“Sorry, you’re from where?”
While in general, town names are more or less benign and uninteresting, there are many around the world that make people do a double take.
For the people who call these towns home, their name is either a blessing or a curse.
Morris Mandel once said that “a name is a blueprint for the thing we call character.” For the sake of these settlements, we sincerely hope that isn’t true.
1. Asbestos, Canada
Most unfortunate names evoke double-entendres and giggling; others evoke hefty repair bills, chemicals, and health problems. Once home to the world’s largest asbestos mine, this 7000-strong Quebec town has the excruciatingly unglamorous distinction of being named after a deadly chemical.
Sadly, Asbestos is technically no more, the town is trying to attract multinationals and ‘investing in Asbestos’ was proving a hard sell. It now goes by Val-des-Sources.
2. Boring, USA
The USA alone contains not one, not two, but three towns named Boring – in Oregon, Maryland, and Tennessee. The Oregon edition is best in show; named after Union soldier William Harrison Boring, the 8000-strong town is actually twinned with the village of Dull in Scotland, and Australian region, Bland.
3. Tomtit’s Bottom, UK
We’ve opted for Tomtit’s Bottom in Gloucestershire, but the UK is crawling with centuries-old names just begging to be taken out of context. Consider ‘Witt’s End’ in Essex and ‘Great Cockup’ fell in the Lake District.
4. Hell, Norway
An entirely pleasant little village near Trondheim, Norway, Hell has attracted international attention for its satanic title and the capacity for signposts and residents to use the line, “Welcome to Hell.”
5. Mistake Island, USA
The backstory is disappointingly mundane (it’s probably a corruption of ‘moosabec’, a native American word for Moose Head), but this small island off the coast of Maine still sounds far too silly to be real. Rumours that it will host Prince Andrew’s new royal residence are as yet unconfirmed.
6. Idiotville, USA
Perhaps the final proof that life can be stranger than fiction, this offering from Oregon is a former mining town-turned-ghost town apparently named because only an idiot would live there. A small stream runs alongside the ex-community – now officially termed Idiot’s Creek.
7. Santa Claus, USA
Named at a town meeting in 1856, this Indiana town has doubled down on its branding with landmark attractions like Frosty’s Fun Centre, the Lake Rudolph Campground, and Santa’s Candy Castle. For one month of the year, it’s a seasonal smorgasbord of wintry wonder; for the other eleven it’s … there. Pity the poor postmaster – come December the ‘Santa Claus Post Office’ gets a bit busy.
8. Humpty Doo, Australia
This Australian town eschews obscenity for downright silliness. We’ve never previously had to envisage what a hybrid of Humpty Dumpty and Scooby Doo might look like, and, on reflection, that was fine. Humpty residents have embraced their frivolous branding, and the town’s main attraction is a statue of a giant boxing crocodile.
9. Batman, Turkey
‘Batman sues Batman over Batman’ read an immortal headline in late-2008, when the mayor of Batman, southeast Turkey, attempted to sue Christopher Nolan over his hit superhero movie, The Dark Knight. “There is only one Batman in the world,” he continued, pointing out that his town’s Neolithic origins predated the 1939 debut of the caped crusader.
The suit did not reach court.
Have you come across any weird and wonderful place names on your travels? Why not share them in the comments section below?
– With PA
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