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Odd Place Names

I've spent half a century writing for radio and print (mostly print). I hope to still be tapping the keys as I take my last breath.

The name was coined in 1944 for the mineral springs in San Bernardino County, California.

The name was coined in 1944 for the mineral springs in San Bernardino County, California.

Pity the poor folk who live in Shitterton. Their tiny Dorset village won (if that’s the right word) a 2012 survey for the most unfortunate place name in Britain. Close runners up were Crapstone, Brokenwind, and Scratchy Bottom.

The Shittertonites (Shittertonians?) had another problem associated with their place name; pranksters kept stealing the standard name board at the entrance to the village. Who knows how many man caves have these mementos of a night in a nearby pub adorning their walls?

Villagers got so fed up with replacing the sign only to have someone else nick it again, that they took action. Residents contributed £680 ($900) for a new sign that is carved into a one-and-a-half-tonne block of granite that is set in a concrete base (below).

Steal that if you can.

Steal that if you can.

However, Shitterton’s fame was short lived. The 2016 poll of odd place names organized by comedian Chris Ramsey bumped it out of the top ten. Improbably, the winner was Bell End, which suggests a conspiracy by Bell Enders to rig the poll by multiple voting (or, is there some salacious meaning to the words that escapes the purity of this writer’s mind?). Second and third places were held by bona fides contenders, Brown Willy, and Boggy Bottom.

Names Down Under

Tasmanians have long endured being the butt of jokes told by Australians. These allude to close relatives getting a little too close and the shallowness of the gene pool leading to a certain amount of slow-wittedness.

But, what the island’s residents allegedly lack in intellectual brilliance they have made up for with creative place names. How about Pisspot Creek (Canada has a place of equally urinary provenance―Pisspot Lake)?

Isle of the Dead, Little Dismal, and Stinkhole, do not sound inviting enough to entice the visitor; file Horrible Hollow Gully, and Granny’s Gut in the same travel reject pile.

However, there is a place called Paradise that is just down the road from Nowhere Else.

To the north, on the Australian mainland, somewhat ruder place names appear. There are Lovely Bottom, Burrumbuttock, Intercourse Island, and Mount Buggery. Alan Budge in his book 1992 book No End to Walking records the naming ceremony of the last mentioned.

In 1931, one Stewart Middleton, perhaps not as fit as he could have been, had been hiking up labourious trails when he came upon another climb. He announced to the accompanying members of the Melbourne Walking Club, “What another bugger! I’ll call this mountain Mt. Buggery.” It stuck.

Mount Buggery in all its glory. Not to be confused with Break-Me-Neck Hill in Tasmania.

Mount Buggery in all its glory. Not to be confused with Break-Me-Neck Hill in Tasmania.

What Is It With Islands?

North to Newfoundland. The rocky island facing down the stormy seas of the North Atlantic is a rich source of colourful place names; Leading Tickles, Joe Batt’s Arm, Blow Me Down, and Come By Chance are examples. Some names are quite romantic; Heart’s Ease, Happy Adventure, Cupids, and Heart’s Content conjure up pleasant thoughts.

And, then of course, there’s Dildo. Nobody knows where the name came from except that it was not inspired by artificial penises. Visitors queue up to have their photographs taken by the signpost and residents find it a bit embarrassing. The people have made a couple of efforts to change the fishing village’s name, so far without success.

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On the Canadian mainland there are plenty of other odd place names. Saint-Louis-du Ha! Ha!, Quebec leads the parade followed by Punkeydoodles Corners, Ontario, Sober Island, Nova Scotia, and Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo-Jump, Alberta.

There’s a good reason for that last strange name. Ancient First Nations people used to drive herds of buffalo over a cliff there; a practice they kept up for more than 6,000 years. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Boring, Oregon is twinned with Dull in Scotland. There are also Borings in Tennessee and Maryland.

Boring, Oregon is twinned with Dull in Scotland. There are also Borings in Tennessee and Maryland.

Strange Foreign Names

There’s a town in Austria that keeps losing its sign post, just as Shitterton used to. Not surprising really because it’s a seven-letter word beginning with F that describes the opening sequence of events that leads to procreation. (Readers may wonder why it’s necessary to tip-toe so delicately around a word that is now in common usage. It’s because there are algorithms that, once they detect that word, get into a froth and banish its author to the digital equivalent of Devil’s Island, which doesn’t sound like a promising destination.)

The Locals Are Smart. They Refer to it as Llanfair PG.

There’s a village in the Netherlands called Sexbierum, which manages to combine three vices in one name. Also in Holland, there’s a hamlet called Rectum. Of course, there has to be an Arse somewhere, and there is; it’s a remote district on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. And, sticking with the proctological theme, there’s an Anus in Burgundy, France.

Another great wine-producing region, Armagnac, is home to the town of Condom. Virtual Tourist lists 18 things to do in Condom. Can’t imagine what the other 17 might be.

(As an aside, within hours of looking up Condom, France, an email arrived in my inbox with information about where to stay in that, no doubt, charming town. Big Brother and all that).

Bonus Factoids

  • Thailand holds bragging rights to the world’s longest place name - Krung­thep­maha­nakorn­amorn­ratana­kosin­mahintar­ayutthay­amaha­dilok­phop­noppa­ratrajathani­burirom­udom­rajaniwes­mahasat­harn­amorn­phimarn­avatarn­sathit­sakkattiya­visanukamprasit. It’s the official name for Bangkok, the capital. There are alternative spellings but the accepted one has 163 letters. There’s debate about what it means because some of the words have slipped out of usage and can no longer be translated.
  • There are several contenders for the world’s shortest place names. Y is a small village in north-eastern France. Å is on the Lofoten Islands north-west of Norway.
  • A small fishing town in the Philippines changed its name in 1991 from Sexmoan to Sasmuan.
  • Australia has some wonderful names borrowed from Aboriginal words. Wolloomooloo is an inner-city area of Sydney. Kooloonooka in Western Australia (population 46) means “place of wild turkeys.” Moonyoonookah is also in Western Australia. Oondooroo, Queensland confirms the notion that Australian Aboriginal languages are fond of the letter O.


  • “Welcome to the Hilariously-named Villages Locals Insist Are Lovelier than they Sound.” Daily Mail, August 14, 2012.
  • “Shitterton Doesn’t Make this Year’s Rudest Place Names List… ” Daily Echo, May 25, 2016.
  • “British Mapmaker Highlights Rudest Places in Australia.” BBC, September 6, 2016.
  • “Foul Bay, Banana, Nowhere Else, and other Australian Places with Weird Names.” Max Anderson, Escape, September 18, 2015.
  • “From Dildo to Dead Man’s Pond: the Stories behind Newfoundland Place Names.” Sue Bailey, Canadian Press, February 25, 2015.
  • “The Strangest Place Names in Canada.” Jackie Campbell, Cottage Life, undated.
  • “Condom Things to Do.” Virtual Tourist, undated.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Rupert Taylor

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