Oh America, you have such a plethora of amazing town and city names that it’s sometimes hard to take you seriously.
Fun fact time: when I was simply a young Chris Collection-of-cosmic-dust (that’s an astrophysics joke for those of you out there. Nerds representin’, yo!), I used to learn US geography and place names from pro wrestling. Every week you’d find the touring carnival was in a different town in a different state, and it’s because of that past that I can claim so much knowledge today.
As the lycra bandits toured these United States, I discovered some strange placenames.
Hell, Michigan is one of the world’s most famously strange named towns. In 1841, local George Reeves was called upon as the citizens’ representative when government felt the need to name the place. He was asked what it should be called. “Hell! I don’t care!” he replied.
Joe, the boss of JoeCrazy would love this place in Montana. It was originally called Ismay, MT, but when the Kansas City Chiefs signed Joe Montana a local radio station asked the people of Ismay if they could change the name of their town. They weirdly said yes.
Lizard Lick, NC
Lizard Lick used to be home to a government-controlled distillery, and tried to avoid the swarms of flies that crop up around these sorts of buildings by bringing in a shitton of lizards to lick the insects out of the air. The name sort of stuck.
Don’t believe me that the people of Alaska are stupid? Well, for one, they elected Sarah Palin to public office. And secondly, they named their town Chicken after seeing a grouse.
It wasn’t actually a grouse (but it sure as hell wasn’t a chicken) – it was a ptarmigan, which early settlers saw in abundance around the area. They called it a chicken, and called the place chicken too (because they were slow).
I like this story. Local postmaster E.T. Thomson wanted to name his little slice of America ‘Excelsior, MO’. He definitely wasn’t excelling, because Excelsior was already taken. He tried a bunch of new names, all of which were rejected. In the end, he threw in the towel: “Give us a name yourself, then!” he cried. “One that’s sorta peculiar.” They did.
Don’t be shy about learning how this place got its name. It’s not, as you may think, because it’s full of timid people, but rather because it’s located in some of the most difficult terrain and terrible climatic conditions on the continent: ‘embarras’ means obstacle in the French language of the early settlers.