What’s in a Name ?

In one word…….everything. Town names are a perfect example. Town names can be very interesting. Sometimes towns were named for a famous person, or for the place that the early settlers migrated from. Others were named for the terrain or plants or animals that are found there while some adopted the Native American name. If the town or village is well named, its citizens are more apt to enjoy living there and other people and businesses will be more inclined to relocate there. It also can help the local tourism industry.
Most towns have nice names such as Magnolia Springs, AL or Cherry Hills, NJ or Apple Valley, MN. I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting these places yet, but given their names I think that I would love to go there.

However, while driving around our great country I have discovered many badly named towns that need to be changed because they are misleading, bland or just plain silly. And there is no reason not to change a bad town name. It has been done many times in our history, usually for the better. St. Paul, MN was originally called Pig’s Eye and Mauch Chuck PA renamed itself Jim Thorpe after the Olympic athlete. They even had the Oklahoma native’s remains reburied there. The most positive change occurred in Moron, CA which renamed itself Taft in honor of our 27th president. Good call Morons, good call.

When I was a teenager I thought the best place to visit would be Intercourse, PA. But when I finally went there, I found that it was an AMISH town. Not what I had in mind at all. It turns out that “intercourse” also means “communication” between individuals. I think the name is misleading and should be changed to something more Amish sounding.

amish women

Update: They changed the name to Coitus, in order to avoid mockery.

On the other hand, Sparks, NV should change their name to Intercourse. Prostitution is legal there but you wouldn’t know it from its name, although their slogan, “It’s happening here” might give you an inkling. If Sparks changed its’ name to Intercourse it would be clear exactly what is happening there. It could help tourism. Climax (GA, KS), Lucky (LA), and Pleasureville (KY) might also be better names for certain Nevada burgs. But borrowing the name of Three Way (TN) might be going too far. By the way, Three Way got its name because it is located where Highway 45 splits into Highway 45E and Highway 45W. Not quite as racy as it sounds.

Other places with misleading names that should be changed include:

  • Jersey Shore, PA – It’s not in New Jersey and it’s not on the ocean. It’s on the Susquehanna River. Fortunately it’s upstream from Three Mile Island.
  • Weed, CA – they don’t sell it there…… yet. It would be more fitting for a village in Colorado.
  • Liberal, KS – It isn’t Liberal. They would vote for the Wicked Witch of the West over Barack Obama.
  • Disney, OK. – Trust me there is no Space Mountain here and Walt never lived in Oklahoma.
  • Indian Village IN. – There are no Native Americans here.
  • Mecca IN. – I know little about this place except that I feel a need to visit it at least once before I die.

Some towns appear to have been named for the first thing that one of the early settlers saw. Examples of this might include; Fence and Rock which are both in Wisconsin, Bad Axe, MI, Duck, NC, Sawpit, CO and Gun Barrel City which of course is in Texas. These towns should all look for more imaginative names.

funny city names

Some towns didn’t even try.

And then there are villages that need to change their name because nobody would want to admit to living there because of what the town’s name brings to mind. These include:

  • Gas, KS. I have to think that every time a family drives on Route 54 between Lola and Moran one of the kids yells “Dad have we passed Gas yet?”
  • Boring, OR. It was either named after an early resident or it’s a very dull place to live or both. They should come up with something more creative such as Commonplace or Humdrum. Or they could really spice things up and call it Intercourse.
  • Lupus, MO. As far as I know this is the only town that shares its name with a disease.
  • Brutus, NY. It may be the only U.S. village named after a political assassin or a Popeye villain.
  • Horse Heads, NY. I don’t think this town name appeals to anyone except fans of the movie The Godfather.
  • Montezuma which is in Colorado, Kansas and Iowa. I’m not sure what it was about this Mexican autocratic ruler and warmonger that made people want to name their town after him. Maybe it was the human sacrifices.
  • Coward, NC. As a guy I wouldn’t want to have to tell people that I was from Coward. I also wouldn’t want to hale from Snowflake, AZ. I don’t imagine these towns have very good football teams. Guys would rather be from Studley, KS or Manville, WY or even Romeo which is in Colorado and Michigan.
  • Cementville, IN. It was named for the local industry but the name isn’t much of a draw today. I can’t imagine saying to my wife, “Hey honey do you want to go to Cementville for the weekend?” They should change their name to something more inviting. It’s in Indiana so how about Pawnee? Or better yet Eagleton.
  • Slaughterville, OK. Fortunately it’s named after an early settler and not some grisly killing spree. But the name isn’t going to help tourism.
  • Crook, CO. I imagine a politician from this town would not fare well if he ran for a state wide office, particularly if he was running against someone from Fairplay, CO.
  • Pompeii, MI. Why would you name a village after a city that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in which all of its citizens were killed in a horrible fashion?

And finally, I think that Truth or Consequences, NM should change its name. It was originally called Hot Springs. And, yes, it was renamed for the TV show. But today it doesn’t feel like a good fit for a Western town. If they want to copy a TV show name, I think Gunsmoke might be more appropriate. They should grab that name quickly. I hear that Ferguson, MO might be shopping around for a new name and Gunsmoke might be a good fit.

The citizens of these towns should immediately begin searching for more suitable names.
However, as noted earlier, most towns and villages are well named and you would be proud to say you haled from there. My favorite town name has to be Brillion, Wisconsin. I would love to be from there so I could tell people that I was a Brillionaire.

Hooker town city

On the other hand…


John Wade is a retired Chief Financial Officer who lives in Wildwood , Missouri.

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published with permission of the author

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