Saturday, October 26, 2013

South Dakota

I’m kind of surprised SD has enough people to even get in this blog. They do have more than their neighbors to the north though. Yup, SD’s got over 800,000, while ND has less than 700K. So there! Take that, North Dakota!  

10. Carlock

How old is this place? And why did they name it after a remote you’d use to open your car in the first place?

Actually, would you believe it’s from somebody’s name? I’m not sure exactly whose, but Carlock is a surname. tells me it’s probably an Anglicization of Gerlach, which is German for “spear play.” Now, why anyone would want to be called Mr. Spearplay ...

The township of Carlock is 35 sq. miles in area, and includes 65 Carlockians. It looks very flat and very spread out. You can find every possible bit of data that you’d ever want on it right here.

I do, though, have to question the average value of a home in Carlock in 2009. The site has that at $4,006,890,000. How can that be? I mean, the 2000 average was only $63,300. That’s a 63,299% increase. Who moved there? Is J.K. Rowling shacking up with Queen Elizabeth?

Google Image Search = “carlock sd”

9. Wall

The townsfolk were so proud of their new wall. Sometime in the future, they hoped to build others. Heck, if things kept going well for their little settlement, they might even put in some doors and windows – maybe even a roof or two.

Wall, of course, means Wall Drug. You may be familiar with their billboards, or perhaps their bumper stickers.

Just in case you’re not, though, Wall Drug is a shopping center in the middle of nowhere that somehow manages to generate $10 million from two million visitors every year. It includes a western art museum, a chapel, an 80-foot Apatosaurus, free ice water, and 5¢ coffee. It employs a third of the town’s 700-some population. Oh, and its billboards and bumper stickers are ubiquitous. has a full article on it right here.

The town’s isolation is actually pretty relative though. It’s on I-90, on its way west into Rapid City, and is only about an hour away from Mt. Rushmore.  

Oh, the name? It comes from the geological formation known as the High Wall, in Badlands National Park.

C’mon, dude, crack a smile!

8. Red Shirt

I have a couple of these in my closet. I’m not sure I’m ready to name a town after them though.

This petite burg of two dozen homes or so is on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Its inhabitants are Oglala Sioux.  

RS in the southwest part of the state, in the Badlands, and – once again – not too far from Rapid City and Mt. Rushmore. There’s a geological formation nearby with the wonderful name of Red Shirt Table.  

Ah, yes, the name … It’s just some chief. His main claim to fame seems to be being part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Yes, it’s red.  
Yes, it’s a shirt …
(thanks for nothing, Google Images)

7. Oral

Lawyer:  "And lastly, Gary, all your responses must be oral.  Okay?  Now, what school do you go to?"
Young Witness:  "Oral."
Lawyer:  "How old are you?"
Young Witness:  "Oral."

Thank you, Richard Lederer.

Now, back to our town … Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a whole heck of a lot on this one. It’s in the southwest part of the state – again – and looks like it has maybe a couple of dozen houses and businesses.  

As often happens with towns named (seemingly) after odd adjectives, search results often produce some rather interesting combinations. In our case, we’ve got:
  • Oral weather
  • Oral news
  • Oral pianists
  • Oral roofers
  • Oral singles

Where does the actual name come from? Haven’t a clue. My guess, though, is it’s a surname. This site tells me that the surname’s probably from a town named Orell, in England. Who knows, Oral Roberts and Orel Hershiser may be distant relations.

Get it?

6. Pringle

I’m not sure which is worse – naming your town after an article of clothing or naming it after a brand of potato chips.

Well, we’re still in the southwest part of the state for this one. Though it’s only got 112 people, Pringle has actually been in the news quite a bit.

Turns out there’s a compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints nearby. You know, Warren Jeffs? Ten most wanted list? Bunch of older guys creating harems of underage girls? The place even made The Daily Beast.

The town was named after one Anna Carr Pringle, a local farmer gal and host for railroad crews. They were so grateful for her hospitality they named the budding town after her. Pringle is an English name – once again, after some town. The author once knew a Winny Pringle. Poor thing.

Chis? Cii is? CII 15?

5. Box Elder

Before you waste any more brain cells trying to figure this one out, let me just point out that it’s a tree, acer negundo, a kind of maple. The English name comes from the wood’s resemblance to boxwood’s, and the leaves’ resemblance to those of elder, or elderberry, bushes.  

Box Elder the town is actually pretty big-time – at least for South Dakota. It has almost 8,000 people, is just east of Rapid City, and envelops part of Ellsworth Air Force Base.  

BE has its own website. Here’s the lead story for the day I checked it out:

There is a yard waste dumpster located in the gravel parking lot at 205 S. Ellsworth Rd to place your tree debris. When the dumpster is full please place branches in a neat pile near the dumpster so we can collect them easily.“

BTW, there are Box Elders in Montana and Texas as well.

