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Place names considered unusual

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Fucking, Austria. The village was renamed on 1 January 2021 to "Fugging"[1]
Hell, Norway. The hillside sign is visible in the background in the left corner

Place names considered unusual can include those which are also offensive words, inadvertently humorous (especially if mispronounced) or highly charged words,[2] as well as place names of unorthodox spelling and pronunciation, including especially short or long names. These names often have an unintended effect or double-meaning when read by someone who speaks another language.

Profane, humorous and highly charged words[edit]

In 2019, American comedian Jimmy Kimmel launched a satirical candidacy for Mayor of Dildo, Newfoundland, Canada.[3]

A number of settlements have names that are offensive or humorous in other languages, such as Rottenegg or Fucking (renamed to Fugging in 2021) in Austria, or Fjuckby in Sweden, where the name can be associated with the word "fuck".[2] Although as a place name Fucking is benign in German, in English the word is usually vulgar. Its earliest recorded use in England is within the 14th-century Bristol field name, Fucking Grove, although it is unclear whether the word was considered obscene at that time. Similarly, when they hear of the French town of Condom, English speakers will likely associate it with condoms.[2][4]

A german city sign of "Bößgesäß", with the reference to Böß-Gesäß, one kilometer away.
Exit sign of Bösgesäß ("Bad-Ass") with the reference to Böß-Gesäß ("Hessian-Bösgesäß") one kilometer away. The two districts are only about 150 meters apart.

Conversely, a number of place names can be considered humorous or offensive by their inhabitants, such as the Italian town of Bastardo ("Bastard") and Troia ("Slut", literally the female of the pig; the same name is used in Italian for the ancient city of Troy), the German towns Affendorf ("Monkey Village"), Bösgesäß ("Bad-ass" or "Evil-Buttock"), Faulebutter ("Rancid Butter"), Fickmühlen ("Fuck Mills"), Himmelreich ("Kingdom of Heaven"), which appropriately lies at the edge of the Höllental ("Hell's Valley"), Katzenhirn ("Cat Brain", nearest to Mindelheim), Lederhose (Lederhosen, leather trousers), Neger ("Negro"), Plöd (blöd means "stupid", renamed in 2009), Regenmantel ("Raincoat"), Morgenröte-Rautenkranz ("Morning glory rhombus wreath"), and Warzen ("Warts"), or the Swedish villages of "Porrarp" (in which "porr" translates to "porn"), "Mensträsk ("Menstruation swamp"), "Fittja" ("Fitta" translates to "cunt"), and Athol[5] and "Rövhålet" ("Asshole").[6] The Austrian municipality Unterstinkenbrunn and the cadastral community Oberstinkenbrunn ("Lower Stinking Well" and "Upper Stinking Well", respectively) can also be considered offensive by residents. In the Czech Republic, there are villages called Šukačka ("Fucking") and Onen Svět ("The Other World"), which are located 2 kilometres from each other.[7] In Hong Kong, place names containing the words "shi" (屎 – shit) and "niu" (尿 – piss) are common, and there are a number of place names actually containing profanities along the coast such as Gau Tau (lit. penis head), Ham Lun Kok (含倫角 – lit. "oral sex corner" which the character 倫 is a substitute of the profanity word 𡳞 meaning dick) of which the common names have since been changed to Shek Ngau Chau (石牛洲) and Yau Lung Kok (游龍角) respectively.[8] The name Kau Shi Wai (狗屎圍 in Cantonese – in which 狗屎 means "dog shit") was changed as it was indecent and could cause embarrassment.[9] In the United States, there are at least two towns named Cumming, a slang term for ejaculation (such as Cummington, Massachusetts), and the name of the town of Effingham, Illinois,[note 1] contains a minced oath for "fuck".[10][11][12]

Some place names are deemed to be offensive or unacceptable, often through historic semantic changes in what is tolerated.[13][14][15]

