Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Milton Born With a Tooth"

The rather awesome traditions that accompany naming people among Native American societies is well-documented, even further than Kevin Costner's movie "Dances With Wolves". They are, of course, rich traditions, traditions that probably predate European surnames or whatever. They frequently produce names that are definitely awesome: evocative names like Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse or the awesome-name hoarder known as Chainbreaker, a/k/a Blacksnake. They are, however, on occasion giggle-worthy.

So it was in the 1990s when Canadian government insensitivity once again pitted armed Native resisters against RCMP officers over some silly short-sighted development plan that happened (oops) to damage, disrespect or eliminate a local aboriginal culture. This happens with ridiculous frequency in Canada. In this case, it was Alberta, it was a dam that would have flooded burial grounds, and it was an arrest for an activist named "Milton Born With a Tooth" (also written as "Milton Born-With-a-Tooth".

All due respect, etc., but just try to deny the awesomeness of that name. Go on, I dare you.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Butt Hole Road"

The phenomenon of place names (towns or roads) with inadvertently naughty names is one that's pretty well-documented online. Who out there doesn't know of that little town in northern Austria or the one in Newfoundland or whatever... It's a pot I won't dip into too frequently for the mere fact that it's too easy. You can easily find lists of rude toponyms, and for me merely to copy those lists would be dull and pointless.

But... you've got to love 'Butt Hole Road'. I love it oh so much for several reasons: First, 'butt' is pretty innocuous as a slang word anyway, and 'butt hole' is rather a euphemism for the genuine slang term, spelt differently as it is in the United States and the United Kindom, for the anus. Second, 'butt' is largely an American word anyway for the behind, so it's entirely possible that the residents of Conisbrough, Yorkshire only realised its inherent funniness years after Americans would have found it funny, had they known it existed. Third, even though the Wikipedia article talks about how the embarrassed residents of (the four houses located on) Butt Hole Road were so shamed by their street name (not to mention annoyed that delivery companies thought they were joking while giving addresses on the phone) that they coughed up £300 to have it changed to the rather blander "Archers Way", the Google Maps page still lists it by its good ol' name. Fourth, it's apparently just a few kilometres away from Scunthorpe, the awesomely-named town in England whose name causes all sorts of trouble with Internet obscenity filters because of the rather filthy word buried deep within... seek, and ye shall find.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009


There are some words whose inherent silliness gets lost to us as we repeatedly say them over the years. In effect, we get numbed to their inherent sillness. “Manhole” is certainly such a word. In case you happen to live under a rock or something, a manhole is a tunnel that goes from the road surface down to the sewers or whatever happens to be underneath the roads. Yes, it is a hole in the ground. Yes, it is designed for men to climb down (women are, I believe, allowed to use them). So 'manhole' is a very literal name for them. Charmingly so, I suppose.

Except for how silly and vaguely sexual the name is. Like, did nobody realise the snicker-potential of the name? Did nobody think it might evoke, say, the anus? Or was the word just coined in a different, tamer era?
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pitcairn Place Names

I have a fascination with Pitcairn. It just might be the coolest place in the world, and I'd love to go there sometime before I die. An autonomous nation dependent on the British crown, Pitcairn is about as remote as it gets. It's a single island in the Pacific. Population? 50. Fifty people, that is. Fifty people, one nation, one Google site (, for reasons I'll never understand. The whole place is too good to be true. The vast majority of the residents are the descendants of the Bounty mutineers, and pretty much the entire country was involved in a sex scandal a few years back. They have a full system of government, but with only fifty islanders... you tend to see the same names recurring again and again. They have their own language, Pitkern, which Wikipedia has a page about, including such selections as:
You gwen whihi up suppa? - Are you going to cook supper?
Ye like-a sum whettles? - Would you like some food?
Humuch shep corl ya? - How often do ships come here?

And to top off all of this awesomeness... there is the map of Pitcairn itself. It's not a big place, and since all fifty residents live in the 'capital', Adamstown, there's not much geography. But what there is is awesome by the acre. Sights around Pitcairn, important enough to show up on the map, include "Where Dan Fall", "Bitey-Bitey", "John Catch-a-Cow", "Oh Dear" and "Little George Coc'nuts". Just try to tell me that's not awesomeness in a nutshell.

This blog entry mentions in it.
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!"

First of all, it's not that surprising to find places in Quebec named "Saint-Someone-de-Something". They like their saints in Quebec. This particular one, however, has 'silliness' written all over it. Though there are a dozen groovy fake etymologies out there, based on all kinds of aboriginal languages, the simple fact is that the name probably comes from good old French, where 'haha' is apparently a word for 'unexpected obstacle on the way'.

So, Saint Louis of the unexpected obstacle in the way. Well, a big boulder in the road can test the patience of anyone, including saints, so I suppose that's all well and good. But what really matters is how somehow some stray punctuation turned the obstacle into a guffaw. Because (a) exclamation points in your community's name = awesome, and (b) belly laughs in your place name = double awesome. They seem to have crept in via cartographers unfamiliar with the 'obstacle' meaning of the word 'haha'. I suppose they saw the name "Saint-Louis-du-Haha" and thought, "these poor villagers have no idea how to punctuate onomatopoeia". Or perhaps not.

In other news: Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! is home to 1408 people, who are called 'louisien' or 'louisienne', the Louis in question is also shrouded in mystery, there is also a river, a lake and (most awesomely) a pyramid in Quebec named Ha! Ha!, the Wikipedia page for the town has pages in Hebrew, Welsh and Silesian, and, lastly, there is also a community called "Westward Ho!", avec exclamation point, in the UK.
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