I did a blog a couple of days ago about the most common town names in the United States with Greenville being the champ. It got me to thinking about the opposite–towns with unusual names. This sent me to maps and deeply into yet another obsession.
The first one I thought about was boring. Yes. There’s a town with this name just outside Portland, Oregon. I see it on signs all the time when I’m heading south from Washington, where my favorite town name is Twisp. It’s fun (for me) to learn the origin of unusual names and not too hard with search engines like Wikipedia so accessible and, hopefully, correct. Boring, not so strangely, is named after a settler, William Boring, a Union veteran of the Civil War. Twisp derives from a Native American word for wasp.
A lot of towns with odd names honor early citizens. Bar Nunn, Wyoming, owes its existence to rancher Romie Nunn, which is probably also true for Reagan, Tennessee, and Romney, West Virginia. By the way, West Virginia has the distinction(?) of having the largest number of unusual town names–Lefthand, War, Rumble, Cucumber, Duck, Replete–all towns in that state.
Then there’s Intercourse, Pennsylvania, Climax, Michigan, and Hooker, Oklahoma. I’ll let you play mix and match with these and draw your own conclusions. But it’s probably not a good idea to ask the folks in Embarrass, Wisconsin, what they think.
Some town names come with a funny story. A newly settled Missouri town’s postmaster was having trouble getting a name approved and wrote to his boss, “We don’t care what name you give us so long as it is sort of peculiar.” Hence, Peculiar, Missouri. It’s said that Civil War Captain Prosper Parker was settling near Canada “to show you that we can do it.” Result? Cando, North Dakota. I didn’t find out, and maybe don’t want to, how Colon, Nebraska, got its name. Same with Oblong, Illinois, Culdesac, Idaho, and Motley, Virginia. And, yes, there really is a Bland, Virginia.
Ten Sleep, Wyoming, comes from practicality. It was exactly ten nights between some Sioux camps and the Platte River. Pie Town, New Mexico, is named after a dried apple pie business established there. Cut Bank is another term for a gorge and a town in Montana. Two Taverns, Pennsylvania, is pretty obvious.
Maybe Worstville, Ohio, Gross Tete, Louisiana, Show Low, Arizona, and Cope, Colorado, residents are curmudgeons who want to discourage curious travelers from visiting.