I think it’s a bullet
(could be a nail, could be a condom)

4. Running Water

It’s what I always look for in a town – or a house, or a hotel, or a bathroom …

This little hamlet of two dozen houses is in the southeast part of the state, near the confluence of the Niobrara & Missouri rivers. In fact, that’s where it got its name. The meeting of those two rivers created a current that the French called L’eau Qui Court (“the water that runs,” for those of you who who do not parlez, like moi).

The town was also called Mineral Springs and Shannon, and appeared and disappeared, as settlers won (or lost) in their battle against drought, Indians, and grasshoppers. The railroad then came through, and things were put on a pretty permanent basis, with an important ferry operating at this site. The railroad (and the steamboats) later disappeared, however, leaving Running Water rather high and dry (at least figuratively speaking).

Everything you’d ever want to know about this tiny Podunk you can read right here.

Oh yuck!

3. Camp Crook

A teen dude ranch located in the beautiful northwest corner of South Dakota and emphasizing basic life skills for the future felon …

It’s gotta be after some dude, right? Well, we may never know. I couldn’t find anything on how this place got its name.  

My guess, though, is it’s named after one George Crook, a Civil War general and later Indian fighter. He operated in this area, and there are counties named after him in Oregon and Wyoming.

The surname isn’t what you think, though. According to, it’s either an “occupational name for a maker, seller, or user of hooks,” or a “topographic name for someone who lived by a bend in a river or road.”

This diminutive village of 63 is in the northwest part of the state. Wikipedia shares these fascinating tidbits about it:
  • Camp Crook is the birthplace of the famous bucking horse Tipperary. A depiction of the first ride of Tipperary can be seen in the Corner Bar and Cafe in Camp Crook.
  • Camp Crook is the hometown of music educator, composer and actor Benjamin E. Latham.
  • The town …  is the only town west of the Little Missouri River in South Dakota. 

By the way, there is a Crooks in SD as well. Additionally, Crook City is a South Dakota ghost town. Now, that’s a lotta criminality for such a small state, isn’t it?

I’m so confused

2. Spink

Which of the following represents a correct use of the word “spink”?
  • Ursula expressed considerable surprise when she found a small spink in her sleeping bag.  
  • Reg sure showed a lot of spink in taking on the Hell’s Angels, didn’t he?
  • You’re going to need a new spink, ma’am, if you’re going to get that toilet to work properly.

Spink, interestingly, is both a town and a county. The county is in the northeast part of SD, has 6,400 Spinkers, and comes in at over 1,500 sq. miles. It’s the home of the rather off-color Athol.

The town, oddly, is not in Spink County, but in Union, which is in the very southeast toe of the state (that little part that kind of just dribbles down there all by itself). It’s got 245 Spinkites. 

The entry in Wikipedia gives us some highlights of the town (heck, it sounds kinda like a short novel):

Toward the end of the 20th century only a few business remained in the community of Spink. The Spink Cafe was the center of life in the township and was still a place where farmers would gather to talk about the bean or corn crop and share a pot of coffee. Gary's Repair acted as a place where people could get the truck or tractor a little work and the old Co-Op that went by the name of Spink Oil was the town's gas station. Spink Oil closed in 1997 and today only the Cafe and Gary's Repair remain.

It's a crossroads with maybe 20 buildings. It’s not too far from Junction City, Akron, Vermillion (National Music Museum), and Le Mars.

The name? Well, S.L. Spink just so happened to be Secretary of Dakota Territory when the county and the town were founded. What could that surname possibly mean? Why, “chaffinch,” of course. And what the heck is a “chaffinch”? Why, a little bird. Everyone knows that. Now, why would somebody be named after a little bird? I don't know - you got me.

A SD hunter with a brace of spinks

1. Bonesteel / Firesteel / Thunder Butte / Iron Lightning

Wow! Were these all named by DC Comics? It’s the South Dakota Four! Out to save farm subsidies, Wall Drug, and the High Plains way of life!

Bonesteel  is in the south central part of the state and has about 275 inhabitants. It was named after H. E. Bonesteel, an early area freighter (i.e., he hauled stuff in his wagons). The surname comes from the German for “beanstalk” (really!), and denotes someone who grew beans or was as skinny as one.

Firesteel is in the north central part of the state and is a “near ghost.” It was a coal mining community at one time (and the only one in the state). The name comes from Firesteel Creek, which is a translation of an Indian name denoting their ability to find flint there.

Thunder Butte is in the northwest, on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, and probably has 100-some people. Its named after a landmark that sticks out in the flat land roundabouts. The name? Well, it’s a butte alright! And seeing how isolated it is, I’m guessing it attracted more than its share of lightning.

Iron Lightning sounds kinda like a random combination of other themes in this entry, but it’s really named after a Lakota chief. It’s pretty close to Thunder Butte.

