Saturday, December 28, 2013

Washington N-Z

It’s the state that keeps on giving. If you thought the names last week were pretty crazy – well, you just ain’t seen nuthin yet.

10. Toppenish

In a toppen manner? Like or similar to a toppen? 

No, silly. It’s from the Sahaptin tẋápniš, meaning “protruded,” or “stuck out.” And that was from a landslide that happened along the river here. So obvious!

This major metropolis of 9,000 is just southeast of Yakima. It’s famous for its murals, a railroad museum, a Yakima Indian casino, fruit, and the American Hop Museum

Hmm, not sure what
happened to Canada

9. Skamania

What fans of certain Jamaican music suffer from?

Nah, it just means “swift waters” in the local Indian language. That’s a pretty apt description, by the way, as the town is located along some former rapids on the Columbia River.

Skamania’s the name of the county too. It looks like a beautiful area. It’s 90% forested and includes Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, parts of the Columbia River Gorge, and Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

By the way, it’s pronounced skuh-MANH-ee-uh.

8. Washougal

Early settler Archibald MacDougal wanted to honor both the father of his country and himself …

Well, actually, that’s not totally correct. The name’s from the Chinook, and means "rushing water," or perhaps "small rocks and pebbles," or possibly even "land of plenty.” Sheesh! What is it already? Make up your minds! 

Washougal, like Skamania, is right on the Columbia River. It’s got a lot more people though, coming in at 14,000. It’s also a lot closer to Portland.

It was once known as the “prune capital of the world.” Everything you could ever possibly want to know about its history you can find right here.

It appears to be mostly known 
for its motocross track however

7. Sedro-Wooley

Alone, they’re a little odd. Probably not Honorable Mention odd … But put ‘em together, and it’s a whole new ballgame!

Yup, Sedro-Wooley did indeed start out as two towns. Sedro is actually from cedro, the Spanish word for cedar. (It was originally called Bug, from the many mosquitoes here.) Wooley is from railroad honcho Phillip A. Wooley. 

Today, S-W is a metropolis of 10,000. It’s located in the wonderfully named Skagit County, about an hour north of Seattle, and about halfway to Vancouver.

Historically, it’s known for Tusko, the circus elephant, who escaped here and laid waste to the town before being recaptured. In more modern times, S-W is known for the Loggerodeo, which features a carnival, foot-race, log drive, old-time logging show, championship rodeo, various parades, and an invitation-only chainsaw log carving competition.

Okay, that’s kinda weird

6. Nooksack

A sack for your nook?

Actually, no. This one is from a tribe, but also a river. It means “always bracken fern roots.” Now, that doesn’t exactly make a whole lot of sense, but I did find it on this pretty reliable-looking site, so … 

This town of 1,300 is not too far from Vancouver (Canada, not Oregon), and actually calls itself a “bedroom community.” It’s in the interestingly named Whatcom County. Hmm, couldn’t find much else out there that’s about the town, and not the tribe …

Nooksack Valley School District,
Transportation Department

5. Walla Walla

This one’s here purely on repetition alone. By itself, Walla wouldn’t even make it in this post. Add another Walla though – pure poetry!

What’s it mean? Well, walla is Sanhaptin for “water,” so walla walla of course means lots of water. Seriously. BTW, it was originally named Steptoeville.

WW is home to 30,000, three colleges, and the Washington State Penitentiary. Despite that last item, it was named USA Today’s 2011 “friendliest small town in the US.” Indeed, WW’s motto is “The City So Nice, They Named It Twice” (whuh???). It’s also got a couple of interesting famous sons, including:
  • Former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe
  • Former batman Adam West
  • Softball god Eddie Feigner
  • Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas

By the way, Washington also includes a Wallula.

You are here(abouts)

4. Puyallup / Tulalip

Do a coupla puyallups. They’s a-good for your musucules.

So, the first one actually means “generous people,” and is – of course – from an Indian tribe. P-town has 37,000 people and is just east of Tacoma. They’ve got their share of “famous” sons and daughters as well, including Nathan Chapman, Harriet A. Hall, Kelly Sullivan, Chester Victor Clifton Jr., Natasha Curry, Nick Harmer, Brock Huard, Damon Huard, and Brandon Gibson (Whuh??? Who???).

Tulalip? Another tribe. The name is from a Salish word for "small-mouthed bay" or “purse-shaped bay.” We’re talking about 1,500 people, pretty close to Seattle. Big time casino.

I am so depressed
(the "city" is Puyallup)

3. Tumtum / Tumwater

Got an ache in your tum tum? Try some tum water!

Tumtum is from a Chinook word meaning “heart/soul.” I’m sure there’s a good story behind this one. I just don’t know what it is. The town is in the far east, near Spokane. It looks like a couple of dozen houses along the Corkscrew Highway and Long Lake.

