On a fundamental level, America is a weird country. But underneath the Elvis impersonators, the Juggalos and the Trump voters, there’s a whole ‘nother layer of weirdness: its place names.
From Intercourse, Pennsylvania to Buttzville New Jersey, there are hundreds and hundreds of tiny villages, settlements and ghost towns throughout the USA with names to make you wonder “why would someone name their town that”?
There are so many this article could have featured thousands of tiny, faintly rude-sounding polities with 200 residents. It turns out that a lot of the settlers striking out on their own in the New World were either, depending on your point of view, very bad or very good at picking names for where they hung their hats.
We’re not even going to pretend these are in any particular order, but please do enjoy some moments of true bafflement:
Monkeys Eyebrow, Kentucky
A tiny community in the rural south, there are several equally implausible stories featuring escaped monkeys that relate to how it got its name. Like a lot of the towns on this list, the truth is we’ll probably never know why some idiot chose this particular name.
Goat City, Tennessee
We can’t find any information at all on Goat City, except that something of that name exists in the state of Tennessee. Why? We will never know, and the goats aren’t saying.
Swede Heaven, Washington
It is unclear whether this community is a heaven for Scandinavians or Sweet Potatoes.
Spunky Puddle, Ohio
A ghost town, meaning no one lives here any more. Not even your mum.
Cheesequake, New Jersey
Pronounced “cheseh-oh-ke” in the local native American language, and meaning “upland”, rather than the more obvious “cheese shits”.
Three Way, Arizona
We refuse to accept in any way that we are scraping the barrel here.
Chicken Bristle, Illinois
Chicken Bristle, believed to be named for the cockfights the bastards who lived there 100 years ago used to host, is described by local news as “about a half-dozen homes, a radio tower, a bridge over the Kaskaskia River, thick woods, some stray dogs and a lot of farmland”. America’s mythical heartland.
Mormon Bar, California
This former gold town is funny because Mormons are teetotal and therefore don’t need bars!!
The following Wikipedia anecdote is the most exciting thing ever to happen in Choccolocco: “The community gained brief notoriety in 2001 when The Daily Show aired a piece on the Choccolocco Monster, a part of local folklore concerning sightings of a mysterious creature in the area in the late 1960s. An October 2001 article in the Anniston Star newspaper revealed that the creature was, in fact, local resident Neal Williamson dressed in a cow skull and a sheet.”
The name Humptulips means “hard to pole” in the local native American language, because the river was difficult to navigate on canoes. The author Terry Pratchett once claimed it was his favourite place on earth.
This is one of thousands of so-called unincorporated communities – settlements too small to warrant an kind of local authority beyond a mayor. Why you would want to live somewhere named after a crop-destroying bastard of an insect escapes me (see also Mosquitoville, Vermont)
Catfish Paradise, Arizona
While this sounds like a nice place to visit for catfish and humans alike, we suspect that, as it’s in Arizona, it is anything but.
Foul Rift, New Jersey
This seems to be a glorified campsite built in the shadow of a power station.
Booger Hole, West Virginia
Fun fact: after a spate of about a dozen murders in the area, it’s claimed that the town was named after the Boogeyman. This is apparently untrue, according to Wikipedia, where I did all my most exhaustive research.
Shouldn’t laugh, really, as this community is named after a tiny native American tribe.
There are at least three places called Egg Harbor in the States: one in New Jersey and two in Wisconsin, which, it should be added, are right next to each other.
Cucumber, West Virginia
With a population in 2010 of 94, you sort of want to ask why anyone even lives here in the first place.
Named for its first postmaster James Hare, who, like Jimmy Savile, had a habit of saying “now then”. Hopefully he was a nicer guy than Jimmy (hard to imagine he wasn’t).
Once upon a time there was a popular dancehall here with the same name (and that’s a “like” rather than “lick”, because Georgia is a god-fearing state).
