Skip to main content

Bad Names for Towns: Funny American Place Names

E. A. Wright lives in the New York City area, but the West Coast is home. Her passions include words, flowers, hiking, and music.

Welcome to a gigantic compendium of funny American place names. It's a long road ahead.

Welcome to a gigantic compendium of funny American place names. It's a long road ahead.

Weird and Funny Place Names

First, an advance warning to all past, present, and future residents of the many great American towns and cities that happen to bear unusual names: know that your fair city will be ever-so-gently mocked below.

Know that this is nothing personal; the unfortunate place name is not your fault. That's even if — in a hypothetical case — your great-great-grandmother had been the one to lobby to christen your town Boozin-Snoozin Alley. Know that had she had her way, she would have gifted generations of travelers and mapmakers with innumerable good giggles. Alas, she didn't, and there is no town with that name in the United States.

But there are still many other funny American place names for us to enjoy. So let us now freely honor the many pioneers, entrepreneurs, explorers, and scoundrels who did, in fact, manage to grace their towns and cities (and roadsides and hamlets) with names worthy of a second look, a smile, and a smirk.

One invaluable catalog of American places is the U.S. Census Bureau, which tracks the names of the largest cities and the tiniest communities. Place names are updated by the Bureau every decade.

For the detail-oriented, note that not all of the place names referenced here are actual cities. Some are tiny towns, while others are just smallish places — called census-designated communities — with no stoplight or mayor required.

A swift glance at the list shows that American place names — including the odd ones — fall into one of the following major categories.

If you visit White Sands in New Mexico, you'll see that the name is accurate. You'll also see signs for Truth or Consequences and Elephant Butte up Highway 85.

If you visit White Sands in New Mexico, you'll see that the name is accurate. You'll also see signs for Truth or Consequences and Elephant Butte up Highway 85.

What Do American Place Names Taste Like?

TasteNumber of places so namedExample

Bitter

2

Bitter Springs, Arizona

Sweet

13

Sweet Home, Arkansas

Sour

2

Sour Lake, Texas

Salty

16

Salt Lake City, Utah

Spicy

1

Spiceland, Indiana

Hot Beverage Place Names

BeverageNumber of places named for it

Coffee

7

Tea

1

What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get Place Names

Some place names are very matter-of-fact about natural surroundings. There's Twin Lakes (in six states), Three Lakes (in two states) and even Mosquito Lake (just in Alaska.)

Dinosaur, Colorado also falls into this what-you-see-is-what-you get category. It really is a place where dinosaurs (fossils, at least) can be found.

Sometimes, American place names draw on natural features that aren't merely seen with the eyes, but also perceived by the nose and the tongue. Maybe the well water tasted like diluted candy. (Result: Sweetwater.) Maybe something in the air smelled like rotten eggs. (Result: White Suphur Springs.)

It's interesting to note that Americans have named many towns after tastes they prefer in their diets. Americans are obviously inspired by sugar and salt, but have little regard for spiciness. There's only one Spiceland (Indiana) amid many sweet-somethings. Salt tops sugar in popularity, though, especially if you count towns named Saline or Salineville (six of them) or Salinas (just one in California.)

Reality-inspired place naming will only get a nod as truly odd when the local feature in question, say a rock outcropping shaped like a pachyderm, leads to a name like Elephant Butte. (That's in New Mexico, and, yes, it definitely rates as a funny American place name.)

Scroll to Continue

Read More from WanderWisdom

One-Word Place Names

Some of the most unusual American place names come from the choice of a single, simple, surprising, descriptive word. Examples include: Chicken (Alaska), Tombstone (Arizona), Airport (California) and Volcano (Hawaii). A place called Beach makes the list of funny names simply because it is in North Dakota.

And then there's Stamps (Arkansas). Any good philatelist ought to want to call that place home.

A theme in one-word names seems to be brains, as in Brilliant (in both Alabama and Ohio.) There are other towns called Clever, Bright and Smartsville. (Those are in Missouri, Indiana and California, respectively.)

My favorite one-word place name is Peculiar. (That's in Missouri.) But it's a close tie with Why, Arizona.

Where Is Paradise? Why Is It in Oklahoma? Only one of 15 American places named Paradise is in Hawaii.

Where Is Paradise? Why Is It in Oklahoma? Only one of 15 American places named Paradise is in Hawaii.

Places Named After Pleasant, Happy Things

"Heavenly" wordNumber of places named for it

Eden

17

Paradise

15

Heaven

1

Avalon

5

Bliss

5

Happy

6

Utopia

1

Promised Land

1

Places Named After Unhappy, Miserable Things

"Hellish" wordNumber of places named for it

Bad

1

Mud (or muddy)

4

Snake

1

Mosquito

1

Devil

5

Hell

0

Crooked

3

Names That Aspire to Place Heaven on Earth

Optimism is required when naming a place. You have to at least assume the community being named will stick around long enough to appreciate the effort and actually use the name. But there's a special, intense kind of optimism — likely mixed with some hubris and scheming boosterism — that leads people to name a town after the Garden of Eden.