Honorable Mention: 
  • Short and sweet – Lane, Vale, Zell, Agar, Mina, Nora, Iona, Tea
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Wood, Meadow, Midway, Hub City, Hill City (tiny church!), Central City, Centerville, Center Point
  • Just a little out of place – Dallas, Gary, Gettysburg, Mt. Vernon, Buffalo (Bison too), Utica, Woonsocket (see the real Woonsocket right here), Roswell, Provo, Burbank, Toronto, Scotland, New Holland, Baltic, Stockholm, Vienna, Florence, Naples, Corsica, Volga, Carthage, Troy, Lebanon, Bethlehem, Alexandria, Sinai, Eden
  • Just a little out of place, swank schools division – Groton, Andover, Amherst, Yale
  • Just a little off color – Letcher, Gayville
  • Orthographically challenged – Maurine, Harrold, Kenel, Lemmon (statue of cowboy riding dinosaur), Tripp, Betts, Sanator
  • Numerically oriented – Twin Brooks
  • Native American mouthfuls – Minnekahta, Owanka, Wakpala, Pukwana, Okobojo, Keyapaha
  • Atypical adjectives – Ideal, Scenic, Interior, White, Blunt, Mystic (formerly Sitting Bull)
  • Unconventional verbs – Lead, Orient
  • Abnormal nouns – Faith, Reliance, Chance, Bath, Farmer, Badger, Antelope, Java, Hammer, Victor, Winner, Kidder, Parade, Porcupine, Epiphany, Polo, Igloo, Fedora (a guy's name)
  • Fun to say – Nunda, Wasta, Bowdle, Vetal, Tuthill, Mosher, Peever, Zeona, Cuthbert
  • Hard to say – De Smet (Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead), Athboy, Wanblee
  • Just plain weird – Silver City, Green Grass, Mud Butte, Potato Creek, Pumpkin Center, Big Stone City, Hidden Timber, Cactus Flats, Lower Brule, Lodgepole, Rockerville, Redowl, Swiftbird, Spearfish, Deadwood (world’s largest chair), Highmore, Cresbard, Holabird, Bullhead, La Bolt, Crazy Horse (big unfinished memorial), Wounded Knee, Red Scaffold 
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Opal, Hazel, Irene, Ramona, Rowena, Marty, Henry, Howard, Sherman, Marvin, Chester, Frederick, Virgil, Roscoe, Pierre, Pedro, Nemo, Dante, Tolstoy
  • Ghost towns – Texas Town, Spokane, Moon, Weta, Etta, Elmore, Dewey, Hillhead, Flatiron, Gopher, Hooker, Teddy Bear

Monday, October 21, 2013

South Carolina

As a North Carolinian – and one who lives right on the border with South Carolina to boot – I think I am more than qualified to offer this frank assessment of my neighbor to the south:

  • Starting the Civil War
  • Flying the Confederate battle flag on the state house lawn
  • Strom Thurmond
  • Nikki Haley; Jim DeMint; the guy who said, “You lie!”
  • Clemson alumni
  • Cocky the Gamecock
  • Hootie and the Blowfish
  • Charlestonians
  • Myrtle Beach
  • Mustard-based BBQ (gasp!)

  • South of the Border
  • Band of Horses
  • Stephen Colbert

10. Coosawhatchie

According to what I was unable to uncover, this one means “mustard-based BBQ” in one of the local Native American languages.

I’m kidding, of course.  This actually comes from the Coosa tribe, plus hatchie, their word for “river.”  It has nothing to do with BBQ at all!

So, let’s start this post with a major metropolis, shall we?  I’m talking about 11,000 Coosawhatcha …  Cooseywhatcher …  er, Coosawatchit … Coseywatchma … um …  people!  

Wait a minute ..  You’re not going to believe this, but I think Wikipedia might be a little off on this one.  Looking this baby up on Google Maps, I count about a dozen buildings.  Hmm, does this mean I can’t trust the Internets?

C-town is right off I-95, just before you hit Savannah.  

It does rate its own
historical marker though

9. Pumpkintown

Well, if there is a better way of announcing “we’re just a bunch of hicks,” I can’t possibly imagine what it could be.

This one’s way up in the mountains.  (Yes, SC does have mountains.  They’re nothing – nothing, I tell you – compared to NC’s though.)  The name comes from pumpkins that grew naturally in the valley here.

Yes, of course, they have a festival.  Actually, they have two.  In addition to the you-guessed-it Pumpkin Festival, they also have a Get Down in Pumpkintown music event thingee.  Unfortunately, that second one is actually held in Marietta, SC – though that’s actually not that far away.

By the way, they have one “famous” son – Benjy Bronk, a writer on The Howard Stern Show.

Oops!  Forgot to mention
the famous Pumpkintown Opry

8. Ashepoo

Any town that ends with the syllable “poo” is a sure winner with me.  Me and that highly prized but hard-to-capture 8- to 12-year-old boy demographic.

This may be hard to believe, but it’s actually not what you think.  Turns out it’s from a sub-tribe of the Cusabo Indians.  (Though I still have no idea what it actually means.)

Ashepoo’s also the name of a river and a plantation.  There’s actually very little info at that link, by the way, but it does give me a good excuse to introduce a terrific, incredibly comprehensive site on SC plantations that I have wasted lots of time on.

