How do funny place names happen?
We’ve all seen funny place names (and if you want to see more, this blog is the right place).
But how do these places get these names?
There are many ways but I thought I would hit a few that explain many of the ones I have shown maps of here:
- Sometimes a regional usage combines with other words to seem humorous to people, usually people from other areas. Examples include the many features that use “Lick” to mean a feature with mineral content that attracts animals. This might be a salt spring or creek with clay banks. When combined with other English words it can sound risqué, as is the case in “Big Bone Lick.” “Johnsons Cutoff” is an example as well, where cutoff is a regional reference to an rerouted stream with a shorter path than the original.
- Often words have changed in meaning and the new meaning is what makes the place name funny. It may be modern slang or simply a completely new usage. A classic example is the feature named “Gay Head” in Massachusetts, where both parts of the name have modern meanings. Places named “Intercourse” are also in this class.
- Words from another language can sound funny to our ears. This is especially true in the case of words that were written down by people who didn’t know the language the words were in, so they adjust it to be more familiar. Examples include “Kaka, Arizona” and “Chunky, Mississippi.”
- A personal name that is also a word can lead to unintentional humor. The aforementioned “Johnsons Cutoff,” the many examples with “Hooker” (“Hookers Hole”, “Hookers Cemetery”), and “Bong State Recreation Area” are all good examples.
- Intentional humor might lead to some place names, such as “Ugly Mountain” or “Fleatown.” Once-remote areas settled by predominantly male working men with coarse senses of humor leads to places such as “Squaw Tit Mountain” and “Stinkfinger Creek.”
- Sometimes the place name is only funny due to a personal interpretation (mine for example). An example is “Sandy Bottom Overlook” which might seem pedestrian, but when I follow it with my comment “Look, you can see the nude beach from here” it seems funnier, to me at least.
I hope this is of some value to you as you look at my map excerpts and comments! Yell if you can think of other reasons.