Friday, April 17, 2009

The Naming of Places is a Difficult Matter. But Also, Funny.

Naming places – without constantly repeating myself - is one of the most hardest parts of what I do (more difficult than inking a map without trailing my sleeve in the wet ink, which, I assure you, is quite difficult). From the start, I’ve wanted to come up with my own names (so even if my imaginary places might have real-world equivalents, it’s unintentional), but coming up with new and interesting names isn't easy.

But I’m in a refill-the-creative-well phase right now, in need of fresh inspiration, and so I’ve been poring over atlases and books, Google Earth, web sites, every resource I can find, to get a better understanding of place names. I might go blind (have you ever noticed how small the print is in the index of an atlas?), but I’m having a fabulous time on the way, and I haven't even left the United States, yet (researchively speaking).

I was looking for inspiration, and oh, my, have I found it. In fact, no matter how creative I might get with my imaginary places (and I do my best), there are some place names I just cannot beat, just because they’re real. In fact, I’ve decided to incorporate a number of these real places into a new project, but in the meantime, some of them are just too good to keep to myself.

I could wake up every morning in Coffee City, Texas; Coffee Creek, Montana; or Hot Coffee, Mississippi, then head over to Pancake, Texas, for breakfast.

There are quite a few Sandwiches in this country, so if you don't like one kind, you can have another. You could join me in the afternoon for Tea, South Dakota, along with a snack in Cookietown, Oklahoma or on Rock Candy Mountain in Washington.

For dinner, maybe Cheeseville and Chili, both conveniently in Wisconsin. Finish your day with delicious Pie, West Virginia, and maybe some Eggnog, Utah, with a shot of Rum Center, Lousisiana, or Rum Branch, Missouri, which you could enjoy at Drinking Cove in Maine.

Yum Yum!

(Oh, Yum Yum? That’s in Tennessee).

I found a Dilly, Wisconsin, but no Dally. Topsy in Lousiana and Missouri, but no Turvy.

I think it's marvelous that Michigan has both Inkster and Parchment.

Welcome to Poetry, Tx
Originally uploaded by p2wy
There's Poetry, in Texas, and more than one Story, in Wyoming, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana and Mississippi (and of course, there's Fort Story, here in Virginia).

There are many towns named Welcome, but there's also Turnback, Missouri. I don't know about you, but I think I'd take their advice. And who lives in Cranky Corner, Louisiana?

Colorado has both Chance and Last Chance, just in case you need another one. Boost your chances in any one of a few Lucks and Good Lucks. Why not? I mean, Whynot, Mississippi.

But your luck might not hold out in Swindleville, Lousisiana. Just be on your guard.

There’s more than one Okay. And Enough, Missouri, which I imagine was named by a spouse who was tired of moving around. And there’s a town in Alaska called Unalaska.

There are more body parts than... well, there's a lot of body parts. Various heads, elbows, cheeks, legs, and so on. But as far as I can tell, there's only one Monkey's Eyebrow, where, apparently, the town sign keeps getting stolen.

There are many Devil-ish towns, but also a few Angels. A few Heavens, including Cowboy Heaven and Horse Heaven (plus, you got it, Hog Heaven), and also a few Hells. My favorite is Merry Hell, Mississippi, because if you have to be in Hell, you might as well enjoy it.

And there are a lot of pessimists in this world, but I’m happy to say there must be a lot of optimists, too: there’s not just Mount Joy, Iowa, and Felicity, Ohio, but try a search for “happy” and you get a whole lot of happiness.

It goes on and on and on. Comical Turn, Idaho. Hijinks, Arizona. Spasticville, Kansas. Bugscuffle, Tennessee. Smuttynose Island, Maine. Social Circle, Georgia. There’s not just one Wahoo, but four that I can find.

Plus, there are sad names, haunted names (Woman Hollering Creek, for example, with my thanks to WhyIsTheRumGone), mysterious names and more.

And like I said, that’s just one country. But I have a map to make, so I will let you do some of your own exploring. Wishing you happy travels, as always. (And when you get tired, you can stop at Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina.)

The Guides

Disclaimer: I haven’t double-checked all of these names yet, so I do not guarantee their accuracy, although I have confirmed a few.

Here are my resources:
As for other books:


Rowena said...

Those are great. I really like the Native American names, even if I don't know what they mean, they sound cool. Narrangset, Mississippi, Seminole, and of course, Manhattan, which I know means Hilly Island.

paintandink said...

I do too, Rowena! I'm thinking of doing a separate project later involving Native American names (according to the Nelson book, the name Adirondacks actually comes from an insult aimed at the Algonquians by the Mohawk - it means "leaf-eaters" and implied they didn't know how to hunt).

Anonymous said...

I am a proud resident of COFFEE CITY, TEXAS! I'm also a Firefighter for the Coffee City Fire Department. It is a great little town, great people, right on beautiful Lake Palestine. If you're ever in the area, drop by!


paintandink said...

I certainly will, Gage!