The town looks to be a couple of houses and a couple of businesses just off of Highway 17.  It’s in the Low Country, not that far from Charleston.

7. Due West

Go due west, young man!  And when you get there, hang a left at the second traffic light – you know, the one with the Dollar Store on the corner, across from the abandoned gas station?  …

Due West is big time, folks.  I’m talking about 1,200 Due Westerners (real people, this time) …  plus its own college!

Yup, DW just so happens to be home to Erskine College.  What?  Never heard of Erskine?  Home to the only Associate Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in the United States?  You know, the Flying Fleet?  (I am not making that last bit up, by the way.)

Fittingly, Due West is indeed in the western part of the state, close to … um … er … let’s see …  uh, the Georgia border?   Yup, that’s about all I can spot around these parts.

See!  You think I make 
this stuff up, don’t you?

6. Ninety Six

There are no shortage of towns with numerically-oriented names like this, but this particular one seems so damned arbitrary and random, I just had to immortalize it here.

There are several competing stories about how this all came about.  In particular, the name is attributed to:
  • The mistaken belief that it was 96 miles to the nearest Cherokee settlement of Keowee
  • A counting of creeks crossing the main road leading from Lexington, S.C, to said place
  • A misinterpretation of the Welsh expression, nant-sych, meaning "dry gulch”
It probably has something to do with early surveying, but we may never know exactly what we’re talking about here for sure.

Ninety-Six is another big-time playuh.  It has all of 2,000 people.  The place started out as a fort, and was the site of considerable action during the Revolutionary War.  It’s just southeast of Due West, by the by.

There really aren’t any famous sons or daughters for this place, but I do like the story of Bill Voiselle, a baseball player from the ‘40s, who recognized his hometown by choosing 96 as his jersey number.  

Other numerically-oriented Palmetto State villes include Three Trees, Six Mile, the priceless Nine Times, and Centenary (that’s a fancy way of saying one hundredth anniversary, by the way).

According to Wikipedia,
these people are lying!

5. Green Sea *

Seeing as I probably passed through this one about a 100 times between my place and my parents’, I just had to know what the heck the story is behind it.

All I remember from driving through on Route 9 is a school (Green Sea Floyds High), but the fine folks at Wikipedia tell me there is also:

We’re in the southeast here, by the way, not too far from Myrtle.  No clue where the name came from … though there are an awful lot of pine trees around here … and it is incredibly flat … and that’s what it often felt like driving through here. 

Hmm, seems like they like to dress in drag here
(2011-2012 Mr. Green Sea Floyds Pageant)

4. Round O

Formerly called The Big O, the Postmaster General asked the town fathers to come up with something a little less suggestive.

Okay, would you believe this place was actually named after a person?  Yup, there was some Native American dude with an O tattooed on his shoulder who got along particularly well with the settlers around here.  His real name was Attakullakulla, but the white folks had a hard time pronouncing that so … Round O it is!

This crossroads is in the greater Ashepoo area, between Cottageville and Drigger Crossroads.  It’s got about 750 people.  They’ve got a bike race here called the Tour de Round O.

I-I-I love a parade …

3. Fingerville *

Early settlers named this one in celebration of the remarkable human digit – and all the wonderful things those fingers allow we humans to do.

Well, actually, no.  It’s another dude – this time, mill owner Joseph Finger. tells me that that surname can be English or German and was: “probably applied as a nickname for a man who had some peculiarity of the fingers, such as possessing a supernumerary one or having lost one or more of them through injury, or for someone who was small in stature or considered insignificant.”

This one’s way up north, right on the border with NC.  It’s got 130 people … and not much else.

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”
George Bush; Florence, South Carolina; January 11, 2000

2. Dongola

Hey, isn’t that the thing that lets you plug your Mac into a VGA port?

Hard to believe, but there are actually Dongolas in eight different states.  In addition to SC, NC, MD, VA, MO, IL, and WI can claim one as well.  There are a couple of possibilities for this one:
  • A kind of horse
  • Dongola Kid, a kind of leather
  • A region in Africa, in today’s Sudan (which is also referenced in the Bible)
  • A city in Sudan, the site of a British victory by Lord Kitchener in 1886

My money is on the battle.  That’s what’s behind the rather mysterious Plevna, a town in VA, AL, MO, IN, KS, and MT (as well as the site of a late 19th Century battle between the Turks and Russians).  

I’m kind of surprised I couldn’t find a definitive answer for at least one of these places.  My guess is none of these Donogolas are big enough to really merit the attention.  (The closest I could come, by the way, was a plantation in NC named after a “place in the bible.”)

Okay, so the city in SC …  It looks like a bend in the road along one of the routes to the beach, just a little northwest of Myrtle.  Couple of houses tops.  

Couldn’t find anything on the SC town,
so this will just have to do

1. Pee Dee *

Classic!  As is the story behind it …

Turns out an early settler, by the name of Patrick Daly, carved his initials on trees in the area to mark his land grant.  That abbreviation was later applied to a river as well as the large area of the state the river passes through.