An example of this would be the once common English street name Gropecunt Lane, whose etymology is a historical use of the street by prostitutes to ply their trade. During the Middle Ages the word cunt may often have been considered merely vulgar, having been in common use in its anatomical sense since at least the 13th century. Its steady disappearance from the English vernacular may have been the result of a gradual cleaning-up of the name; Gropecunt Lane in 13th-century Wells became Grope Lane, and then in the 19th century, Grove Lane.[16] In the city of York, Grapcunt Lane (grāp being the Old English word for "grope"[17]) was renamed Grope Lane and is now called Grape Lane.[18]

A similar case was in the town of Sasmuan, Pampanga, in the Philippines, formerly known as "Sexmoan" based on attempts by Spanish friars to transcribe Sasmuan; it was unanimously changed into Sasmuan in 1991 because of negative sexual connotations associated with the place name.[19][20]

Swastika, Ontario

In Canada, the town of Swastika, Ontario, founded in 1908, adopted its name years before the Nazi Party adopted the swastika as a symbol or even existed.[21] During World War II, the provincial government removed the Swastika sign and replaced it with a sign renaming the town "Winston." The residents removed the Winston sign and replaced it with a Swastika sign with the message, "To hell with Hitler, we came up with our name first."[22]

In Spain, a municipality was named Castrillo Matajudíos ("Jew-killer Camp") from 1627 to 2015.[23] Matamoros (Moor killer), however, remains a common place name, surname, and even the name of several businesses in Spanish-speaking countries.

A few place names in the United States and Canada historically used the word "nigger", a derogatory term for black people. Over the course of the 20th century, many of these place names were changed because of the racist connotations of the word. One example is Dead Nigger Draw in Texas (named to commemorate the Buffalo Soldier tragedy of 1877), which was changed to Dead Negro Draw in 1963,[24] then to Buffalo Soldier Draw in 2020.[25] Another is Niggerhead Mountain near Malibu, California, which was changed to Negrohead Mountain in the 1960s and finally to Ballard Mountain in 2010 for an early African American settler.[26] Niggertown Marsh and Niggertown Knoll in Highlands County, Florida, named for a short-lived freedmen's settlement from the 1870s, were removed from public maps following a complaint in 1992. In Canada, Quebec decided in 2015 to rename 11 places within the province that contained the word "nigger" or the French equivalent, nègre.[27] An Australian island about 30 km north of Cape Grenville was formerly known as Nigger Head; in September 2017 the Queensland government stated that a new name would be chosen for the island, although a new name was never selected and the island remains officially unnamed.[28] In 2016, New Zealand renamed three locations which were found to be offensive: Niggerhead, Nigger Hill, and Nigger Stream became Tawhai Hill, Kanuka Hills, and Pukio Stream respectively.[29]

Likewise, there is pressure to remove the word "squaw" from place names, a traditional term for a Native American woman now considered derogatory. In 2003, Squaw Peak in Phoenix, Arizona, was renamed to Piestewa Peak, after Specialist Lori Ann Piestewa, a Hopi soldier killed in action during the United States invasion of Iraq.[30] In 2020, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe was renamed Palisades Tahoe.[31] Squaw Island, a small Island at the north end of Canandaigua Lake, was renamed in 2021 to Skenoh Island.

Name changes[edit]

Sometimes settlement names are changed as a publicity stunt or to promote tourism.

Kindai University in Osaka, Japan, changed its English-language name in 2014 from Kinki University (pronounced kinky which in English has a provocative meaning). The Japanese-language name of the university, Kinki daigaku (近畿大学), was left unchanged. The change was globally reported, though since its founding in 1949, the original name was not a problem within Japan. However, with the dramatic globalization of Japanese universities in recent decades, including the presence of hundreds of foreign students, staff, faculty, and visiting scholars on campus, the leadership of the university made the change in 2016, after deciding to do so in 2014.[32]

Waters, Arkansas, changed its name to Pine Ridge, Arkansas, after it became known that the fictional town Pine Ridge in the radio sitcom Lum and Abner was based on Waters. Now a sparsely populated and no longer incorporated community, Pine Ridge is home to a Lum and Abner museum.[33]

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, changed its name from Hot Springs in 1950, after the host of the radio program Truth or Consequences promised free publicity to any town willing to change its name to that of the show.[34] Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, changed its name from Mauch Chunk in honor of the famous athlete when his widow agreed to allow his remains to be buried there.

