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How 10 American Towns Got Their Weird Names

The following is an article from Uncle John's Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader, by Kathy Kemp, author of Welcome to Lickskillet: And Other Crazy Places in the Deep South Plan to hit the road next summer, but don't know where to go? We don't mean to be rude, but have you considered Hell? Hell, Michigan, that is. (And you thought you had to drive south.) For a different kind of vacation, check out this tour of off-road America, where unusual names are the main attraction:

Photo: David Ball [Wikipedia]

1. Hell, Michigan

If you've always wanted to see Hell freeze over, visit this place in winter, when the Highland Lake dam often gets icy enough to stop the water flow. In summer, when temperatures are moderate, the town has a "Satan's Holidays" festival and a road race called "Run to Hell." In October is the "Halloween in Hell" Celebration. The town got its name in 1841, when George Reeves, an early settler in this low, swampy place in southeast Michigan, was asked what the thought the town should be named. "I don't care," Reeves said. "You can name it 'Hell' if you want to."

2. Slapout, Alabama

Oscar Peeples, the town grocer in the early 1900s, was forever waiting on customers who asked for things he didn't have. "I'm slap out of it," Peeples would say. This central Alabama community, north of Montgomery, is now little more than a crossroads, with a church, bank, barber shop, and the tumbledown remains of Peeples' old store.

3. Noodle, Texas

In the late 1800s, Texans often used the word noodle to mean "nothing," which is exactly what they found when they arrived at this locale near Abilene. Now there are two churches, a store and an old gin. For nearly a century, the population has held steady at about 40 people. (Photo: Jack Williams via TexasEscapes.com)

4. Joe, Montana

When quarterback Joe Montana signed on with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, a Missouri radio station urged the folk of Ismay, in southeast Montana near the North Dakota border, to change the town's name to "Joe." The sports-minded citizenry, all 22 of them, voted in favor of the change, and a new industry was born. In fact, money raised from selling, "Joe, Montana" souvenirs enabled the town to build a new fire station.

Photo: digitalhooligan [Flickr]

5. Lizard Lick, North Carolina

Since 1972, the residents of this town, 16 miles east of Raleigh, have held lizard races every fall to herald the farming community's unusual name. It dates back to the days when the area was home to a federally operated liquor still, and lizards were brought in to cut down on the insects. Traveling salesman noticed the creatures and dubbed the community Lizard Lick. Downtown Chicken Alaska Photo by J. Higgs - via Wikipedia

6. Chicken, Alaska

The village, in the Alaskan wild near the Canadian border, is named for a bird, but not the one you think. In the late 1800s, gold miners found a reliable meal in the abundance of ptarmigan, a grouse-like critter whose white feathers make it look, from a distance, like a chicken. When the townsfolk decided to incorporate in 1902, none of them knew how to spell ptarmigan. So they went with the look-alike Chicken to avoid the jokes of misspelled name would incur. Unfortunately, poultry jokes now abound. The town has a full-time population of about 30 people and mail delivery every Tuesday and Friday. There's a saloon, but no telephones or central plumbing. Incidentally, the ptarmigan is now the Alaska state bird.

7. Spot, Tennessee

A dot in the road about an hour west of Nashville, Spot was named by a sawmill operator who was always writing folks about business. One day, pen in hand, the sawmill operator sat at his desk, worrying over a letter from postal authorities wanting to know what to call the town. A spot of ink dropped onto the sawmill operator's white stationery, and the town had its name. By town, we mean a couple of houses and a ramshackle store.

8. Peculiar, Missouri

In the spring of 1868, Postmaster E.T. Thomson decided to name his town "Excelsior," but postal officials told him it was already taken. Thomson reapplied with new names, and received the same response time after time. Exasperated, he finally told postal officials to assign the town a unique name, one that was "sort of peculiar." Peculiar, near the Kansas border just south of Kansas City, is home to about 1,800 people.

9. Zap, North Dakota

A Northern Pacific Railroad official, in charge of naming settlements on the line, named Zap after Zapp, Scotland, because both places had coal mines. The city, about 15 miles south of Lake Sakakawea, encompasses one square mile and is home to about 300.

10. Embarrass, Minnesota

If faces are red here, it's only because the town - 205 miles north of St. Paul - is typically the coldest spot in the continental United States. The midwinter temperature often drops to -60 °F, and snow has been known to fall in June. The name comes from early settlers, who used the French word for obstacle - embarras - to describe the hardships they faced in the frigid territory. Today, the population is largely Finnish. They celebrate their thriving community with a Finnish-American Festival every summer.