Unfortunately, though, that’s all just a great big lie.  The town was actually named after the river, which was in turn named after the Peedee tribe.  And that may simply mean “people” in the Peedee language.

Pee Dee the town seems to have even less on it than Dongola.  On Google Maps, it looks like a couple of buildings right off I-95, with one huge auto graveyard that you can probably see from space.  It looks like PD is about equidistant from Florence, Marion, and Dillon – i.e., in the middle of absolute nowhere.

God, I love old postcards

Honorable Mention:
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – New Town, Townville, Midway, Central, Level Land, City View, Naval Base
  • Short & sweet – Dale, Peak, Lane, Rion, Elko, Clio*, Trio, Ora, Olar (tiny police station), Una, Iva, Irmo
  • Just a little out of place – Jamestown, Baton Rouge, Texas, Trenton, Princeton, Scranton, Buffalo, Cleveland, St. Paul, Little Rock, Lone Star, Hollywood, Waterloo, Paris, Florence*, Sardinia, Denmark, Norway, Warsaw, Troy, Smyrna, Jordan, Walhalla* (tunnel to nowhere)
  • Orthographically challenged – Starr, Parr, Orr, Hamer, Smoaks, Shepard, Moncks Corner*, Wateree, Gurley, Renno, Olanta, Eutawville, Lesslie*, Earles
  • Native American mouthfuls – Daufuskie Island, Wadmallaw Island, Awendaw*, Yauhannah, Taxahaw, Cateechee, Wisacky, Pocotaligo*
  • Atypical adjectives – North, Silver, Cross, Barefoot
  • Whites only – White Pond, White Oak, White Hall, White House
  • Unconventional verbs – Rains*, Converse, Cope, Guess
  • Abnormal nouns – Bath, Triangle, Prosperity, Pontiac, Sellers, Workman, Gable, Graves, Filbert, Strawberry, Mayo, Oats, Fork, Coward
  • Fun to say – Lugoff, Gluck, Wando, Wampee, Sampit, Ponpon, Pinopolis, Tuckertown, Totmolley, Ardincaple
  • Hard to say – Alcolu
  • Just plain weird – Society Hill *, Orangeburg*, Outland, West View, Blythewood*, Richtex, Startex, Cottageville (city made of bee hives), Powdersville, Tigerville, Travelers Rest, Early Branch, Pringles Bend, Mars Bluff (atom bomb crater), Smiths Turnout, Catholic Hill, Goretown, Dentsville, Burnt Church Crossroads, Fort Lawn *, Folly Beach *, Fair Play, Frogmore, Caesars Head *, Spiderweb, Possum Corner, Blue Brick, Sugar Tit (video)
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Sharon, Ruby*, Hilda, Pauline, Grace, Grover, Alvin, Leo, Sheldon, Dudley, Woodrow, Ebeneezer, Horatio, McBeth, Sandy Springs, Holly Hill, Ben Avon, Reid Park, Victor Mills

* - author has visited

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rhode Island

Wait a minute.  Are you saying these people get two senators?  I mean, there are counties in Texas bigger than this place.  

What a lot of people don’t realize, though, is that Rhode Island manages to pack quite a few people into its very small space.  In fact, Little Rhody manages to beat out seven other states when it comes to population – and that includes Alaska, the largest state by area in the whole U.S.

Yes, of course, RI does come in last when you look at area.  That fact has quite an interesting corollary though – the Ocean State comes in second to only one other state when it comes to population density.  Special quiz:  Can you name that state?  Answer below.

10. Pawtucket

Alright!  Let’s get things started with some of that crazy Native American stuff Rhode Island is famous for.

Pawtucket is pretty big time.  In fact, it’s the state’s fourth largest city, topping out at over 71,000.  Once known for textiles, it still has some of its industrial base left.  It’s the headquarters of Hasbro, the toy manufacture.  

P-town is just north of Providence.  Interestingly, Pawtucket’s sister city is Belper, England – the town where the author just so happened to have been born.

Most importantly, however, Pawtucket is home to the Boston Red Sox’s Triple-A team, the Pawsox!  Go Red Sox!!  Yeah!!!

BTW, there is also a Pawcatuk RI (and a Pawcatuk CT and a Pawtuxet RI as well).  They all have to do with water falls in the local Indian languages.

Antiques Mall Christens New Sign
(lead story on

9. Tiverton Four Corners

So, I’m assuming this is to distinguish this place from Tiverton Three Corners and Tiverton Five Corners, no?

WTF?  Couldn’t we have just said Tiverton Corners?  Do we really have to count them all?  Sheesh!

Well, I do indeed count four of them (on a map on the town’s very commercial looking website).  That’s what happens when you intersect one road (Rte. 77) with another (Rte. 179), I guess.  And there is a town nearby named Tiverton too.

