Readers of this e-book have told us of dozens of their favorite weird place
names, after reading last month's story about Pity Me (England), Intercourse
(Pennsylvania), Hell (Michigan), and Moron (Cuba). Here are their e-mails:
- Have you heard of the town of Hotazel in the Northern Cape Province of
South Africa? It gets quite warm there!
Stan (Johannesburg, South Africa).
[I'd never heard of Hotazel, but thanks to Stan, I've found it on
a map. It's
not far from Kimberley, the often hot hometown of my colleague and webmaster,
- In addition to Hell, Michigan has a town named Paradise. (It's in the
Upper Peninsula, on the shore of Lake Superior.) When we bought a cottage
there, one of the previous owner's wall decorations was a road map of Michigan
with the route from Hell to Paradise highlighted and "325 Miles from Hell to
Paradise" scrawled across the top! Oh, and while Pennsylvania has Intercourse,
Michigan has Climax.
- There is a Climax, Michigan that may be worth a visit... or maybe
Christmas, MI as well.
- Having traveled a bit in France myself, I know you will enjoy: Condom,
France ... and, Two Eggs, Georgia.
[Condom would be just the place to post French letters. Nationmaster.com
says "Condom is a village in the French département of Gers. Alarmingly, it is
located on the river Baïse; baise (without the diaeresis) is a French
vulgarism for a sex act."]
- Here in Arizona we have "Why" without a question mark, and a place that
shows on only one map, put out by the AAA, between Wickenburg and Wikieup
called "Nothing." It really is a nothing. Near Intercourse in Pennsylvania is
Blue Balls and, of course, in France there is Condom. New Mexico boasts Truth
or Consequences, named after a long since gone radio program.
- Here's some more for you: Dimbox, Godly, Cut and Shoot (all in Texas), and
one of my favorites: Toad Suck, Arkansas.
- Just read about the various town names, and thought I'd send a greeting
from my town of Rough and Ready, California. Here's our local
for your enjoyment: Be sure to check out our "Fruit Jar
Pickers" under "present times." Enjoy.
[Reminds us of Ben Ryan's 1926 song, Heart of My Heart:
When we were kids
On the corner of the street,
We were Rough and Ready guys,
But oh, how we could harmonize!]
- Do not forget Blue Balls which is located very near Intercourse, PA. Why
did the Amish choose such weird names for their towns?
Linda in Ami Machi, Japan.
[I'm not sure whether it was the Amish who chose those odd names. Both
places may have been named before the Amish settled there. - E.S.]
- When you found Intercourse Pa. weren't there two towns named Blue Balls
and Fertility nearby? My parents were once touring there and send us postcards
from all three!
- I've seen the exit sign Zzyzx myself on the way to Barstow, and a friend
of mine has been to the nature studies center there. It's just a cool name,
after all. I've wondered whence the name actually derives. It has its own
interesting story involving marketing and illegal land use. Likely the name
was inspired by 'zyzzyva', or 'zyzza', genera of weevils and leafhoppers,
- My father knew the man who named Zzyzyx (I am sure it is pronounced "zai-zix").
As I recall, he was a bit of a promoter, who wanted to create a town there,
and sell land. He selected the name in order to create interest. I guess he
Radha, St John, U S Virgin Islands.
- Hello from the UK. It is quite common to live in Hope around here -
there's one in Montgomeryshire, Wales and the other just over the border in
Shropshire, England. There is also a village in Shropshire called Great Ness.
I always thought I was destined for greatness but never could afford a house
|Believe it or not, there's a small place in Upper Austria
named Fuc*ing (pronounced "Fooking"). Its name honors a man from the 6th
century called Focko. English speaking tourists invariably stop to have
their photographs taken in front of a sign displaying the dreaded word.
It's been stolen at least seven times. As a new sign costs several hundred
dollars, that worries the Mayor, Siegfried Hoeppel, who hopes to avoid
further thefts by using more concrete and larger bolts.
Lisa Resnick Escaloni, of Escaloni
Communications, in Richardson, Texas, told us about this. Her
company's website says "We provide clean, publishable transcripts." If
the loss of the asterisk won't shock you, click on this
- You missed mentioning Paradise, Pennsylvania, which is not far from Intercourse,
Pennsylvania: and both are also close to Bird-In-Hand, Pennsylvania.
Lisa A. Hallett.
