Saturday, December 21, 2013

Washington A-M

Wow! What an awesome place. I have never run into a collection of such wacky stuff. 

It seems like we can thank the Native Americans for most of this … though they’re certainly not alone.

Of course this state merits two posts.  A-M this week, N-Z next week.

10. Cosmopolis

Yup, this small town of 1,600 in the Grays Harbor area does, in fact, translate as “city of the universe.” No false humility among these folks, no sirree.  

“Cosi” (what the locals call it) is the oldest city in the area, dating back to 1852. It’s just up the Chehalis River a little bit from Aberdeen and Hoquiam. As with the rest of the cities in this area, thing look pretty industrial here. In fact, there’s a huge sawmill in town that seems to dominate everything.

Oddly, not referring to the same place

9. Medical Lake

I’m not going swimming in there, I don’t care what you say.

Ironically, the lake was named for the medicinal healing quality of the lake water, first recognized by the local Native Americans. Today, unfortunately, a name like that just brings up images of floating syringes. 

ML is in the far west of the state, on the border with Idaho, not too far from Spokane. There are 5,000 Medical Lakers. The big attraction in town seems to be a state hospital.

So, is this the best time to point out that Washington also features a Loon Lake?

This movie was filmed here

8. Dollar Corner / B Z Corner

Corners are not that uncommon. It’s what you put with them that really makes your town stand out. And I thought these two definitely stood out.

Dollar Corner (sometimes called Dollars Corner) owes its name to one S.L. Dollar, who built a gas station on an intersection here in 1924. C’mon, who’s named Dollar, right? It is legit though, and is probably from the German name Thaler, which denoted someone who lived in a valley, or thal. DC is actually part of the larger, real town of Battle Ground. Dollar Corner’s got about 1,000 people.

B Z Corner owes its names to one William Biesanz. That surname was a lot for the locals to get their tongues around, so eventually it just became B Z.  Like DC, it’s in the south part of the state, near the Columbia River. A nearby neighbor is the interestingly named Husum. Both are in the wonderfully named county of Klickitat (see below).

7. George

Get it? No? Go ahead. Think about it. It’ll come to you.

Got it? Alright! And, yes, the name is, indeed, a “respectably humorous salute” to the Father of Our Country. 

George finds him/itself in the dry, flat middle part of the state. There are about 500 Georgians. Interestingly, the town only dates back to 1957, when it was founded by some guy named Charlie Brown. George serves primarily as a center for the many local farms. It’s also close to the Columbia River George … er, I mean, Gorge. 

The streets are all named after cherry varieties. Okay, I can think of Bing, and … um … er … There’s uh … Um … Did I mention Bing? (The others are Montmorency, Richmond, Windsor, Naden, Van, Nanking, and Royal Ann.) The townsfolk celebrate the 4th of July with a big festival and the “world’s largest cherry pie.”

The Gorge is also the site
of a really cool amphitheatre

6. La Center / La Push

Everyone knows putting a “la” before something makes it three times as classy. So, why be boring old Center, when you can be La Center? 

Why be Push, when you can be La Push? Push? Wait a minute. Why would anyone want to be Push in the first place, let alone La Push?

Okay, so La Center does indeed make some sense. A very informative website I found says that “the name was intended to convey, albeit in a mixture of French and English, the town's role as the center of commerce for northern Clark County.” It had been previously been called Timmen’s Landing and Podunk. It’s in the southwest part of the state, has 2,800 inhabitants, and relies on gambling for its economy.

La Push, on the other hand, makes no sense whatsoever. It does turn out, however, that this one actually is from the French. It started out as La Bouche, which means “the mouth,” and refers to the town’s location near where the Quileute River flows into the Pacific. It’s in the very northwest part of the state, not too far from the mouth of the Columbia. The town is part of the Quileute Indian Reservation, and is known for its whale-watching.

By the way, there is also a Dabob, WA.

(First Beach, La Push)

5. Cle Elum / Pe Ell

I’m assuming these two are meaningful in some ancient tongue like Midian or Phyrigian or Hittite. 

I was wrong! They’re just Native American.

The first one means “swift river,” from tle-el-lum, and was previously called Clealum. It has 1,900 inhabitants, is in the center of the state, and is known as the “Heart of the Cascades.” It seems to be known, primarily, for its disasters, including a fire that destroyed the town in 1918 and an explosion of blasting powder that killed nine in 1908. To continue the theme, its one famous son is Dick Scobbee, commander of the Challenger that exploded on liftoff.

Pe Ell supposedly comes from Indian locals’ inability to pronounce the names of an early French-Canadian settler. You pick which one:
  • Pierre, from Pierre Charles
  • Pershell, from Charles Pershell

It’s along the upper reaches of the Chehalis River. The town has 600-some people, mostly farmers and lumbermen. There’s a nice article on the place right here.

By the way, there is also a Sea Tac. But I think you already knew that’s simply from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Pe Ell Girls Top MWP for First District Title

4. Klickitat

I tawt I saw a Klickitat. I did. I did see a Klickitat.

This one comes, not from those geniuses at Warner Brothers, but from the Klickitat tribe. And that name happens to be a Chinookan word meaning “beyond [i.e., the Cascades].” The Klickitat actually call themselves the Qwû'lh-hwai-pûm, or "prairie people." 