In fact, TFC (also known as T4C - well, at least it is now) is marketed as an historic district of Tiverton proper.  Looks like lots of craft shoppes, tastings, artisanal this and that, and other twee and expensive stuff.  It does have a couple of wonderfully named geographical features nearby though – Nonquit Pond, Puncatest Neck, and Weetamoo Woods.

By the way, there is also a Waterman Four Corners.

So damn quaint
I think I’m gonna puke

8. Moosup Valley

So, I’m imagining a tall tale about Pilgrims chasing after some havoc-wreaking moose and asking the local Native Americans the equivalent of, “Where did he go, where did he go?”  And the Native Americans then respond …

Not buyin’ it?  Well, we’ve actually touched on Moosup before, in the post on Connecticut.  There, we learned that Moosup was some Indian dude.  The two towns are actually only about five miles apart.

As for MV?  It’s another damn historic district.  This one’s for the town of Foster.  The MVHD, however, looks a lot more strung out – maybe a couple of dozens farms along a five-mile-or-so road.  I guess that constitutes an historic district.

The Knights, of Moosup Valley

7. The Hummocks

This one was named for some early settlers – Vern and Earlene Hummock.

Actually, there is a thing called a “hummock.”  Who knows, you may actually have heard of it before.  It means “little hill,” or “mound.”  Now, there’s nothing super-unusual about that definition.  I think I just like the way the word sounds.

The town of The Hummocks is on a little spit of land on Rhode Island itself, the island the state was named after.  A topographic map I could find shows the actual hummocks the town was named after to top out at under 20 ft.

Rhode Island the island is typically called Aquidneck – the Indian name – these days.  That’s probably meant to 1) reduce confusion, and/or 2) be politically correct.  There’s a number of possibilities for that one: 
  • Floating mass
  • At the island
  • Isle of peace
  • At the island of the floating piece of mass (okay, okay - made up)
Rhode Island, by the way, is named after the Island of Rhodes, in the Aegean, a big-time classical hangout.

Bathing beauty,
The Hummocks

6. Annawamscutt

OK, back to the wild Native American stuff.  

Like the previous towns couple of towns, unfortunately, A-town (you don’t think I’m typing that in again, do you?) just doesn’t have a lot on it.  I could find a road, beach, creek, and early textile mill of the same name in the vicinity of Barrington, just a little southeast of Providence.  

This incredibly cool site tells me that A-town has a number of possible meanings as well:
  • Rock summit
  • End of the rocks
  • Ruler’s hill
  • Commander’s rock

5. Quonochontaug

Another great Native American mess.  One thing I didn’t mention above for the others is that the spellings for these beauties are typically all over the place.  For this one, for example, I’ve got Quonochontaug, Quanacontaug, and Quanaquataug (thank God for cut and paste!).  I guess that’s what you get when transcribe a language that had no previous written form.

Once again, you’ve got your choices of possible meanings for this one:
  • Extended deserted place
  • At the long beach
  • Two long ponds in succession
Though I do think that first one is particularly catchy.

Quonnie (what the natives call it) is a beach town, part of Charlestown, and close to the CT border.  The X Files mentioned Quonie a couple of times, putting Mulder there for some childhood vacations.

That’s 13 letters, folks!
A new world record

4. Weekapaug

Another Native American winner – though I really like the short, punchy, to-the-point quality of this one in particular.

Weekapaug means “at the head of the pond.”  

It’s another beach town.  In fact, it’s down the beach from Quonnie.  Weekie (I just made that one up) does, though, have one up on Quonnie when it comes to cultural references:
  • A song by Phish
  • A mention on Family Guy (Pawtucket, see above, also gets the same treatment)

Dusty's get just a 2.5 out of 5 on Yelp, I'm afraid

3. Woonsocket

They just keep on coming!

So, how many possible meanings (and spellings) would you care for this time?  Would three be enough for ya?
  • Place of steep descent
  • Fox country (woonksechocksett)
  • At the fork of the river (wannashowatuckqut – I did not make that up, by the way)

I think it’s important to point out that Woonie is no mere Quonnie or Weekie.  In fact, there are no less than 41,000 Woonsocketers.  It’s also headquarters of CVS Caremark.  And you can tell it’s big time as its motto is “a city on the move.”

It’s up in the northeast part of the state, just south of the Mass border.  A ton of French Canadians came here to work in the textile mills beginning in the 1800s, and the place still has a French flavor,

There’s a Woonsockett SD, by the way.  I’m guessing it came second.

Cobble Rock,
Woonsockett, RI

2. Pettaquamscutt Lake Shores

Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier if this had just been Lake Shores?

Well, the “Lake Shores” part makes sense.  It is, after all, on the shores of Lake Pettaquamscutt.  As for Pettaquamscutt …  

Though there looks like a lot of houses here, it also looks very residential, so there’s not a lot on it other than real estate listings (and weather reports, and services that may or may not actually exist – like yoga classes, legal jobs, lobster restaurants, and gluten-free pizza.)

