Explore A World Of Funny Place Names
Maps are not traditionally known to make you laugh until you dribble. But it has been scientifically proven that if you search a map for long enough, you will find comedy gold. Here's the very best of our favourite useless but enjoyable things to know about funny place names...
Thousands Of Them
We've scoured the entire world for funny place names... mainly for our own amusement, but also so you don't have to. The good news is that there are thousands of them, dotted all over the globe with apparently no purpose to their existence other than making the good folk of planet earth laugh until they dribble.
The G3 Of Funny Place Names
In our pompous opinion, three countries can call themselves world-class when it comes to funny place names (as far as English-speakers are concerned): Australia, the United States and Britain.
Others may make the claim, but it takes a winning combination of quality and quantity for a country's funny place names to be immortalised on a Marvellous Map. Think we're missing a country? Let us know, we'd be honoured to hear your thoughts.
The Perfect Excuse For Swearing
Think of a rude word. Whatever it is, we can pretty much guarantee there's a real place - a town, village, street, lake, mountain, random geographical feature - somewhere in the world that has that word for its name.
The implications of this discovery are most gratifying: now you have the perfect excuse to swear your socks off, and get away with it. Fucking is indeed a town in Austria, and Twatt is most certainly one of two hamlets in Scotland... so you weren't swearing, you were merely reading place names off a map (albeit slightly angrily, perhaps).
And there's so much more. To discover and revel in the rudest-sounding place names from around the world, take a look at our Magnificently Rude Map of World Place Names. Careful who you show it to, though: it really is magnificently rude.
But it's not all about the rudeness! (Don't worry we'll return to that before too long). Meanwhile, here's a question of the utmost cartographical importance: can a country ever be summed up by its map?
Britain Is An All-You-Can-Eat Buffet
Britain has long been renowned around the world for its gastronomic excellence, and nothing proves this more than the smorgasbord of food-and-drink-related place names drizzled all over the scepter'd isle like droplets of balsamic glaze.
In fact, there are so many of them that they are almost impossible to enjoy in one sitting without suffering from excruciating indigestion. The good news is that we've researched the stuffing out of this tantalising topic. The result is our Slightly Overcooked Map of Tasty British Place Names.
Want to let your hair down?
Allow us to recommend some intoxicating destinations...
Find Your Happy Place
There are some joyously happy-sounding places around the world, but nowhere exhibits such a combination of quality and quantity of positive place names then the United States of America. Happy days!
Chat Someone Up With A Place Name
Oddly, but enjoyably, if you're short of inspiration at a crucial moment, you can always turn to a place name for delivering the perfect compliment, or spelling out your heart's desire.
Insult Someone With A Place Name
Place names aren't just useful for complimenting...
... They are also versatile enough to enable the delivery of a top-notch insult. (Again, with the perfect excuse).
The Obligatory Map Of Tasmania
It is highly pleasing to know (at least for anyone who has ever used 'map of Tasmania' to mean anything other than an actual map of Tasmania) that Tasmania possesses an enviably high concentration of funny, quirky and mildly raunchy place names. Available as one of our brand new downloadable Aussie state maps - see them all here.
But What Does It All Mean?
The curious among you (and you'd need to be fairly curious just to be here) might be wondering where all these place names come from. This is a topic that can rapidly and awkwardly descend into a netherworld of nerdishness, so we'll leave that to the real experts. However, here's some of the more fun stuff we've learned along the way about the origins of British place names.
It turns out that Twatt, the name of not one but two hamlets in Scotland (one in Orkney, the other in Shetland) is derived from old Norse and means something perfectly innocuous: a clearing or parcel of land. Almost disappointing.
On the other hand, Shitterton, a village in Dorset, really does mean 'farmstead on the stream used as an open sewer'.
You can't win them all.
For further reading, try A Dictionary of British Place Names by A. D. Mills (Oxford University Press, 2011). There you will find not only the origins and meanings of over 17,000 place names but also a strong bibliography, if that's your thing. He's good mates with J. R. Hartley, we hear.
