Monday, February 6, 2012

Things I Find Fascinating: Peculiar, Preposterous, And Positively Perplexing Pennsylvania Place Names

Okay, so I've been pondering over this one for a long time, well before I started blogging. I have a friend who once lived in Pittsburgh, and he brought to my attention the preponderance of peculiar place names across the state of Pennsylvania.

For some reason (or probably for lots of various reasons), Pennsylvania seems to have a large number of oddly named villages, towns, and cities. I'm sure there's a long and storied history behind each one, which I won't go into detail to relay. This is just an observational entry, for entertainment purposes only.

Before I go on, I have friends who originally come from Pennsylvania, as well as friends who currently live there. This post isn't intended to offend any of you who may have lived, or currently live, in or near any of the places mentioned below. It's not your fault they're named what they are. I just find them funny, and fascinating, and in some cases frightening. And I hope you will too.

1)  Hyperactive Hyphenation, Or Just Plain Wishy-Washiness?  Apparently, the founders of these towns couldn't decide what they wanted to call the town, so they took the top two choices (or three, in some cases) and slapped 'em together with a hyphen in the middle, and – voila! – the town is named. I'm sure in some cases this was a result of two smaller towns or communities joining together to form one slightly larger town, but that doesn't mean they aren't still funny. Can you imagine having to write some of these as part of your return address when sending a letter? You'd either run out of room on the envelope or develop a wrist cramp from all the writing! Here they are:

Cornwell Heights-Eddington
Grier City-Park Crest
(and my personal favorites) 

2)  Biblical And/Or Holy Land Place Names:  These shouldn't be all that surprising, I suppose, as Pennsylvania has historically been home to quite a few Amish, Mennonite, and Quaker communities, among others. Here are a few examples:

Mount Carmel
New Galilee
New Bethlehem
not to mention
The Promised Land State Park
(okay, so that one's not a town, but it fits the theme, so go with it!)

3Sheesh! What's With All The "Sh" Names?  You've probably heard of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where passengers from Flight 93 caused their plane to crash to keep the terrorists on board from redirecting it to Washington, D.C. in order to destroy either the Capital or the White House on September 11, 2001. But there are tons of other "Sh" names among the many towns and cities in Pennsylvania. Here are a few of the more interesting ones:

Shamokin Dam
and the one I like best

4)  Tongue-Twisting Native American Names:  I really had to pick and choose with these, because there are tons of Native American place names scattered throughout the state. Personally, I think these names are beautiful – I'm totally not making fun of them. I just wish I knew how to pronounce them better. You give 'em a try:

and in honor of Groundhog Day a few days ago...
(if you don't already know, Punxsutawney is where the official Groundhog Day ceremony takes place each year; the groundhog who does or does not
see his shadow each February 2nd is nicknamed "Punxsutawney Phil")

5)  Blue-Collar Towns:  Pennsylvania has a long and proud history of being a center of industry in this country, with steel being its signature product. So it shouldn't be surprising that a number of towns throughout the state reflect that blue-collar philosophy. Here are a few examples I found interesting:

and probably not a blue-collar reference
here, but always a great name for a town...
Rough And Ready

6)  Mountain Towns:  Pennsylvania has its share of mountains, being right in the center of the Appalachian mountain range. So it's appropriate that the state also has more than its share of towns named after mountains. Here are a few (albeit redundant) examples, aside from the aforementioned Mount Carmel:

Mount Joy
    Mount Nebo
Mount Carbon
Mount Gretna
Mount Pocono
Mount Union
Mount Wolf
Mount Holly Springs
Mount Oliver
Mount Penn
Mount Pleasant
Back Mountain
Laurel Mountain
Mountain Top
and last but not least...

7)  The "Um...No Comment", Or "What Were They Thinking?" Department:  These questionably named towns, villages, and cities are, well, questionable. (Kids, cover your eyes!) I'm sure there's a good explanation for most of these...maybe...but I don't think I really want to know any details. So here – without comment – are a few of the ones "in question":

Pleasant Unity
Sugar Notch 
and, oddly enough, in the heart of Amish country...

8)  Just Plain Weird Place Names:   This is the portion of our show where I just can't leave well enough alone. I've held back most of my smart-alecky comments up to this point, but no more! So, in no particular order or grouping, here are the rest of the oddball place names in Pennsylvania I found, with the obligatory commentary. Proceed with caution. (Not really, just be prepared for unbridled dorkiness!)

King Of Prussia  (because "Queen Of England" 
would've just looked too weird on the signpost)

Upper Black Eddy  (ironically, there is no 
Lower Black Eddy, nor is there an Upper White Eddy)

Moosic  (this falls in the "Village Idiot Who 
Can't Spell 'Music' Named Our Town" category)

Glen Campbell  (which is, ironically, NOT named after the country singer)

Jim Thorpe  (which is, not surprisingly, 
named after the famous athlete and Olympian)

Skyline View  (which isn't really all that close to a 
major city, so it probably doesn't really have one)

Ritzie Village  (which appears to be in the middle of 
nowhere, and probably isn't all that ritzy) 

Paint  (an artists' community, perhaps?)

Pillow  (a narcoleptics' community, maybe?)

Forty Fort  (probably also falls in the "Village Idiot" category)

Economy  (everything's cheap here, or is bleeding – either way)

Lemon  (you might want to go the next town over to buy a car)

Scalp Level  (I'd prefer my scalp to be left on, 
not leveled, thank you very much)

Picture Rocks  (because they didn't know how to spell Hieroglyphics)

Manns Choice  (obviously named before 
the Women's Liberation Movement)

Meshoppen  (ooh, do they have outlet malls?)

Sunnyburn  (tsk, tsk, shoulda brought your Coppertone!)

Wilburton Number One  (not be confused with Wilburton 
Number Two, which just goes by Wilburton – haha, suckers!)

Holidaysburg  (woo-hoo! every day's a holiday!)

Slippery Rock  (be sure to wear grippy shoes!)

Railroad  (let me guess, trains used to come through this town?)

Effort  (well, at least they TRIED to give the town a decent name)

Bittersville  (this town leaves a sour taste in your mouth)

Distant  (you can get there from here, but it'll take a while)

Hop Bottom  (home of Peter Cottontail)

Peach Bottom  (home of fuzzy fruit)

Fruitville  (home of all other fruit)

Stillwater  (ideal for wading)

Falls  (ideal for drowning)

Turkey City  (popular around Thanksgiving)

Bird In Hand  (common on Thanksgiving Day)

Goheenville  (they have their own cheer built into the town's name)

Rural Valley  (well, at least they know their place)

State College  (unimaginatively named by someone who
probably didn't graduate from Penn State University)

Trainer  (you go here to get into shape)

Loyalsock  (in honor of the one that DIDN'T get lost in the dryer)

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