Quassaquanch, meet Kachanaquant.  Kachanaquant, meet 
Quequaquenuet.  Quequaquenuet, meet Quassaquanch.  
Quassaquanch, Kachanaquant.  Kachanaquant,  
Quequaquenuet.  Quequaquenuet, Quassaquanch

1. Common Fence Point

Now, that’s sound exciting.  

This place seems to be another Pettaquamscutt Lake Shores.  In other words, lots of houses, but very little information (though plenty of links to real estate, weather, car repair shops, Zumba classes, and all-you-can-eat crab leg restaurants).

There is an explanation for this one though.  According to that page-turner best-seller Historic and Architectural Resources of Portsmouth, Rhode Island: A Preliminary Report, by the Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission: 

"A fence was built across a narrow neck of land, which served as a common pasture for cattle in the area which became known as Common Fence Point."

CFP is actually just north of The Hummocks, at the tip of Aquidneck.  It seems to exist mainly as a place for summer homes and as a landing point for a couple of area bridges.

It’s also the site of a big road race
(Go, skinny white guy!)

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Middletown, Centerville, Centerdale, Central Falls
  • Just a little out of place – Jamestown, Georgiaville, Austin, Wyoming, Oakland, Little Compton (cow vomit rope), Kingston, Moscow, Jerusalem, Galilee, Arctic
  • Orthographically challenged – Phenix
  • Native American mouthfuls (that I haven't already covered) – East Matunuck, Chepachet (“devil’s bag”), Conimicut, Quidnesset, Narragansett, Misquamicut (“salmon place”)
  • Atypical adjectives – Westerly (birthplace of Ruth Buzzi)
  • Abnormal nouns – Hope, Harmony, Providence, Prudence, Commons
  • Fun to say – Hoxsie, Quidnick
  • Hard to say – Pascoag (“dividing place”), Escoheag (“three rivers”)
  • Just plain weird – Clayville, Tarkiln, Ashaway, Peace Dale, Plum Point, Prudence Island, Chopmist
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Anthony, Warren, Arnold Mills

Answer:  New Jersey

Friday, October 4, 2013

Lancaster County, PA

Finally, we have arrived.  It’s hard to believe that a single county could be responsible for such (largely inappropriate) gems as these.  What makes it even better, though, is that the county was settled by non-native-English-speaking religious fundamentalists who still basically live in the 17th Century.  Top that up with some scrapple, cup cheese, and hog maw, and we’re talking some serious good times.  No wonder this area attracts so many tourists.

10. Hinkletown

What is it about the German language?  I mean, I studied it for six years, and was pretty fluent at one time.  Still, all those z’s, and k’s, and syllables beginning with “shn,” and ending with “imple” or “untz” … 

There’s more to this place than just a funny-sounding German name though.  “Hinkel” actually means “chicken” auf Deutsch.  So, basically, this place means “Chickentown.”

What’s even better, though, is that the town is named after some guy.  Yup, a real live Mr. Chicken.  Herr Harmon Henkle, to be exact. 

The Hinkletown Nine

9. Smoketown

Now, this one’s in English, but it’s still just as weird. 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a source for this one.  I did, though, find something for a similarly named town in Kentucky.  Turns out there were a number of brick kilns in that place.  So, I assume there was some sort of industry going on in PA as well.

There are also towns of the same name in MD, TX, VA, WV, and KS.  So, my guess is they also had a similar origin.  Wait, hold on a sec …  Some of these search results are for head shops.  Never mind.

Our Smoketown has its own elementary school and airport, and is also home to the Smucker Co.!  Oh, wait a minute.  They’re a “wall and ceiling contractor,” and have nothing to do with jams, jellies, or preserves.  By the way, S-town is the first place east of Bird in Hand (see below).

I understand it’s a jazz band

8. Cocalico

Not sure how this one got in here.  Sounds vaguely Caribbean.

So, we’ve got two possibilities for this one:
  • From koch-hale-kung, a Native American term meaning “den of snakes”
  • An Anglicization of the French word for “poppy,” coquelicot
Poppy, or den of snakes?  Poppy, den of snakes?  What should we name the new town?  Man, that’s a tough one!

There is also a Cocalico School District, with a Cocalico High School and Cocalico Middle School.  The first one’s mascot is the Rattlers, and the second one is the Vipers.  Just kidding.  They’re both the [yawn …] Eagles.

These guys are the Snakes

7. Bareville

Alright – this is more like it.  This is the kind of wink-wink-nudge-nudge stuff we associate with the Amish.

Well, wouldn’t you know.  The explanation behind this one is pretty darn boring.  It was founded by one Andrew Bare in 1780.  The surname is probably from the German baer, which means “bear.”

These days, you don’t talk about Bareville without also mentioning neighbors Leacock and Leola.  In fact, the three have pretty much combined.  Wilkes-Barre, Winston-Salem, Alsace-Lorraine, Milton-Freewater … meet Leacock-Leola-Bareville.

Ha ha ha!
- funny beer guys 

6. Mt. Joy

Exactly who Joy was has, I’m afraid, faded into the mists of time. 

