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.

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