See below for some of the more intriguing place names of Australia and the USA and where they come from.
The USA Has Some Truly Intriguing Place Names
Some intriguing American place names, and the strange and wonderful stories behind them...
10. Ding Dong, TX
Ding Dong was named when two early settlers in the town, brothers Zulis and Bert Bell, opened a store and had a sign painted with two bells on it. Underneath one bell the word "Ding" was painted, and under the other the word - yes, you guessed it - "Dong". Over the years, because of this sign - yes, you guessed it - this community became known as Ding Dong. (Reference: Wikipedia)
9. Smut Eye, AL
Originally called “Welcome”, this town was renamed Smut Eye, most likely because of the local blacksmith’s shop - where the young men would often hang out and as a result get dirty faces. This may be 100% true but we wonder if Urban Dictionary might have something to say about that. (Reference: Gallant, Frank K. (2012). A Place Called Peculiar: Stories about Unusual American Place-Names)
8. Tombstone, AZ
Most Americans are familiar with the town’s name because of movies, but not its origin story. Ed Shieffelin was prospecting in the hills in 1877 and his friends warned him all he’d find was his own tombstone. Instead he found silver and named his first claim Tombstone. The town’s first newspaper in 1880 was called Epitaph. (Reference: Gallant, Frank K. (2012). A Place Called Peculiar: Stories about Unusual American Place-Names)
7. Windy Passage, AK
Sadly, the origins of this wonderfully evocative and almost onomatopoeic place name seem to have little to do with what you're probably hoping. We have heard unconfirmed reports, however, that it is a nice spot for fishing, so if that's your thing, grab your rod and tackle and head to Alaska.
6. Waterproof, LA
Early settler Abner Smalley was standing on a dry strip of land, completely surrounded by floodwaters, when a steamboat came to the town dock to pick up supplies. The captain called out, “Well, Abner, I see you are waterproof!” (Reference: Gallant, Frank K. (2012). A Place Called Peculiar: Stories about Unusual American Place-Names)
5. Big Butt Mountain, NC
A summit in Buncombe and Haywood counties, Big Butt Mountain is no less than the 326th tallest mountain in North Carolina and the 26,361st highest mountain in the US. Quite some statistic. As for where the name comes from, Butt in this context is a corruption of 'butte', which as you know is pronounced 'byewt'... which may go some way to explaining the corruption. Possibly. (Reference: Wikipedia)
4. Lipps, VA
You may be asking yourself how exactly to get the phrase "lips, Virginia" into a conversation. We have been wondering the same thing. While you are pondering that profound conundrum, all we can tell you is that there seem to be more people named Virginia Lipps than there are available facts about this community in Wise County.
3. Peculiar, MO
The town sent name after name to the Post Office for approval, and all were rejected. Finally, the general store owner sent a letter to the postmaster general himself, saying, “If that won’t do, please assign a name to our post office. We don’t care what sort of name you give us so long as it is sort of ‘peculiar’.” Sometimes it absolutely does make sense to take things literally. (Reference: Gallant, Frank K. (2012). A Place Called Peculiar: Stories about Unusual American Place-Names)
2. Dingleberry Lake, CA
No real mystery behind this one. See what we did there? The natural lake in Inyo County, California derives its name from dingleberries on the buttocks of local sheep. Nevertheless, it is apparently a great spot for a-campin' and a-hikin'. (Reference: Wikipedia)
1. Humptulips, WA
Author Terry Pratchett's favourite place on earth, apparently. The influence can be found in his Discworld books (there's a wizard called Humptulip). The name derives from the local Native American name for what is now the Humptulips River, meaning - according to some sources - 'hard to pole', referring to difficult canoeing conditions. According to other sources, the word means 'chilly region'. Either way, despite - or possibly because of - the strange mental imagery, we have to agree with the late, great author: a wonderful and truly intriguing place name. (Reference: Wikipedia)
Australia Has Some Thoroughly Miserable-Sounding Place Names
A selection of Australian place names that tell of hardship and woe from the early days of exploration and settlement (and a few that just sound that way)...