And Don't Forget ... Think the preceding towns have nutty names? Here are some more: - Idiotville, Oregon - Knockemstiff, Ohio - Monkey's Eyebrow, Kentucky - Satan's Kingdom, Vermont - Toad Suck, Arkansas

The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader. Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!
See also previously on Neatorama: 10 Strangest Names EVAR!

@Johnny Cat : there is an article on wikipedia about that "town" and nothing on snopes. Looking for idiotville and hoax on google doesn't seems to give something either. Why are you saying it's a fake?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiotville
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My favorite odd place name is Fertile, MN. It doesn't sound so odd, until you hear someone say, "I was in Fertile over the weekend."
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As a regular reader of Neatorama, I knew one day my hometown's name would come up. Peculiar used to have a sign that said "where the odds are with you," but they took it down a few years ago.
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"Satan's Kingdom" - living in this place would be a perfect way to avoid the visits of my extremely religious and also very annoying aunt :)
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Another interesting city in Michigan:

Novi - pronounced "know-v-eye"

Was number six (No. VI) stagecoach stop. The name stuck (or no one around with imagination).

Then there's towns like Intercourse and Blue Balls, PA which can only be explained by the Pennsylvania Dutch.
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One of our neighboring towns is named Oatmeal.

http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/OO/hro8.html

I still giggle every time I pass the road sign...

--TwoDragons
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As a Pennsylvania native, one of my all-time favorites is the town of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, which is nowhere near New Jersey, let alone the shore. And then, of course, there are the famous towns of Intercourse and Blue Ball, but of course those things didn't mean the same thing when those towns were named.
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OMG, I can't believe nobody mentioned Honea Path, SC. I grew up there and whenever I tell people about it I have to spell it. There are several stories floating around about how it got it's name, ranging from the government being jealous of the Natives' "Honey Path" and changing the name, to a rail road conductor whose y's looked like a's. I don't think anyone knows the true story...
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It's not in the States, but it's still in North America: Dildo, Newfoundland. (Sorry, Newfoundland and Labrador.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dildo,_Newfoundland_and_Labrador
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I can't believe you guys overlooked Frog Level, VA - if the name isn't weird enough for you, how about that there are TWO Frog Level, VA in totally separate parts of the state!

Kermit Woodall
Managing Editor
GadgetNutz.com
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Why hasn't a town in Montana offered to change it's name to Hannah yet? Imagine the tourism from millions of tween girls and their parents.
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Canadian Content:

Spuzzum, British Columbia
Vulcan, Alberta
Dildo, Newfoundland
Pecker's Point, Newfoundland
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

and hundreds of others...
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Wow. Surprised no West Virginia entries on here...this place is a virtual treasure trove of bizarre names.

Tater Nob
Burnt House
Alum Bridge
Procious
Polemic
Onego
Big Chimney
Nitro
War
Pickle Street
Pinch
Paw Paw

And there are two roads in Lewis County alone with very bizarre names:

Bloody Run Road
Peter's Lick Road
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There are two towns in Iowa near each other, one named Manly, the other named Fertile. This is not significant until you get a headline in the local paper:
Manly man marries Fertile woman.
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What about Round O, SC?

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Round+O,+SC&sll=45.331875,-122.213287&sspn=0.806121,2.114868&ie=UTF8&z=17&iwloc=addr
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Joe, Montana, is one of the nicest cynical actions I've ever heard of! It's nice when a little sports celebrity exploitation generates a whole new Fire Station.

Also, when I visited Condom, in France, as a child, I couldn't stop childishly laughing. I still can't now...
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Travelchacha is a Travel Agent based in India Specializing in Airfares, Flight & Cruise Tickets, India Vacation Packages, and Hotel Reservation in providing great deals for your next vacation Holidays
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I'm glad to see that some people have been mentioning the oddly named town of Horseheads, NY; however, I'm a bit perplexed as to how someone that knows of Horseheads could not also mention the nearby and equally oddly named town of Painted Post, NY. Let's be honest, if your well versed enough in small Upstate NY locations to be familiar with Horseheads, you must also know of PP.
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There is no place in Scotland called Zapp. It doesn't even sound Scottish. It's actually a little hard to believe Zap MD exists, but it apparently does.
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Idiotsville OR.:

