Strange Place Names including Hell and Shitterton   Leave a comment


Unusual place names are names for cities, towns, and other regions which are considered non-ordinary in some manner. This can include place names which that are also swear, inadvertently humorous or highly charged words, as well as place names of unorthodox spelling and pronunciation, including especially short or long names.

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A number of settlements have names that are offensive or humorous in other languages, such as Fucking, Austria. Although as a place name Fucking is benign in German, in English the word is a profanity. Similarly, while the town of Condom, France, has no humorous connotations in French, English speakers will likely associate it with condoms, a form of barrier contraception. Hell, Norway, comes from the old Norse word hellir, which means “overhang” or “cliff cave”. In modern Norwegian the word for hell is helvete. Conversely, a number of place names can be considered humorous or offensive by their inhabitants, such as the German towns Affendorf (Monkey Village), Faulebutter (Putrid Butter), Fickmühlen (Fuck Mill), Himmelreich (Kingdom of Heaven), Katzenhirn (Cat Brain), Plöd (blöd means stupid), Regenmantel (Raincoat) and Warzen (Warts).

Some placenames are offensive due to their no longer being acceptable, often through historic changes what is tolerated. An example of this would be the once common English street name Gropecunt Lane. 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; Gropecuntelane in 13th-century Wells became Grope Lane, and then in the 19th century, Grove Lane. A similar case was in the town of Sasmuan, Pampanga in the Philippines, where it was formerly known as “Sexmoan” based on attempts by Spanish friars to transcribe “Sasmuan”; it was unanimously changed into Sasmuan in 1991 due to negative sexual connotations associated with the place name.

Fucking,_Austria,_street_sign_cropped

The frequently stolen traffic sign at the entrance to the village of Fucking, Austria.

Due to increased notoriety, road signs are commonly stolen in Fucking, Austria, as souvenirs — the only crime which has been reported in the village. It cost some 300 euros to replace each stolen sign, and the costs were reflected in the taxes that local residents pay. 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. Tarsdorf municipality’s mayor Siegfried Höppl stated that it was decided to keep the name as it had existed for 800 years, and further stated that “[e]veryone here knows what it means in English, but for us Fucking is Fucking—and it’s going to stay Fucking.” 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. A truck and crane were hired by volunteers to put the stone in place, at a total cost of £680.

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Dildo, Newfoundland

The place name “Dildo” is attested in this area since at least 1711, though how this came to be is unknown. The origin of the word “dildo” itself is obscure. It was once used to reference a phallus-shaped pin stuck in the edging of a row boat to act as a pivot for the oar (also known as a “thole pin” or “dole pin”). It was used as early as the 16th century for a cylindrical object such as a dildo glass (test tube), for a phallus-shaped sex toy, as an insult for a “contemptuous or reviling” male, and as a refrain in ballads. The name, then written as “Dildoe”, was first applied to Dildo Island, located offshore from the present-day town of Dildo. This use was recorded in 1711 and 1775, and the name was thereafter applied to the Dildo Arm of Trinity Bay and other local physical features. Social scientist William Baillie Hamilton notes that Captain James Cook and his assistant Michael Lane, who mapped Newfoundland in the 1760s, often displayed a sense of humour in the place names they chose, and were not above selecting names that might offend over-sensitive readers. Regardless of the origin, the name has brought the town of Dildo a measure of notoriety. In the 20th century there were several campaigns to change the name, though all failed.

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Posted October 25, 2015 by markosun in Uncategorized

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