10. Anxious Bay, SA
Named by Captain Matthew Flinders in February of 1802 as he charted the southern coast aboard the HMS Investigator, Anxious Bay actually makes you feel that way when you stand on the headland and look out across the exposed, wind-blasted sands and reef-infested, rip-dominated waters to the Great Australian Bight and Southern Ocean beyond. Next stop? Antarctica. (Source: Wikipedia)
9. Dismal Dingle, NSW
English explorer and botanist George Caley was about ready to pack it in when he named this deep, narrow cleft of misery in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in 1804. In attempting to cross the mountains to reach the fertile plains beyond, Caley and his men often managed as little as three miles a day, so treacherous was the weather and terrain. “It put me in mind of looking down a coal-pit,” wrote Caley in his journal, “where frogs and toads made such a hideous noise that I was induced to call it Dismal Dingle.” (Source: The Alan Cunningham Project)
8. Cape Catastrophe, SA
Another tremendous naming effort by Captain Flinders, who was not having a good time of it in February 1802. This time, he essentially sent eight crew members to their deaths in search of potable water. The small craft they set out in capsized, all hands were lost, and so the headland at the southeastern tip of the Jussieu Peninsula gained its grisly name. (Source: Wikipedia)
7. Belches Foul Ground, WA
A grim patch of rock just off the coast of Albany in WA’s far southwest, Belches Foul Ground stands out as a wonderfully vivid piece of naming – especially since it’s so close to the spectacularly insightful “Sharp Point” and “Sandy Beach”.
6. Useless Loop, WA
This circular road on WA’s northwest coast was named after the nearby Useless Inlet, which got its name when French explorers were prevented from reaching land due to a pesky offshore sandbar in 1802. They marked the waters “inutile” (French for “useless”) before sulkily sailing on past Shark Bay – or Baie des Chiens-Marins (“bay of the marine dogs”). (Source: Wikipedia)
5. Bastard Bore, NT
Although this sounds like that person you get trapped in conversation with, chances are it’s named for a tree. After all, there’s little else to be found in this arid region east of Alice Springs but seasonally dry creek beds and the occasional hardy Eucalyptus coolabah tree – one subspecies of which is called, you guessed it, the Bastard Coolabah.
4. Bullshit Hill, SA
An unofficial variant name for Magnetic Hill in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges (that man again), Bullshit Hill is so called because it’s one of a handful of “gravity hills” to be found in Australia. That’s where the surrounding terrain is laid out in such a way that a slightly downhill road actually appears to slope upwards, so you get the optical illusion of your parked car gently rolling up the hill.
3. Melancholy Waterhole, Qld
Nothing against the hardworking jackaroo who probably named most of the natural features in this remote, sun-blasted, southwestern corner of Queensland – but the fact that Melancholy Waterhole is just 6km from Little Weaner Waterhole is what you might call a suspicious coincidence.
2. Hitler Waterhole, WA
Of all the Aussie place names that make you throw up your hands and say, “What on earth were they thinking!?”, this tiny body of water in WA’s remote Kimberley region absolutely takes the cake in the negativity stakes. Rounding out the oppressive dictators’ club, we also have Stalin Creek in the Northern Territory, and Mussolini Bore in WA.
1. Son Of A Bitch Spur, Vic
Take a gander at the names of the natural features within cooee of Son Of A Bitch Spur in eastern Victoria and you begin to grasp what the early explorers were up against: Mt Terrible, Mt Despair, Devil’s Staircase, Mt Buggery, The Razor, The Terrible Hollow. Each and every name is a mapmaker’s cry for help.
That’s our top ten, but there were so many other contenders, like Hell Hole Creek (Qld), Mount Disappointment (Vic), Ugly Creek (Qld) and Big Stinking Lagoon (NT).
Let's Get It On
(An international comparison)
It's an utterly useless but enjoyable fact that you can plan, if your heart desires it, a romantic and / or raunchy road trip across each of Britain, the USA and Australia. (So why the train? It's a sleeper, obviously! Choo choo!)