- You don't have to go to California to find Paradise. Near Lancaster,
Pennsylvania you can find both Paradise and Intercourse. On a highway there is
a sign there pointing in two different directions, one to Paradise and the
other to Intercourse. Most people opt to take the road to Intercourse, out of
curiosity. I am not sure if they go straight to Paradise after Intercourse or
return disappointed and then opt to go to Paradise. The three cities, Bird in
Hand, Intercourse, and Paradise are all within 5 miles of each other.
- Another place to visit, other than Hell, is
Dave Ritchie, Canada.
- I have been to Intercourse, PA. If you love fun place names, you should
check out a map of Newfoundland. My mother-in-law is from there, and we have
visited. Some are just picturesque, like Harbour Grace, Bay Bulls, Tickle
Cove, Tickle Beach, Tickle Harbour, Leading Tickles (a jolly bunch those
Newfies must be), Cupids, Mosquito, Goblin, Garnish, Harbour Buffet (to go
with the Garnish, perhaps?), Goobies, Come by Chance, Renews, Dildo, Dildo
South, Bacon, Old Shop, Gin Cove, Doting Cove, Noggin, Tilting, Little Seldom
(emphatic redundancy, perhaps), Joe Batt's Arm, Too Good Arm, Virgin Arm,
Whale's Gulch, Lushes Bight, Black Duck, Jerrys Nose, Witless Bay, and Blow Me
Some tell stories of great hardship, which is remarkable considering the
penchant of most New World pioneers to give their godforsaken new home a name
with some gloss and hopeful (if not outright deceptive) - but what do we make
of Hungry Hill, Burnt Islands, Little Burnt Bay, Isle aux Morts, Camp Boggy,
Bareneed, Farewell, Gallows Cove, and such? But some must have found
contentment and prosperity there. There are Heart's Content, Heart's Delight,
and Heart's Desire, all just across Trinity Bay from Little Heart's Ease. -
- There is also a town in Norway, just north of Trondheim, called Hell. They
get no shortage of English speaking visitors in this little town who go there
just so they can say they have gone to Hell and back.
- Paradise, Pennsylvania and Hell, Michigan seem to call for Purgatory,
Maine. It is actually quite a disappointing place. Its corner grocery store
didn't even have post cards celebrating the name!
James and Helen Miller.
- Appreciated your message to Anu [Garg] re your "travels" during his
absence. Found your senior network site and it's tailor-made for me! Bought my
first computer four weeks ago and am approaching it like a dog circling an
unknown and fearsome creature (as my continued use of webtv indicates). Your
late arrival to the computer gives me hope. Thank you for sharing that
information. (I'm 64).
Barbara Hunter, Puyallup, Washington.
Thank you all for your interesting contributions. Checking out some of those
places, because they sounded so unlikely, we found two websites with huge lists
of even weirder U.S. place names.
First, we discovered a story written by Sherry Stripling in the Seattle
Times, which mentions Scratch Ankle, Alabama; Good Grief, Idaho; Panic,
Pennsylvania; Stinking Point, Virginia; Yum Yum, Tennessee (reminds us of
Australia's Woy Woy and Wagga Wagga); Dynamite, Washington, and Tranquility,
California (that should be spelled with two l's, Sherry); Nothing,
Arizona and Zero, Montana.
Sherry was reviewing New York photographer Gary Gladstone's book, Passing
Gas: And Other Towns Along the American Highway (Ten Speed Press, $19.95),
so named because people who drive through Gas, Kansas, are told not to blink or
they'll pass Gas.
Eager to learn more about Gary's book, we found a detailed description of it,
plus a gallery of superb photos, on his website (see link below).
"I drove 38,000 miles visiting tiny places with funny names," says Gary. "I
made a portrait in a different town every day and posted daily journals on the
Photo News Network website. It is now a book."
His photos have appeared in Life, Look and the Saturday
Evening Post. Making nine trips in five years, he shot 21,000 frames of
film, and visited (among many other odd places) Ding Dong, Surprise, Goofy Ridge
and Monkey's Eyebrow.
When you visit his website, be sure to look at his remarkable slide show.
There are great pictures of Gas, Purgatory, Tightwad, Rough and Ready, Sweetlips,
Good Grief, Bitter End, Suck Egg Hollow and Lovely.
Copyright © 2003
Story first posted