Manly Men, Fertile Women, and Weird Town Names

If Shakespeare could have Juliet wondering “what’s in a name?” then surely the residents of Booger Hole, West Virginia, can do the same. More to the point, maybe they should question who in the world christened their town with such a title.
A group called Estately searched maps of the 50 states to identify what they call “the most oddly named town” in each state. I’d heard about Santa Claus, Indiana, because its post office gets thousands of “Dear Santa” letters every December. Maybe folks from Ding Dong, Texas, have written to ask Kris Kringle to bring their town a new name. Or it could be that the residents of Boring, Oregon, petitioned Santa for a bit of action.
The names on the list make us wonder how towns get christened. We all know New York is the Brits’ way of sticking it to the Dutch who had called it New Amsterdam, and it probably only needed a quick sip from a desert water hole for some pioneer to proclaim Salt Lake City as the proper moniker.  But (or is it butt?) who decided on the name Kiester for a town in Minnesota? A recent commercial for hemorrhoid medication features a Kiester local on a bike urging viewers to get comfortable with the name and the medicine.
My own hometown—Zearing, Iowa—was named after Judge Zearing, a man who actually never set foot in the town. The 554 residents don’t seem to mind, but they might be peeved that another rural town—Zwingle—edged them out of the last-in-the-alphabet honors. Zwingle sounds like a bad candy bar or a smartphone app that is certain to steal your identity.
On the Estately list of odd names, only a few towns seem to come from individuals wanting a namesake for posterity. Handsome Eddy, New York, seems a bit vain. Bald Head, Maine, is probably realistic, but Big Bottom, Washington, seems a bit too honest—maybe it’s a namesake for posterior.
My favorite local headline comes from two small towns in north central Iowa. The legend seems to be true: when the groom from Manly married his bride from the nearby town of Fertile, the headline was “Manly Man Marries Fertile Woman.” Supposedly, they named their child after another nearby town—Joice. I believe that town was named after a banker, so that basically bankrupts the headline interest for those of us wanting to borrow more horrible puns from the family names.
Some town names might be awkward, but maybe we should celebrate creativity—we have enough Springfields and Riversides already. As one Iowa town’s name proclaims, “What Cheer.” And a town in North Carolina confirms it with its name, “Whynot.”
by dan gogerty (map from

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