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=117171775344824820946.000453be96508bd457f4c&ie=UTF8&ll=45.621422,-123.43277&spn=0.030675,0.076389&z=14
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There's also an oddly named street in Louisville, KY--Penile Road. I think thye may have intended Peniel, a town in the Bible. The local broadcasters have to say the name with a straight face if they have to report on a wreck or crime there.
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How about Bald Knob, AR? My cousin from California nearly had a stroke laughing at that one when we passed the sign on the way to Jonesboro.
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Minnesota, Georgia, Michigan, Oregon and Kansas all have a town called "Climax". I'm guessing those cities have very good relations with the folks over in Intercourse, PA & AL.
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Forgot the one where my grandmother lives - Surprise, NY which is quite nearby to Climax, NY

not to mention that sexually tinged Intercourse, PA
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Not many Arkansas ones here, which is surprising. BTW, Toad Suck has an interesting story, with a huge festival every year in Conway, Ar. Toad Suck is an uninhabited place in the middle of nowhere (between Little Dixie and Conway, Ar)
Places in Arkansas:
Little Dixie
Figure-Five
Oil Trough
Buck Snort
Monkey Run
Turkey Scratch (home of 16 people, one of whom is in college in Arkadelphia).
Arkadelphia
Booger Hollow
Flippin
Hogeye
Greasy Corner
Yellville
Ink
Stamps (thanks to the mail system "Place Stamps Here" and the name came about)
El Dorado (long A- El-dor A-dough)
Blue Ball
Eureka Springs
Romance
Cabot
Blytheville
Number Nine
Hickman
Gosnell
Etowa
Wirth (sounds like worth)
and of course, one of my all time favorites,
Possum Grape.
I live in the state, and the majority of these places don't even exist until severe weather is around!
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Embarrass, MN holds the record for coldest official temp in Minnesota, -60F, about 15 years ago. There was an unofficial reading that morning of -72F.

Just down the road from Climax, MN is Fertile. Which gave rise to the joke newspaper Headline 'Fertile Woman Dies in Climax.'

We also have Nimrod and Savage.
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In PA we've also got 84 (written with numbers) and Jim Thorpe. Granted, the man was a phenomenal athlete, but who wants to say, "I live in Jim Thorpe."
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I'm so glad my hometown Horseheads, NY was not entirely forgotten. People usually snicker when I tell them when I'm from.

I think Beaverkill and Fishkill should also get honorable mentions.
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When visiting my grandparents in Alabama, not only did we go through Slapout to get there, we also drove through Smuteye and Blues Old Stand!
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I live in Slapout, Alabama and we are no longer just a little crossroads. We now boast 3 restuarants, 4 churches, carpet & tile store, propane supplier, hair salon in addition to the barber shop, a tire and auto repair, a massage therapisy, tanning salon, a video store, dollar store, drug store,produce stand, elementary, middle and high schools, and a small grocery store in the place of the old Peeples' store (which, by the way, had a dirt floor and only a screen door). Slapout has become a thriving lake community and is considered the capital of Lake Jordan.

I would be happy to send you some pictures for your article, you can reach me at livinon227easyst@msn.com
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@UpstateDubliner-

Shees, I can't believe I forgot Painted Post. I grew up in Corning, and my sister and her family live in Painted Post!

I guess familiarity breeds neglect.
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heheee I was at my mates house looking at her US map, we found an Eagle Butte somewhere in the middle- maybe S Dakota? If we ever going to the US we'll definetly go to sugarland in Texas! Hope it lives up to the name!

How did Bald Knob get its name?...
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@ DM I have a shirt that is from booger hollow, "home to 8 inhabitants, including a coondog". Oh, and lets not forget "Nags head" N.C.
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All the talk about Arkansas, and no one mentions Goobertown!!!! It's right down the road from Jonesboro. I'm sure the people that live there just LOVE that.
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So we are trying to name weird city names, and no one mentions,
Normal
Gaylord
Sinton (sin-ton)
singedface
Pottymouth
Grannysmith
Willywoo
or
Testtickle (test-tickle like testicle)
All in IL.
I have lived in Normal my whole life,
but just recently learned that it was home to the
states largest insaine-asylum,
which hasn't been in operation
since 1939,
but is still cool,
it is called,
Normal Peoples City Insaine Asylum!!!
it's true...!
Granted the current population
is 15 people,
and I hate it here.
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don't forget Mianus, OH near Cincinnati XD and Mianus, CT which Johnny Knoxville made fun of on Jackass i can't forget the joke "i can see Uranus from Mianus" XD
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