The former community of Clark, Denton County, Texas, changed its name to DISH as part of a marketing agreement with Dish Network whereby the town's residents (roughly 200) would get free satellite TV service from the company.[citation needed]

In 1997, the town of Gay Head in Massachusetts changed its name to Aquinnah.

In 1999, the town of Halfway, Oregon, changed its name to Half.com for one year after the e-commerce start-up of the same name offered 20 computers, as well as $110,000 for the school, and other financial subsidies.[35]

Saint Augusta, Minnesota, was for a short time named Ventura after the then-governor Jesse Ventura (whose ring name was in turn named after the city of Ventura, California) to draw attention in avoiding annexation by the nearby city of Saint Cloud.[36] The name was reverted to the original name after the crisis passed.

In the late 1990s, the town of Granville, North Dakota, agreed to change its name temporarily to McGillicuddy City as part of a promotion for Dr. McGillicuddy's schnapps.[37]

In March 2010, Topeka, Kansas, temporarily changed its name to Google, after the technology company, in an attempt to secure the installation of Google Fiber in the city.[38]

In August 1998, Topeka was renamed ToPikachu for the North American launch of Nintendo's wildly successful Pokémon franchise. The city was once again renamed ToPikachu for one day, October 27, 2018 for the launch of Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee![39]

Lexically unusual place names[edit]

Westward Ho!, Devon, England, is the only settlement in the British Isles to have an exclamation mark in its name.[40]
The railway station sign in the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll­gogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales, gives an approximation of the correct pronunciation for English speakers
Webster, Massachusetts firefighter's patch with the longest version of "Webster Lake's" name on its circumference

Unorthodox spelling or pronunciation, particularly short or long names, and names derived from unusual sources are often seen as unusual, especially by people outside the culture which named them. The Welsh village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll changed its name to the longer Llanfairpwllgwyngyll­gogerychwyrndrobwllllanty­siliogogogoch ("The church of [St.] Mary (Llanfair) [of the] pool (pwll) of the white hazels (gwyn gyll) near [lit. "over against"] (go ger) the fierce whirlpool (y chwyrn drobwll) [and] the church of [St.] Tysilio (Llantysilio) of the red cave") in the 1860s for publicity reasons. At 58 letters, it has the longest place name in the UK.[41] The body of fresh water in Webster, Massachusetts, that has historically (since at least 1921) borne the apparently Native American 45-letter/fourteen-syllable name Lake Chargoggagoggmanch­auggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is usually shortened, for instance on road maps, to using only the final six syllables from its "long form"; as Lake Chaubunagungamaug, or even more simply to "Webster Lake". The longest single-word place name in the world is Taumatawhakatangihanga­koauauotamateaturipuka­kapikimaungahoronukupokai­whenuakitanatahu, a hill in New Zealand.

Conversely, there are several settlements whose name consists of only one letter. A number of Norwegian towns are named Å. The name often comes from the Old Norse word Ár, meaning small river. Examples include: Å, Åfjord; Å, Meldal; Å, Lavangen; and Å, Tranøy[42] (also compare rivers named Aa). A village in northern France has been called Y since the 13th century. The Netherlands has IJ (Amsterdam), formerly spelled Y. The Dutch digraph IJ, although typed using two characters, is sometimes considered a ligature, or even a single letter in itself.

There are a number of place names that seem unusual to English speakers because they do not conform to standard English orthography rules. Examples are the Welsh villages of Ysbyty Ystwyth and Bwlchgwyn, which appear to English speakers to contain no vowel characters, although y and w represent vowel sounds in Welsh.;[43] Pychgynmygytgyn which also has no English vowels; Aioi, Japan; Eiao, Marquesas Islands; Aiea, Hawaii;[note 2] Oia, Greece; Oia, Spain; Aia and Ea, Spanish Basque Country; Ae, Scotland; Aa and Ao in Estonia; Eu, France and Ii, Finland, on the other hand, contain only vowels and no consonants.[44] Triples of any letter in English are considered rare; although the French Polynesian commune Fa'a'ā and its airport Faa'a International Airport both appear to contain a triple a, the apostrophe-like ʻetas represent glottal stops in Tahitian.[45][46]

Unusual names may also be created as a result of error by the naming authority. An example is Rednaxela Terrace in Hong Kong, which is believed to be the name Alexander but erroneously written right-to-left (the normal practice for writing Chinese in the past); the name has stayed and even been transcribed back to Chinese phonetically.[47]

Road sign theft[edit]

Large stone road sign, installed to deter theft, in Shitterton, Dorset, England.

