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« Online Writing Tools | Main | What to Buy After the Bailout »

December 15, 2008

Odd Place-names

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Late last week we visited Victoria, BC, taking the Victoria Clipper high-speed catamaran from Seattle. This service is convenient, but not cheap. However, given the current recession as well as it being the tourist off-season, we were able to get good mid-week rates for the trip.

Video is everywhere, including the passenger cabin of the Clipper IV. We saw a loop lasting 10 or 12 minutes, more than half of which was comprised of a number of promotional announcements. Mercifully, the balance was a computerized navigation chart showing the location and orientation of the boat.

A fun byproduct of checking trip progress was seeing some of the place-names along the route. Two on Puget Sound that struck my fancy were Point No-Point and Useless Bay.

I was able to look up their origins here. Apparently both are linked to the Wilkes Expedition that visited the area in 1841.

Point No-Point, named after a feature on the Hudson River, isn't much of a point when seen on a map and apparently is hard to discern when sailing as well.

Useless Bay is a real bay on the western shore of Whidbey Island, but lack of water depth at low tides makes it a poor place to drop anchor.

Such candor is nearly impossible in today's world of marketing and public relation spin, making such names seem so refreshing.



posted by Donald at December 15, 2008


When it comes to odd Canadian place-names, don't forget Sheshatshit -,_Newfoundland_and_Labrador

Posted by: Evan on December 15, 2008 3:16 PM

On a trip to Moalboal, a resort on the Pacific in the Philippines, we passed by Crazy Town and Stinky Town. Both names were actually rendered in Vasayan.

I asked the Karaoke Queen's family why Crazy Town was so named, but they had no answer. Stinky Town, which is right next door, needed no explanation. The chief industry of Stinky Town is fertilizer.

Filipinos have a very ripe sense of humor, and a love in particular of self-deprecating humor.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on December 15, 2008 5:11 PM

There's a tourist spot in NZ called Cape Foulwind.

Posted by: dearieme on December 15, 2008 5:56 PM

When a sales-lady in a Sydney tea-shop was encouraging me to buy some Dongding Oolong, she asked me where I lived. I had to tell her Dondingalong...and assure her I was serious. (Those challenged by local place names such as Yarrahappini, Willawarrin etc will be relieved to know that our central town is Kempsey and its main street is Smith Street.)

A nearby landmark is the Pub With No Beer. It's now got too much beer - and a boutique brewery - but once, long ago in the timbercutting days, it ran out of stock. This became the subject of a 50's song by Slim Dusty, "The Pub With No Beer". The song was such a huge and durable hit that the pub is now a major venue awash with the amber fluid.

Still, when travellers ask the way to the Pub With No Beer, very occasionally one will enquire if they have now got some beer in stock...or at least a little wine.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on December 15, 2008 6:42 PM

Newfoundland and Labrador has the best crazy place-names, most of which sound somewhat dirty: Dildo, Conception Bay, Blow-Me-Down, and Come-By-Chance, are just a few.

But Alberta has Smashed-In-Head-Buffalo-Jump, which is the best crazy place-name I've ever heard.

We Canadians are an odd bunch. :)

Posted by: Will S. on December 15, 2008 6:53 PM

There is a road here in Thomas County near the Florida line called "Moccasin Gulch". It has that name for good reason, too. What a return address that would make.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on December 15, 2008 7:12 PM

The southwest has got plenty of odd names: Dirty Devil River, Bright Angel Creek, Cohabitation Canyon, Negro Bill Canyon, Superstition Mountain, Bloody Basin, Waterpocket Fold, The Cockscomb, Weaver's Needle (this last known as Stallion Cock by the Apaches - Flickr it and you'll see why).

Some town names: Nothing, Why, Bumble Bee, Show Low, Notom, Moab, Truth or Consequences.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on December 16, 2008 12:44 AM

Isn't there a "Joe, Montana"?

Posted by: Matt on December 16, 2008 2:03 PM

Crazy Woman Creek, just outside Sheridan, Wyoming.

Posted by: ricpic on December 16, 2008 6:07 PM

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