Interlude: All of Texas
Everything is bigger in Texas; bigger and more stupid – a rule which 100% extends to its early settlers’ demented naming conventions. There were way too many to pick, so sate yourselves on this nonsense:
Bacon, Bangs, Beans, Bee Cave, Best, Bigfoot, Blackjack, Bluntzer, Bobo, Bootleg, Bugtussle, Cat Spring, Coyote Acres, Dime Box, Ding Dong, El Gato, Earth, Goodnight, Gun Barrel City, Happy, Humble, Hoop and Holler, Hornbeak, Knickerbocker, Latex, Log Cabin, Lovelady, Muleshoe, Nada, Noodle, Oatmeal, Personville, Point Blank, Raisin, Scissors, Scurry, Smiley, Snook, Spearman, Tarzan, Uncertain, Whiteface, Who’d Thought It, Zipperlandville.
Ninety Six, South Carolina
The real list of reasons for why this town of 2,000 people got it name is actually quite boring. That isn’t why it’s in the list.
We will be very interested to discover how Goobertown came by its name.
There’s generally a prosaic explanation for most names on this list, and Krypton is much the same. Rather than borrowing from Superman’s home planet, the town boringly got its name from the krypton gas bulbs that lit its station once upon a time.
Bridal Veil and Climax, Oregon
These two towns are at opposite ends of the state and have literally nothing to do with one another. We just found the juxtaposition funny, and we’re tired, OK?
The name probably derives from a pioneer called Godfried Franken, because the idea of goth towns had yet to be had in the late nineteenth century.
Boar Tush, Alabama
We can’t find any reason not to believe this town was named after a pig’s arse. Speaking of which:
Funny story: After a heated debate about what to call the community, one resident said he had seen a small hog on the road, which seemed good enough for everyone else. Settlers had bigger things on their minds, we guess.
Blue Ball Village, Maryland
Another one we’d love an answer to…
With a population of 4,137, Slaughterville, Oklahoma is a veritable metropolis compared with the rest of the odd-named hamlets on this list. It was named after a grocery store run by James Slaughter, but it sure sounds like a town the protagonists shouldn’t visit in a Hammer Horror marathon. There was amusing controversy in 2004, when PETA offered the town council $20,000 in veggie burgers as an incentive to have the place renamed Veggieville. The suggestion did not take.
Lost City, West Virginia
You must admit it would be quite cool to live in somewhere that sounds as though Indiana Jones once escaped it leaving only a trail of dead interns, even if, in reality it’s dead boring.
Almost certainly named after Worms, Germany, but it’s funnier in English.
Bald Knob, Arkansas
Named in more innocent times, when a bald knob could simply be a prominent ridge of rock lacking vegetation, without implying extreme manscaping or certain Jewish ritual practices.
Bumpass is named for Captain John Thomas Bumpass, which is too many innuendos for any one man.
Pie Town, New Mexico
Home to, among others, (niche joke alert) Davey Cameron, Pie Town, a bustling metropolis of 186 people, got its name from an apple pie bakery that used to operate there.
Satans Kingdom, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut
There are at least three places called Satans Kingdom in the US, one of which is, no word of a lie, a state-run recreation area. Even worse, two of them were apparently so hastily incorporated that they’re missing their apostrophes.
In May 2000, Virgin, Utah passed a law requiring every homeowner to keep a firearm.
This island’s name actually predates that of the mainland, but it sounds like a group of people went off in a huff.
There was such an epidemic of drunk husbands in the early days of this town, according to local legends, that wives would say they’d “gone to hell” instead of “gone on the piss”. So when they named the town, the mill owner said "call it Hell for all I care, everyone else does", which is surely the dumbest reason to name a town after what’s generally agreed to be the worst place in the universe.
Pee Pee Township, Ohio
Just imagine moving to the big city and having to tell people this is where you go home for Christmas.
Santa Claus, Arizona
Nothing says “Christmas is cancelled” like the fact that a town named Santa Claus has been abandoned since 1995. All that remains there are several vandalised buildings, a wishing well, and a pink, derailed, graffitied children's train.
Handsome Eddy, New York
Your guess is as good as ours for this hamlet in the middle of nowhere.
