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


  1. Hmm, I don't know. All I can find when I Googled it was a lot of links to the childrens' band The Wiggles.