The Great Knobs Of Australia
Did you know... that every country has its own unique telltale place name? A word with meaning beyond the simply geographic, that crops up again and again (so to speak) and causes mild chortling wherever it appears.
In Australia, it's Knobs. They're absolutely everywhere. You can't move for Knobs. It's a complete Knobfest...
Britain's Glorious Bottoms
One of the less well-known, but no less significant, hallmarks of Britain - England in particular - is a sensational preponderance of Bottoms. Cast your eye over large swathes of the green and pleasant land, and you'll find before too long that it is absolutely festooned with Bottoms.
The mind boggles when realising this is only a fraction of the total number of Bottoms in existence in Britain. There are so many, in fact, that we spent many months in the field researching the topic with the enthusiasm of emboldened truffle pigs. The results were the subject of a highly technical academic paper submitted to the Royal Geographic Society for their consideration in 2015, but which for some mystery they "never received".
Anyhow, despite that great loss to academia, we also created a cartographic work summarising our findings in pictorial form, in an attempt to bridge that awkward gap between specialist and layman, and bring Bottoms to the masses. The result is our Rather Cheeky Map of Great British Bottoms.
It remains one of our most important contributions to furthering the knowledge of the human race.
America's Multiple Climaxes
Apparently they have more fun in the east and midwest.
And did you know that two of these charming little towns are in states where there's also an Intercourse?
Practical Uses For Place Names #972
Although 99.999% of the population may be content with awesome, OMG and WTF, when you're in need of a damn good and slightly more original exclamation, look no further than your nearest map...
The Lost Art Of Naming Places
A place name doesn't always need to be sensational to be funny. There are only so many Boobs, Bottoms and Twatts to be found on a map before you become wholly indifferent. But a nice obvious or unambitious place name can be a joy to behold.
In Britain, Goonhilly Downs (Cornwall) effectively means 'hilly hilly hills'. Treforest (Wales) nicely spells out what you can expect to find there, and Dead Man's Grave (Cambridgeshire) helpfully rules out any other category of grave that prospective visitors may have imagined... wonderful, life-affirming stuff.
The USA, meanwhile, seems to have a monopoly on unambitious place names - a few Bor(e)ings, a Soso, an Ordinary and a Normal all get the pulse racing. Having said that, there is apparently a tripartite arrangement of a most serious nature between Dull (Scotland), Boring (Oregon, USA) and Bland (Australia) who seem to be making lemonade out of their shared lemon.
Australia, however, is a world leader when it comes to naming places. Great Sandy Desert, Wet Bay and Sandy Beach all hold up very well under intense scrutiny. And then there's Well It Wasn't There Last Year Cave, and Watchamacallit Dam.. and you have to ask what, in the name of all that's holy, is not to like about that? Not much, in our humble and most unimaginative opinion.
Did you know that all over the English-speaking world there are places, often hills or mountains, named after boobs? Well, now you do.
(And some places that have nothing to do with boobs, other than sounding like they should.)
And The Best Part?
Did you know that many countries have an official, publicly accessible database containing every place name in that country. Type a rude word into the USA's place name database. Or Australia's. For the UK, try this - the best free place name database (based on Ordnance Survey data, the very best). Government-endorsed fun!
Thousands Of Funny Place Names - Mapped!
Nothing to do with us, of course, but it's a true classic, a book to quote from and laugh at often. The original 'fun with place names' idea.
"In life and, indeed, in liff, there are many hundreds of common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognize, but for which no words exist.
On the other hand, the world is littered with thousands of spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places. Our job, as we see it, is to get these words down off the signposts and into the mouths of babes and sucklings and so on, where they can start earning their keep in everyday conversation and make a more positive contribution to society."
- Preface to the original 1983 edition
If you've read this far you probably know this already: saying place names out loud can be a lot of fun.
Still not sure what all the fuss is about? Ludicrously, our maps have even had some attention from the media. Browse the best of it here...