Sweet Lips, Tennessee
Water from a creek here was supposed to be sweet to the lips of passing Victorian hobos, or so what we assume the cover story is goes.
Residents of this charming railroad town are at constant pains to point out that it’s anything but boring. Clearly they doth protest too much.
Toad Suck, Arkansas
You can’t really pair two less appealing words in the English language, can you?
Castle Danger, Minnesota
Finally, an appropriate and sensible name for a town.
So named because a) two businessmen built their shops too close to the road, creating a traffic bottleneck and b) residents of the town that became Tightsqueeze, VA did not have much by way of imagination.
Big Beaver, Pennsylvania
“Big Beaver” lol.
McCool Junction, Nebraska
Another town named after a founder with a name that sounds weird to modern sensibilities.
Crab Orchard, various
There are five separate towns called Crab Orchard in various states. Obviously the name refers to crab apples, but we can’t shake our mental image of crabs in trees, you know?
Buttzville, New Jersey
Buttzville was founded in 1839 by Michael Robert Buttz, who must surely have been bullied at school, even then.
Sadly, this town renamed itself in the sixties to capitalise on a nearby national monument containing a bunch of dinosaur fossils.
Mary’s Igloo, Alaska
Rather sweetly, this is an abandoned gold mining community that built up around an igloo belonging to an Inupiat woman named Mary.
The story runs that a man – whose name, apropos of nothing, was Snowball Anderson – built a petrol station here in such an isolated location that the name Imalone stuck.
A man named John Looney had a shop here in 1870, somewhere even more literally in the middle of nowhere then than it is now.
Goofy Ridge, Illinois
Goofy Ridge has an amazing origin story, according to Passing Gas: And Other Towns Along the American Highway by Gary Gladstone:
“Years back it was just The Ridge, a camp near the river bank where moonshiners and other carousers met weekly to do their drinking. After some serious drinking one night, a local game warden said he wasn’t too drunk to shoot a walnut off the head of a volunteer. Naturally, someone was drunk enough to volunteer. The game warden placed the tiny target on the volunteer’s head, aimed his .22 rifle, and shot the nut right off. This caper was called by a witness “one damned goofy thing to do,” and the camp was ever after known as Goofy Ridge.”
Nearly 15,000 people live this town, which was once owned by Jonathan Belcher, making it hard to just turn up and start laughing at them.
Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey
This probably means something or other in a Native American language, but what’s funniest here is how weirdly protective the locals are about the hyphens and capital letters.
Once upon a time in this place, a preacher either advised a woman whose husband was cheating on her, or two women fighting over a man depending on which version of the story you believe, to “knock him stiff”. He was right.
Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, Massachusetts
A lake next to the town of Webster, this extra-long rendition of its original name was invented by the editor of the local newspaper in 1921. He claimed it meant "You fish on your side, I'll fish on my side, and nobody fish in the middle" in the Algonquian Indian language, but it probably doesn’t.
Ballplay gets its name from a game Native Americans used to play there to resolve tribal disputes. Stop laughing at the back.
Cut And Shoot, Texas
This is quite a cute one actually: a small boy who witnessed a major dispute at the town’s one church declared "I'm going to cut around the corner and shoot through the bushes in a minute!"
The logging camp that operated here was once said to be so remote that only an idiot would work there.
We can’t find an explanation for this one, but Onan is a dude from the bible struck down by God for quite literally having a wank, so…
Yeehaw Junction, Florida
The state of Florida renamed this tiny town from “Jackass Junction” in the 1950s, which goes to show that there are names for towns that even Americans consider stupid.
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Originally called Hot Springs, the town renamed itself after a popular radio programme, after its host announced he’d broadcast its tenth anniversary show from the first town to do so, which goes to show that plenty of Americans are prepared to put up with very stupid names indeed.
Either named after the junction between two major roads that intersected here, or for the (wholesome) fellowship and interactions fellow Christians would find in a tight-knit community like this, Intercourse is probably the biggest name backfire in US history, not least because tourists keeping nicking the roadsigns.