.  B-o-r-i-n-g.

Ausable Chasm the town is merely an adjunct to Ausable Chasm the chasm.  And the latter happens to be known world-wide as nothing less than “The Grand Canyon of the East” and “America’s Oldest Natural Attraction.”  It’s about two miles long and 150 ft. deep, and features a waterfall, zip lines, rafting “adventures,” gift shops, and lots and lots of French-Canadians (it’s just south of Montreal).  It even merits a reference in

Remember, it’s ausable!

3. Fishkill

This one comes from the sticks of dynamite local Native Americans would throw into the river from the banks here. 

Seriously, it’s from the Dutch, and means “fish stream.”  A stream with fish in it – who woulda thunk it?

This town of 2,000 is up the Hudson from the Big Apple.  It was once – for a very short time – the state capital.  Oh, would you believe PETA once asked Fishkill to change its name?  It's true!

New York state sounds like a rather murderous place.  In addition to Fiskill, we’ve also got Peekskill (“Mr. Peeck’s stream”), Cobleskill (“Mr. Kobell’s stream”), West Kill, Manor Kill, and Kill Buck (actually named after an Indian chief)


2. Golden Glow Heights

Why do I keep picturing a couple in bed without any clothes on with the sheets pulled up and smoking cigarettes?  You know, the classic New Yorker cartoon.

Well, this place is just outside of Elmira.  So, I’m imagining that golden glow might be the local chemical or perhaps nuclear plant. The town’s on some raised ground across the Chemung River from “The Queen City” (yup, that’s Elmira’s nickname).

Where did the name come from?  I’m imagining the particularly fevered brow of some mid 20th Century developer, though I could be wrong.

Hey!  Nice place, huh?
(Google Images search = 
"golden glow heights ny")

1. Choconut  Center

The town of Choconut Center is filled with chocolately, nutty deliciousness.

Actually, it’s simply named after the local Indian tribe, the Ochugnut. 

And it’s really just a neighborhood of Johnson City, on the border with Pennsylvania.  There is also a Choconut Township in PA, by the way.

According to this incredibly detailed document, I now know that Choconut Center:

  • Occupies 3,688 acres
  • Is 96.3% White
  • Claims 7.7% of its citizens have graduate or professional degrees
  • Has a median housing price of $85,700

(Google Images search = 
"choconut center ny")

Honorable Mention: 

  • B-o-r-i-n-g –  Churchtown, Forest, County Line, Central Square, Centralia, Centerville
  • Short and sweet – Ira, Jay, Cato
  • Just a little out of place – Harvard, Bangor, Dayton, Akron, Cleveland, Jamestown (Lucille Ball's birthplace), Atlanta, Jacksonville, Florida, Alabama, Cuba, Andes, Alps, Galway, Dublin, Belfast, Edinburg, Dunkirk, Belgium, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Denmark, Dresden, Barcelona, Genoa, Elba, Italy, Athens, Corfu, Ithaca, Corinth, Damascus, Jordan, Egypt, Cairo, Carthage, Angola (as well as Angola on the Lake), Bombay, Delhi
  • Just a little off-color – Climax, Beaver Falls, Beaver Lake, Beaver Dams, Athol, Butternuts, Coxsackie (“stream outlet”)
  • Numerically oriented – Five Points, Fourth Lake, Charleston Four Corners
  • Orthographically challenged – Gouverneur, Clymer, Conker, Boquet, Busti
  • Native American mouthfuls – Hoosick, Chemung (“big horn”), Conewango, Canandaigua, Canajoharie (“pot that washes itself”), Chittenango, Irondequoit
  • Miscellaneous mouthfuls – Hartwick Seminary, Brasher Iron Works
  • Atypical adjectives – Gray, Fine, Covert
  • Abnormal nouns – Champion, Bliss, Basket, Bath, Inlet, Escarpment, Clay, Conquest, Cutting, Candor, Calcium, Deposit, Alcove, Armor, Arcade, Herrings, Hicks, Kidders, Kabob
  • Alliterative apotheosis – Covetown Corners, Henderson Harbor, Bucks Bridge, Crum Creek
  • Fun to say – Ancram, Dorloo, Fluvanna, Fredonia, East Pharsalia, De Peyster, Depew, Breakabeen, Callicoon Center, Croton-on-Hudson, Claverack (Dutch for “clover fields”),  Herkimer, Kinderhook, Chazy (as well as West Chazy and Chazy Landing), Garbutt, Esopus, Ephrata, Cazenovia, Churubusco
  • Just plain weird – Burnt Hills, Java Center (and Java Village), Endwell, Childwold, Chateaugay, Beach Sandy, Gang Mills, Hart Lot, Holland Patent, Jacks Reef, Fly Summit, Farnham Irving, Feura Bush, Horseheads
  • Too many villes – Circleville, Constableville, Earlville, Factoryville, Furnanceville, Flackville, Downsville, Clockville, Cowville (and Bullville)
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Burt, Gerry, Howard, Homer, Hector, Clarence, Clyde, Byron, Irving, Elton, Ebenezer, Alfred, Ava, Alma, Amber, Gilbert Mills, Campbell Hall, Glen Aubrey
  • I’d like you to introduce you to Eddy – Pond Eddy, Long Eddy, Hale Eddy, Fishs Eddy
  • Ghost towns (in NY?) – Happy Valley, Irish Town, Doodletown