Using only place names as evidence, it would seem that Americans are full of this particular kind of optimism. Towns named Eden and Avalon abound. And 15 different places claim to be some sort of paradise. There are contenders in a variety of states from Hawaii to Kansas, but places in California are the most brazen in making the claim. In that state alone, there's Paradise (a town), Paradise (a designated place) and Paradise Park (another designated place).

The namers of American places have even gone so far as to place heaven on earth. (That's Swede Heaven, Washington.) No town has been named after hell.

All this optimism makes Americans a little squeamish about broadcasting the truth of a place in its name. That may be why no place is called Often-Smelly-Flood-Prone Town. On occasion, though, especially out west, the truth of snakes and mosquitoes and other rough edges creep into the place names. Weedpatch (California) may indeed be a bad name for a town, but the name is fun and funny.

Where's the Money? Three Places Named Dollar

Names Inspired by the Love of Money

Economic wordNumber of places named for it

Sales (or sells)

3

Sellers

3

Cash (or Cashton or Cashiers)

4

Dollar

3

Industry

4

Bonanza

7

Enterprise

10

Prosperity

2

Poverty

0

Country Club

11

Places Named for Local Resources or Products

Name of resourceNumber of places named for it

Coal

25

Minerals

16

Copper

10

Lumber

9

Oil

6

Prunes

1

Names to Praise the Almighty (Dollar)

This may be my favorite category: the place names that humorlessly celebrate capitalism in all its glory.

There are numerous cities with names that advertise their supposed wealth in coal, lumber, wheat, corn, raisins and prunes. That's not to mention the many all-purpose towns named Enterprise (all 10 of them) and the much rarer towns named Success (only two of them.)

But remember that paradise-seeking optimism? The Successes may be few and far between, despite all those Industries, but no town has been named Poverty. And for all the towns named Dollar, not one has been named Cents.

No city has been named Broke or Busted. Instead, there's a town called Cash in Arkansas.

No cities have been named Generosity or Savings. There's only a Tightwad (Missouri). No town in named Greed, yet there are plenty of place names that seem eager to flaunt wealth and status. One gem in this vein is Aristocrat Ranchettes (a census-designated place in Colorado).

So how does wealth accumulate, possibly leading to life in one of the 11 places named after some variation of Country Club? American place names give quite a bit of credit to luck. The town of Lucky is in Louisiana, while Jackpot is in Nevada, of course. There are also seven places named Bonanza.

No town is named Hard Work.

Misleading Place Names

High Point, Florida should lead any list of misleading place names. The simple fact is that very little of Florida pokes up much above sea level. And High Point isn't even the highest point in the state. (That's Britton Hill, elevation 345 feet — barely topping the torch on the Statue of Liberty.)

Misleading names abound elsewhere. For instance, I would guess that Sublimity (Oregon) and Blessing (Texas) fail to live up their names from time to time. Most likely, so does Promised Land in South Carolina.

Pop. 101, but a Name Fit for a Metropolis

This category of place names might be better called delusions — or confusions — of grandeur.

The United States was apparently founded by men and women with overriding desires to copy foreign place names. The evidence: Paris is a place name in many states (including Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri) and that's not counting places named New Paris and South Paris.

Venice is found in Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska and Illinois, while Berlin is found in Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey and North Dakota. There's a Cairo in Georgia and six other states, and the name Baghdad is echoed in the communities of Bagdad, Arizona and Bagdad, Florida.

Some of these big names grace very tiny places. (See Misleading Place Names, above.)

Towns and cities only make the funny places list when they are named for an especially odd foreign place. (Babylon, New York made the list.)

Incredibly Unimaginative Place Names

Unfortunately, the vast majority of United States place names tend toward the bland: take Greenwood, Delaware.

In fact, in the entire state of Delaware is made up of so many blandly named places that the state does not even make an appearance on the following list of funny American place names. Even a state like Connecticut has Hazardville. (Missouri and Virginia win points here for refusing to skirt the boring place names issue: each has a place named Bland.)

Cities that were named after people also tend to be unimaginatively named. There should have been a limit on the number Smithfields and Smithlands allowed.

Sure, some people do have funny-sounding names, and some of those funny-sounding names have been attached to towns, but it's a little low call Lumpkin (as in Lumpkin, Georgia) a funny-sounding place name. There really was someone named Lumpkin, and there probably still is. Now, perhaps, if the town founders had added a little something extra to the name — say, Lumpkin's Hump — then it might have made this list. But they didn't.

With boring names, though, at least the people living in those places didn't completely waste the naming opportunity. There's no good excuse for No Name, Colorado.

Funny American Place Names: The Ultimate List

Something about the landscape of the Southwest seems to inspire adventurous place naming. Arizona has everything from Carefree to Six Shooter Canyon.

Something about the landscape of the Southwest seems to inspire adventurous place naming. Arizona has everything from Carefree to Six Shooter Canyon.

No American city is named Alligator, but just a little north of where these reptiles live, there's a town with a great name: Yeehaw Junction, Florida.

No American city is named Alligator, but just a little north of where these reptiles live, there's a town with a great name: Yeehaw Junction, Florida.