Okay, okay, that’s not it at all.  Wikipedia sets us straight on this one:

The name is often shortened to Mt. Joy, but this is incorrect, since the "mount" in Mount Joy does not refer to a mountain. The town's name is actually derived from an English surname, Mountjoy.

Turns out Lord Mountjoy was some bloodthirsty Englishman who cleared out a portion of Ireland for the Scots-Irish.  When some of those Scots-Irish later emigrated to America, they remembered Mountjoy’s butchery by naming a town for him.

This town of almost 6,800 is home to Bube’s Brewery [snicker, snicker] and is also the inspiration behind an eponymous movie, whose creators describe it as “an indie rock romance, set in the bars, farmhouses and cornfields of Lancaster PA.” 

By the way, there is also a Mountville in Lancaster County.

Joy Bang, obscure actress
and Mt. Joy native
(just kidding about that last one)

5. Ephrata

I don’t know what it is about this one.  My guess is it’s something about its sounding vaguely flatulent.

That said, we’re actually looking to the Bible here.  “Ephrata” is Hebrew for “fruitful,” and was used to describe Bethlehem.  It’s also used as a girl’s name (though that honestly sounds more like child abuse than anything else).

With 13,400 Ephratans, this place is the most populous city in the county.  Its famous for its cloister (fun word that – sounds like a glandular problem).  The Big E also produced a Miss America - the one with the shortest last name - Evelyn Margaret Ay, in 1954.

By the by, there are Ephratas in WA and NY as well.


4. Lititz

Well, there’s no mystery about this one.  The mystery is in how the founding fathers could have been so tone-deaf to let it pass through. 

Well, wouldn’t you know …  The town fathers weren’t tone-deaf – they just spoke only German.  They named it after some totally innocuous castle in their home country.  It never occurred to them that … [giggle, giggle] … you know …  [snicker, snicker] …  I mean … [hee hee hee]

Some of Lititz’s many large and impressive features include:
  • Linden Hall School, the oldest all-girls boarding school in the US
  • The birthplace and grave site of John Sutter (the Gold Rush dude)
  • The Lititz Mutual Insurance Company 
  • Being voted America’s Coolest Small Town

Not a typo!

3. Blue Ball

Or this one.  Ouch!

Like a number of towns in the same broad area, this odd one was named after a local tavern.  I think this overall phenomenon can be traced back to two things:
  • Taverns served as important community centers in olden times
  • They often had a very visual way of identifying themselves, as many people back then were illiterate or (at least in this part of the US) non-English-speaking

So, that’s what’s behind our Blue Balls, and our Kings of Prussia, and our Rising Suns, and many more. 

There you go!

2. Bird in Hand

For a bunch of teetotalers, these Amish sure did have a lot of taverns.  Yup, this one was named after the local bar and grill as well. 

Interestingly, an argument can be made that the whole Pennsylvania Dutch thing started right here in this village of 400.  Turns out Bird in Hand was the fictional location for Plain and Fancy, a Broadway play about Amish life that was a big hit in the 1950s.  The highly recommended Plain and Fancy restaurant, which opened in 1960, is also in town.

I don’t know for sure,
but I think this might have
been Photoshopped!

1. Intercourse

Everyone’s all-time favorite …  The star of the show …  The be-all and end-all of funny town names … Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Intercourse …  Intercourse, PA. 

The word “intercourse” is a prime example of language change – in particular of something called “linguistic narrowing.”  This is what happens when a term that previously had a very broad meaning acquires a much more limited one.  In our case, this means moving from any kind of interaction between people (hence, the old “social intercourse”) to, well, you know. 

This place used to be called Cross Keys, which sounds quite acceptable to me – but also a lot like another tavern.  Who knows, maybe the locals thought the tavern thing was a little overdone.

So, what does Intercourse have other than some funny town signs?  Well, would you believe:
  • The American Military Edged Weaponry Museum
  • The People's Place (an Amish interpretative center)
  • The People's Place Quilt Museum
I’ve booked my reservations.  See you there!

The double entendres just never stop

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Centerville
  • Short and sweet – Clay, Elm, Buck, Gap
  • Just a little out of place – Silver Springs, Akron, Marietta, Denver, Oregon (formerly Catfish), Cambridge, Little Britain, E. Petersburg, Eden, Paradise
  • Numerically oriented – Ninepoints
  • Atypical adjectives – Vintage
  • Unconventional verbs – Overlook
  • Fun to say – Mt. Nebo, Martic Forge, Salunga, Ronks
  • Just plain weird – White Horse, Sporting Hill, Chestnut Level, Mechanics Grove, School Lane Hills, Willow Street, West Willow, East Earl, Turniptown, Grasshopper Level, Noodledoosie
  • Too many towns – Churchtown, Beartown
  • Too may villes – Farmersville, Goodville, Neffsville, Mastersonville, Fivepointville
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Christiana, Milton Grove

What?  There’s more to Pennsylvania than Lancaster County?  Yes way!  In fact, I’ve got two additional posts for this great state, eastern PA and western PA.