Klickiat is also a river and a county. All are in the very south part of the state, with the county’s southern border actually being the Columbia River. The town has 400 people. There are some naturally carbonated mineral springs nearby, which resulted in spas and also Klickitat Pop.

You are here (somewhere)

3. Lilliwaup

“Waup” is a great syllable.  It’s a syllable that – in my estimation, at least – we simply don’t hear often enough. I highly recommend throwing a “waup” or two into your town name. I can guarantee you’ll gather lots of attention for your little burg.

Lilliwaup actualy means “little bay,” in some unknown indigenous language. 

The town is indeed on a little bay, where Lilliwaup Creek empties into the Hood Canal. It’s on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula, on scenic Route 101. Tourism and seafood (especially oysters) are the big attractions.

Downtown Lilliwaup

2. Kooskooskie

There was a young lass from Kooskooskie …

Kooskooskie started out as the original name of the Clearwater River. Supposedly, it means something along the lines of “strong water.”

What’s not so clear, however, is why Kooskooskie the town is about two hours from Kooskooskie the river – which is actually in Idaho!

Anyhoo, K-town is actually a bit southeast of Walla Walla, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. It looks like a couple dozen houses stretched out along a little windy road that runs along a little windy creek.

"Marjorie, Kooskooskie"

1. Humptulips

So, why are these people humping their tulips? 

Actually, this one has nothing to do with flowers being violated. It is, instead, the name of a local Indian tribe, as well as a local river. Competing explanations include “chilly region” and “hard to pole.” My vote is definitely for that second one.

This town of 250 is in the western part of the state, about a half hour from the coast. Its 15 minutes of fame came in Tom Robbins’ Another Roadside Attraction, where it served as a base of operations for an order of assassin monks. I probably didn’t even need to tell you that there was a band out there named Humptulips now, did I?

"Humptulips is a country band with a twist of rock 
from Washington State. To book Humptulips at your next event, 
contact" (Twitter)

Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Country Homes, Intercity, Centralia, Centerville, Midway, Home
  • Short & sweet – Irby, Ione, Doty, Adna, Ayer, Ewan, Elbe, Elma, Omak, Hyak, Keva, Mica, Malo, Mead, Lind, Fife, Bow, Blyn, Elk (toy robot museum), Mae, Hay
  • Just a little out of place – Burbank, Boise, Leavenworth (nutcracker museum), Des Moines, Davenport, Dayton, Littlerock, Central Park, Mt. Vernon, Annapolis, Bangor, Berlin, Milan, Melbourne
  • Just a little off color – Beaver
  • Orthographically challenged – Impach, Krain
  • Numerically oriented – Four Lakes, Four Seasons, Five Points
  • Native American mouthfuls – Entiat, Kahlotus, Ilwaco, Emunclaw, Cathlamet, Kalaloch 
  • Abnormal nouns – Dodge, Ford, Cougar, Clipper, Lacrosse, Aloha, Miles, Mineral, Glacier, Grotto, Forks (Twilight town), Carnation (statue to world champion milk cow), Cashmere, Creosote, Electron, Dynamite, Mold
  • Atypical adjectives – Concrete, Dusty, Metaline
  • Unconventional verbs – Monitor, Cook, Love
  • Fun to say – Monse, Methow, Gorst, Eltopia, Ephrata, Inchelium, Chimacum, Claquato, Kapowsin
  • Hard to say – Fragaria, Ardenvoir, Mukilteo, Disautel, Conconully
  • Just plain weird – Grapeview, Greenacres, Black Diamond, Beaux Arts, Lofall, Cathcart, Moclips, Airway Heights, Grand Mound, Goose Prairie, Kid Valley, Friday Harbor (world’s skinniest coffee shop), Federal Way, Bossburg (after C.S. Boss)
  • Just plain weird, cities – Electric City, Elmer City, Moxee City
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Juanita, Beverly, Holly, Amber, Joyce, Ethel, Lyle, Morton, Amanda Park, Heather Downs, Moses Lake, Clyde Hill
  • Ghost towns - Gettysburg (after Robert N. Getty), Bagdad, Farmer, Hover (after Herbert Hover - I kid you not), Index, Libertybond


  1. Fun! About Sea-Tac...don't you wish they'd swapped the cities around in that name so Tacoma came first? ;)

    1. Back before all the cabs that serviced Sea-Tac got consolidated into one company, there were lots of gypsy cabs. Of all their various names, my favorite was, yes, Tac-Sea Cab. :^)

  2. I'd imagine things are different nowadays with Uber, but I didn't have much fun getting a "tacsea" at SeaTac. It was as if the third-world gang graduated to driving cab downtown and left behind their spots for the fourth world to come take over.

    "C’mon, who’s named Dollar, right?" There's Creflo Dollar, Jr. You know, the dude who wants you to pray to Jesus to grant him his replacement Lear jet.

  3. "Humptulips is a country band with a twist of rock from Washington". A twist of rock? Judging from the background shown in the photo, the "twist of rock" is the perfect compliment to the twist of lime the bartender put in your Bud Light.