As a result of increased notoriety, road signs were commonly stolen in Fucking, Austria, as souvenirs[48] – the only crime which had been reported in the village.[49] It cost some 300 euros to replace each stolen sign, and the costs were reflected in the taxes that local residents paid.[50] In 2004, owing mainly to the stolen signs, a vote was held on changing the village's name, but the residents voted against doing so.[51] Tarsdorf municipality's mayor Siegfried Höppl stated that it was decided to keep the name as it had existed for 800 years,[51] and further stated that "everyone here knows what it means in English, but for us Fucking is Fucking – and it's going to stay Fucking."[52] In November 2020, the council of Tarsdorf voted to have the village's name officially changed to Fugging (pronounced the same as Fucking in the dialect spoken in the region), effective 1 January 2021.[53][54][55]

In 2010, the inhabitants of Shitterton, Dorset, purchased a 1.5-ton block of Purbeck stone to place at the entrance to Shitterton, carved with the hamlet's name, to prevent theft.[56] A truck and crane were hired by volunteers to put the stone in place at a total cost of £680.[56][57]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ And the village of Effingham, Surrey, England, which shares its name with a railway junction, a hundred (ancient administrative district), and the famous admiral Lord Howard of Effingham
  2. ^ Aiea has an initial glottal stop in Hawaiian, which was dropped in English orthography.