Tumwater was originally Tumtum Chuck. And that’s Chinook for “waterfall” (literally, “heartbeat water.”). It’s on other side of the state, not too far from Olympia, the capital. It’s got a whopping 17,000 people, is the oldest permanent settlement on Puget Sound, and was the former home of Olympia beer.

The original tum water 

2. Snoqualmie / Snohomish / Skyhomish / Suquamish

And I’m sure there’s also a Skyqualmie, and a Suqaulmishie, and a Skyhomiequalmish, and a …

Snoqualmie is from the Lushootseed s•dukwalbixw, which means "ferocious people.” It’s got 11,000 of these ferocious types and is just east of Seattle. 

Snohomish is a town of 9,000 in the same general area. It’s from the name of another tribe, the sdoh-doh-hohbsh. The meaning of that is “disputed,” but I figure it’s got to have “people” or “ferocious” in it, right? Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Averill is from here.

Skyhomish is not too far away from the first two, but only has a population of about 200. The Skyhomish are yet another tribe, with their name meaning “inland people.” Huh! There goes my theory about Snohomish.

Suquamish? Another tribe. It’s actually the tribe of Chief Seattle, who is buried here. The name? It means “place of clear water.” The town? 4000 people, on the other side of Puget Sound from Seattle, on the wonderfully named Kitsap Penisula.

Don’t you want to live in Snoqualmie too?

1. Twisp / Pysht / Queets / Gleed

Just try one of these in your next Scrabble game. Say it’s something like an Anglo-Saxon unit of measurement, or a plant that grows only in Iceland, or an old Scottish pastime played with sheep testicles.

Twisp probably means “wasp,” or “yellowjacket.” It’s got about 900 and is the north central part of the state, in a valley in the middle of the Northern Cascades. There’s also a Twisp River. They’re both in the wonderfully named Okanogan County.

Pysht is also the name of a river. This one means “against the wind” or “against the current.” Pysht is on the very northern part of the Olympic Penisula, just a little ways from the Strait. Pysht is a “near-ghost,” with just a handful of houses left.

Queets is another small town named after a river. It’s got almost 200 people, almost all of them Native American. “Queets” supposedly means “dirt,” and refers to a local Native American origin myth. It’s on the coast, about halfway between Cape Flattery (the tip of the Olympic Peninsula) and Grays Harbor.

Oddly, there is no river Gleed. Couldn’t find much on it, but it’s probably someone’s last name. And that name appears to mean “kite” – “probably applied with reference to the bird’s rapacious qualities.” It’s got 3,000 people, and is in the center of the state, just northwest of Yakima.

Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Valley
  • Short & sweet – Paha, Oso, Omak, Yelm, Yale, Ruff, Sauk, Usk
  • Just a little out of place – Vancouver, South Bend (world’s largest oyster), Toledo, Rochester, Normandy, Orient
  • Orthographically challenged – Sequim, Touchet
  • Numerically oriented – Three Lakes, Seven Mile, Nine Mile Falls
  • Native American mouthfuls – Tukwila, Tillicum, Tonasket, Skamokawa ("smoke on the water"), Onalaska, Okanogan, Washtucna, Wauconda, Wahkiacus, Wenatchee, Wellpinit
  • Abnormal nouns – Rice, Republic, Plaza, Sultan (tiny church), Tiger, Nighthawk, Whites, Vantage, Outlook, Opportunity, Startup, Possession
  • Atypical adjectives – Plain, Scenic, Royal, Rainier, Stuck, Quilcene
  • Unconventional verbs – Robe, Shine, Park
  • Fun to say – Orting, Steptoe, Spangle, Toutle (Mt. St. Helens miracle survivor car), Zillah (Church of God - Zillah), Poulsbo, Nisqually, Synarep, Satsop, Panikanik
  • Hard to say – Semiahmoo, Spokane ("sun people," the name of the tribe), Yakima (“runaway,” another tribe), Nespelem, Skamokawa, Utsalady, Wawawai
  • Just plain weird – White Swan, White Center, Sunnyside, Sunset, San de Fuca, Soap Lake, Oysterville, Ritzville, Royal Camp, Paradise Inn, Pataha City, Navy Yard City, Tokeland
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Olga, Stella, Roy, Ronald, Raymond, Sappho, Othello, Otis Orchards
  • Ghost towns – Ruby, Sherman, Tokio, Tono


  1. Whatcom County native here. You have an error in #6: The 'other' Vancouver (not the Canadian one) is in Washington, not Oregon. It's on the Washington side of the Columbia River, close to Portland.

  2. ohh onalaska miss that ol place but lacey right there next to tumwater those falls though