Scenery near Furnace Creek, California, in Death Valley National Park.

Scenery near Furnace Creek, California, in Death Valley National Park.

Roadside scenery near Tangent, Oregon. Don't miss the turn for Drain.

Roadside scenery near Tangent, Oregon. Don't miss the turn for Drain.

One road to Cape Cod leads through Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

One road to Cape Cod leads through Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

Seasonal Preferences

SeasonNumber of place names

Winter

20

Summer

26

All the Odd Names Are Here

Crazy, unusual, unique, and funny American place names are arranged alphabetically by state. Note that not every state made the list.

List and quiz by E. A. Wright.

Alabama

Allgood, Brilliant, Gordo

Alaska

Chicken, Livengood, Mosquito Lake, Red Devil

Arizona

Avenue B and C, Carefree, Chloride, Cowlic, Lazy Y U, Scenic, Sells, Six Shooter Canyon, Tombstone, Why

Arkansas

Bonanza, Cash, Delight, Flippin, Grubbs, Magazine, Smackover, Stamps, Yellville

California

Airport, Aromas, Country Club, Descanso, Furnace Creek, Goodyears Bar, Needles, Rainbow, Raisin City, Rough and Ready, Spreckles, Weed, Weedpatch

Colorado

Aristocrat Ranchettes, Bonanza, Dinosaur, Gunbarrel, No Name, Parachute, Rifle, Severance

Connecticut

Hazardville

Florida

Boca Raton, Burnt Store Marina, Christmas, Frostproof, High Point, Howey-in-the-Hills, Leisure City, Niceville, Paisley, Town 'n' Country, World Golf Village, Yeehaw Junction

Georgia

Between, Climax, Enigma, Ideal, Santa Claus, Social Circle, Thunderbolt

Idaho

Crouch

Illinois

Assumption, Bone Gap, Cave-In-Rock, Energy, Joy, Metropolis, Normal, Time

Indiana

Birdseye, Bourbon

Iowa

Cylinder, Defiance, Diagonal, Promise City, What Cheer

Kansas

Agenda, Home, Protection, Speed

Kentucky

Rabbit Hash, Science Hill, Stamping Ground

Louisiana

Belcher, Bossier City, Cut Off, Dry Prong, Lucky, Many, Plain Dealing, Start, Triumph

Maryland

Bagtown, Chance, Secretary, Shaft

Massachusetts

Buzzards Bay, Onset

Michigan

Cement City, Flushing

Minnesota

Cosmos, Fertile, Good Thunder, Staples, Thief River Falls, Welcome

Mississippi

Hide-A-Way Lake, Robinhood

Missouri

Clever, Fair Play, Fairdealing, Goodnight, Humansville, Neck City, Peculiar, Tightwad

Montana

Elmo, Hungry Horse, Pray, Wineglass

Nebraska

Funk, Hazard

Nevada

Jackpot

New Jersey

Buttzville, Ho-Ho-Kus

New Mexico

Angel Fire, Bent, Elephant Butte, Gallup, Loving, Pie Town, Raton, Truth or Consequences

New York

Babylon, Bohemia, Deposit, Speculator

North Carolina

Bald Head Island, Duck, Grandfather, Kill Devil Hills, Micro, Stem, Toast

North Dakota

Beach

Ohio

Chagrin Falls, Hide-A-Way Hills, Newcomerstown, Reminderville

Oklahoma

Bowlegs, Box, Bushyhead, Greasy, Hooker, Mutual, Okay, Scraper, Slick, Sour John

Oregon

Drain, Talent, Tangent

Pennsylvania

Emporium, Fairchance, Hop Bottom, Intercourse, Media, Potlicker Flats, Scalp Level, Seltzer, Smock, Trainer, Twilight

South Carolina

Cope, Coward, Folly Beach, Ninety Six, Privateer, Promised Land

South Dakota

Interior, Running Water, Tea, Two Strike

Tennessee

Bean Station, Soddy-Daisy, Three Way

Texas

B and E, Bangs, Bigfoot, Cool, Cut and Shoot, Dish, Groom, Gun Barrel City, Happy, Humble, Impact, Lawn, Mart, Muleshoe, Noonday, Point Blank, Ponder, Rising Star, Rule, Runaway Bay, Sanctuary, Scissors, Scurry, Spur, Tool, Uncertain

Utah

Bountiful, Helper, Hurricane

Virginia

Fries, Hurt, Wise

Washinton

Concrete, Dollars Corner, Humptulips, Spangle, Startup

West Virginia

Cheap Lake, Hundred, Pinch, War

Wisconsin

Butternut, Jump River, Strum

Wyoming

Bar Nunn, Reliance, Story, Ten Sleep

New York, the home of Wall Street, is also home to places called Speculator and Deposit. (Those are upstate.)

New York, the home of Wall Street, is also home to places called Speculator and Deposit. (Those are upstate.)

Nice List, but...

Maybe you know of an amazingly named town that was overlooked here. Maybe you know the real story behind how such-and-such town got its name and would like to enlighten us all. Or maybe the place names in your part of the world simply put these weak American names to shame.

Feel free to leave your comments below.

Related Articles