Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Meet me in Monkeys Eyebrow

It always used to irk me when, while watching some film or TV show made in the USA, the person speaking would qualify a place-name by the addition of a country e.g. 'London, England' or 'Paris, France'. I don't know why it irritated me so much. Maybe it was because I felt we were being treated like a bunch of dumb-arses.

However, my attitude changed completely when I first visited America and the reason why Americans do this became apparent. It's because the USA is huge - just Texas alone is nearly three times the area of the entire UK (Texas - 268,581 sq miles vs UK - 94,060 sq miles). It has several time zones. But, most pertinent to this story, it's thousands of small colonies that have moulded together into a nation. It's a fact that where colonists go, they take the place-names of their home country with them and they plant them in the New World. It's the reason why there's a Boston in Massachussetts and a New York (which, when owned by the Dutch, was New Amsterdam).  And because the colonists initially had no form of central government, there was no one to say 'Hang on, that name's already been used'.

There are 17 Clevelands in the USA. Therefore, it becomes important to add a further qualifier to indicate which one you're talking about. Is it Cleveland, Ohio or Cleveland, Utah? Is it Cleveland, West Virginia ... or even Cleveland, England?

America boasts 17 Dovers, 18 Kingstons, 17 Newports, 17 Winchesters, 21 Oxfords and 20 Manchesters. Top of the Pop(ular place-name)s is Greenville. There are 49 of them; three in New York State alone. There's a London in Minnesota, a Paris in Texas and a Birmingham in Alabama. There's a Cairo in Illinois, a Bombay in New York State, a Madrid in New Mexico and a Rome in Georgia.

So it's not too hard to see why Americans suffix their place-names; it's a matter of necessity. Here, on our tiny island nation, we've never had to do so.

Monkeys Eyebrow, Kentucky

As a footnote to this tiny ramble, I will also say that, because of the aforementioned lack of central government, the USA has some of the best place-names. This whole blogpost was inspired by my reading this morning that Charlton Heston was born in No Man's Land, Illinois (now part of the town of Evanston. Elsewhere, there's a Nothing in Arizona, a Cool in California, a Truth Or Consequences in New Mexico, a Humansville in Missouri, a Jot-Em-Down in Texes, a Boring in Oregon, and a Cheesequake in New Mexico. There's a No Name in Colorado, a Half.Com in Ohio, a Santa Claus in Georgia, a Peculiar in Missouri, an Unalaska in Alaska, an Accident in Maryland and a Monkeys Eyebrow in Kentucky. But my favourites are Why (Arizona) and Whynot (Mississippi). Or maybe Toadsuck, Arkansas.

Do you know of any better examples?

p.s There's a great list here.

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