Monday, February 3, 2014

Why, AZ? Whynot, NC?

Maybe you’re like me. First, I’m a big-time geography nerd. Give me a map, and I’m happy for hours. I don’t know if it’s my love of history, my love of names in general, or a mild case of Apserger’s, but it sure works for me.

Second, I love a good laugh.  I especially like anything that’s unintentionally funny., Cake Wrecks, News of the Weird, … sites like these make up the majority of my bookmarks.

I think it’s what keeps me sane. I mean, the real world is just so nuckin’ futs. If you can’t point it all out and have a laugh at it, you might as well just bang your head against the wall. And believe me, I’d much rather maniacal laughter came out of my padded cell than that monotonous dull thud.

So, admit it. You and I are a lot alike. Really.


It feels funny putting that header in a blog. I’m an engineer by trade, and typically have a section like that in all my reports. It doesn’t seem quite right here, but it was important in this quest to have some basic ground rules.

1. Size Matters

There are a million teeny-tiny little crossroads and wide spots in the road in this huge country of ours. Chances are – if through nothing other than sheer numbers – some of them will have some pretty funny names. That said, I had to 1) put some limits on this thing, for my own sanity, and 2) limit it to places you could actually drive through (if you were so inclined) and actually realize you were there.

So, what I did was limit myself to a standard Rand-McNally road atlas. If your little hole-in-the-wall didn’t make it into there, I’m afraid it didn’t make into here either. Sorry, Buzzards Crossroads, NC. I apologize, Hot Coffee, AL. There's always plenty of room in "honorable mention" though.

I also wanted to limit the number of towns I’d cover per state – or this blog would get very big very fast. I figure the old “top 10” trope would work just fine. Once again, anything else goes into the honorable mentions.

2. Origins

A funny name is usually not enough. Inquiring minds usually want to know, how the %#&$@ did that come about?

Note, however, that this introduces a couple of problems. First, that info may simply not be out there, especially if your little Hooterville is no more than a post office and/or a gas station. Second, people love to make up stories to fill in the gaps. These are typically of the rather obvious, classically American, incredibly tall-tale variety. Believe me, you can usually spot these things from a mile off.

Whynot, NC, in my home state, is a perfect example. The usual story is that there was a meeting of the town folks and they argued back and forth about what to name their new metropolis. Some wag supposedly got tired of it all, and said “Why not this. Why not that.  Why not just name it ‘Whynot,’ and we can all go to bed.”

Turns out that Whynot is a family name. Variant spellings include Wynard, Winwood, Winnard, and others. It’s probably not even pronounced like “why not.”

I’ll probably include the apocryphal story. But as a true history buff, I do find the real story much more interesting, and will definitely give that preference when I can.

 3. Information & Pictures

The name’s the thing, and I’ll include your burg even if I can’t find a darn thing about it other than its location on a map. That said, it sure is a lot more fun if I can find a picture of the Boring Farmer’s Market or can discuss the Choccolocco Monster or whatever. And that’ll probably be the deciding factor if I’m trying to decide which hamlet gets star billing and which simply gets listed in the credits.

I do want you to appreciate, though, how much work this typically involves on my part. It seems that, no matter how small your little Podunk, there are no shortage of sites that take the name of the town, combine it with some other topic (weather, real estate, gas prices, dentists), and include a web page for it (whether it has dentists, gasoline stations, real estate, and weather or not). Here’s a sample (I am not making this up):

Portable toilet rentals in Eastaboga, AL can be tricky and expensive. The specialists at Quick Portable Toilets can help you with your rental for a reasonably low rate. Locating a porta potty rental business in Eastaboga you can rely on can be time consuming. We have the experience you’re looking for. Our company can serve as your “one-stop” source for all your portable toilet needs. To receive a cost-free estimate for your rental in Eastaboga, AL, contact 888-673-1110.

But that’s what investigative journalism is all about, isn’t it?  Anything for the truth, right?


By the way, I entered these in alphabetically, over the span of about a year and a half. So, these are basically LIFO (last in, first out). If you want to start with Alabama, click right here.