  1. ^ Douglas, Elliot (26 November 2020). "Austrian village of 'Fucking' decides to change its name". Deutsche Welle.
  2. ^ a b c Pike, Steven (2012). Destination Marketing. Routledge. p. 230. ISBN 978-1-136-00265-6.
  3. ^ McCabe, Meghan (13 August 2019). "Jimmy Kimmel's sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez does Dildo – reluctantly". CBC.ca. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  4. ^ Lyall, Sarah (22 January 2009). "No Snickering: That Road Sign Means Something Else". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Town gets anal over ad mocking its name". NBC News. 10 March 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  6. ^ "Schluss mit Plöd! – Wie ein lustiger Ortsname zur Last wird". TZ (in German). Munich. 14 November 2008.
  7. ^ "Mapy.cz".
  8. ^ "Hong Kong's Most Offensive Place Names". 16 October 2013.
  9. ^ "大埔區地名修訂" [Tai Po District Name Revision Consultation document] (PDF). District Council website (in Chinese). Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Eff". dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  11. ^ The Effing House Family Restaurant, retrieved 19 September 2017
  12. ^ Charlie Amter (21 October 2008). "Small town Mayor to Ben Folds: We will bury you". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 September 2009.
  13. ^ Kenney, Michael (30 May 2006). "Geographer explores place names that offend". Boston.com – The Boston Globe. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
  14. ^ Adams, Guy (28 February 2010). "Americans redraw the map to erase 'offensive' names – Americas, World". The Independent. London. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
  15. ^ "Council lists banned road names". BBC News. 4 January 2009. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
  16. ^ Briggs, Keith (1 April 2010), "OE and ME cunte in place-names" (PDF), Journal of the English Place-name Society, 41, 26–39, keithbriggs.info, retrieved 7 July 2010
  17. ^ "grope – Definition of grope in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries – English. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012.
  18. ^ "Snickelways-YorkWalk" (PDF). VisitYork.org. Retrieved 1 June 2020 – via thedms.co.uk.
  19. ^ "Santa Lucia Church, Sasmuan, Pampanga". Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  20. ^ Jennings, Ken (2012). Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks. Scribner. ISBN 978-1-4391-6718-2.
  21. ^ "Swastika". Ontario's Historical Plaques. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  22. ^ McIntyre, Catherine (15 September 2017). "Why the swastika can't be rehabilitated". Maclean's. Retrieved 28 June 2021.
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  25. ^ Oxner, Reese (11 December 2020). "Why Do So Many Places In Texas Have 'Negro' In Their Name, Despite A Law Against It?". NPR. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  26. ^ Cholly. "From Niggerhead to Negrohead to Ballard, a Mountain Finally Gets A Decent Name". AfricanAmerica.org. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
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  28. ^ "Racist place names to be struck from the record in Queensland". Brisbane Times. 28 August 2017. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
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  30. ^ Fischer, Howard (17 April 2003). "Board renames Squaw Peak after Piestewa". Arizona Daily Sun. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  31. ^ Thomas, Gregory (15 September 2021). "Squaw Valley's new name is Palisades Tahoe. What does it mean for the region?". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  32. ^ McCurry, Justin (21 May 2014). "Japan's Kinki University changes its name due to awkward English meaning". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  33. ^ "NRHP nomination for Huddleston Store and McKinzie Store" (PDF). Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  34. ^ Carpenter, Cindy; Fletcher, Sherry (2010). Truth Or Consequences. South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 978-0738579177.
  35. ^ "What Ever Happened to Half.com, Oregon?", Design Observer Observery, The Design Observer Group, archived from the original on 21 January 2013, retrieved 30 December 2011
  36. ^ Helms, Marisa (24 January 2000). "The City of Ventura". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  37. ^ "N.D. town changing its name for shot at Schnapps money". Lawrence Journal-World. 13 February 1998. Retrieved 1 June 2020 – via Google News Archive.
  38. ^ "Topeka 'renames' itself 'Google, Kansas'". CNN.
  39. ^ "Topeka renamed "ToPikachu" for second time in 20 years". WIBW.
  40. ^ Owen-Jones, Peter. "A wild West country walk". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  41. ^ Devashish, Dasgupta (2010). Tourism Marketing. New Delhi, India: Dorling Kindersley. p. 246. ISBN 978-8131731826.
  42. ^ Rygh, Oluf (1901). Norske gaardnavne: Søndre Trondhjems amt (in Norwegian) (14 ed.). Kristiania, Norge: W. C. Fabritius & sønners bogtrikkeri. p. 23.
  43. ^ Rowland, Paul (1 November 2013). "14 Welsh Place Names With No (English) Vowels". Wales Online.
  44. ^ Eckler, Albert Ross (1969). "Word Ways". The Journal of Recreational Linguistics. 7–8. Word Ways: 146.
  45. ^ Smith, Patrick (22 January 2005). "Ask the pilot". Salon.
  46. ^ "Language in French Polynesia | Frommer's". www.frommers.com.
  47. ^ Cheung, Rachel (8 July 2016). "Stories behind Hong Kong street names: Rednaxela Terrace and its famous resident". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  48. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Welcome to Austria". Snopes.com. 31 May 2000. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  49. ^ Harnden, Toby (28 August 2005). "No, there are no F***ing postcards". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 November 2009.
  50. ^ "What's the F---ing joke?". The Age. 3 September 2005. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  51. ^ a b "Brits steal carloads of F**king Austrian roadsigns", The Register, 15 August 2005.
  52. ^ Haywood, Anthony; Walker, Kerry (2008). Austria (5 ed.). Lonely Planet. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-74104-670-0. Retrieved 7 November 2009.
  53. ^ Dallison, Paul (26 November 2020). "Austrian village of Fucking to be renamed Fugging". Politico Europe. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  54. ^ "Fugging Hell: Tired Of Mockery, Austrian Village Changes Name". Barron's. Agence France-Presse. 26 November 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  55. ^ "Kundmachung Gemeinderatssitzung" (in German). Archived from the original on 26 November 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  56. ^ a b "Sign Of The Times: Shitterton Hits Back". Sky News. 23 July 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2023.
  57. ^ "Village 'amusing' name set in stone". Belfast Telegraph. 23 July 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2023.

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