Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Town, by Any Other Name...

I love to drive. It's just fun and good thinking, plotting, rewriting-in-your-head time. It's good for the spirit, I think to just go somewhere.

Now, I'm not talking dash around town errands, I'm talking driving. As in three hours or more of straight, curvy, or downright mountainous open road. That kind of driving.

The only problem with it for an author, or any creative type I think, is that it's sometimes hard to stay focused on where you're actually going. The road I drove the other day to go meet friends for a plotting marathon was just so gorgeous. I kept thinking, "Oh, I'd like to take a picture of that!" or "Ooooh, look at the llama!" (yes, I did see a llama.)

What really got me though were the names. How can you not be totally distracted by a town named Fair Chance? Who got a chance? The settlers? And what made it more fair than where they'd been? You see how this goes with me. I wonder these things.

And then there's Cheat Lake. Is it named for the Cheat family, or did someone throw a cheat IN it and from there on, it became that "place they throw cheats into" and from there to Cheat Lake.

And the road names. OMGosh. Squirrel Level Road. Okay the visual images on that one are just hard to beat. Same with Pitch Kettle Road. Now I'm sure that originally this was the road where the locals set up the pitch kettle - which stinks - away from town and all that. However the mental image of people tossing cauldrons just won't leave my mind every time I see it.

Saltwell. Did someone salt the well or was the well already salty? Shade Hollow Road. Did someone see a ghost or is it just really shady and runs through a hollow? Ices Ferry. Did the family Ices run the ferry or did the ferry ice over every winter and get this moniker that way?

Sometimes when we put our reader hats on, or viewing hats for the movies, we shake our heads over the names people use for places. We sometimes shake our heads over the names for the charcters too. "Common Wisdom" says don't name them anything unusual. Okay. So how come one of the characters on CSI Miami is Nathalia Boa Vista? NOT simple.

I've recently decided to ignore common wisdom in naming the town I've created from thin air for a paranormal I'm writing. Oh, and the road names are going to be great. I'm stealing Shade Hollow, for instance. Ha!

What's the weirdest town name or road name you've run across in your travels? Is there a character name or town name you wanted to use that your CPs nixed? Share! :> I want to hear some weird ones....

26 comments:

Donna MacMeans said...

It's fate, I tell you the Roooster resides with me again.

There's a street not far from here called Raccoon Run. I love that one. I know there's more in the country surrounding town, but darn - I'm drawing a blank. Have to think and I'll be back.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

OMG! I thought my puter was broken when I saw ZERO comments, but Donna just beat me by a Mouse's Whisker!

Now there's a good name for a road...

AC

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Heehee. Yep. Both would be good. There's one on the route home to see my dad that's Oine Rd. I keep wondering if its pronounced Wine or Oh-in-e or what. :>

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

AC, I have to say a mea culpa to everyone, the post was quite, quite late. I can't even blame being on the road! Ha!

Nancy said...

Gee whiz, Donna, you're rocking with the GR. Congratulations! AC, better luck next time.

Is there really a Mouse's Whisker Rd.? A friend of mine lives near X Campbell Rd.

Jeanne, my mom was fond of the names of Jackass Flats (VA, I think) and Lizard Lick (NC, maybe). For sheer strangeness, there's Fuquay Varina, NC, home town of author T. R. Pearson, whose A Short History of A Small Place is just a hoot. It's written without chapters, though, so be warned that there are no convenient breaks.

I like to listen to writing tapes when I drive, but they frequently spur ideas, causing me to drift into the ether of imagination (though with continued attention to the road I hope). When I snap into reality, I've missed a huge chunk of the tape.

Anna Campbell said...

Donna, congrats on the rooster! He must like Ohio!

Jeanne, great post. I must say I find names utterly fascinating too. In Australia, we have some wonderful ones. Illawarra, a district south of Sydney, always sounds like the wind whispering through the gum leaves to me. Woolloomooloo, just down from where I used to live in Potts Point (another one! Although there really was a Potts) - try spelling that when you've had a few schooners of the local draft. Coober Pedy. The Bungle Bungles, a mountain range - doesn't that sound like God made a mistake, twice! One of my favorites is a tiny little place outside Roma in western Queensland. Heweah. Say it as two letter syllables and you'll see they really used their imagination on that one when they named it, although I'm sure it was true!

With characters in books, they usually arrive with their names as part of their characters. Which is what happened with Matthew from UNTOUCHED. He arrived as Titus, to me, he's still Titus. But everyone I know (apart from my classically oriented crit partner, Annie West) HATED that name. They thought it was Tittus or Tite-ars. There were TITTERS all round. So I bowed to the pressure and changed his name. Took me forever to come up with something else I could live with. I mean, he was TITUS!!! He wasn't Silas or Marcus or Magnus or any of a host of other names I came up with. Matthew was just the best alternative I managed. Maybe if I ever get to do the director's cut of UNTOUCHED, I can change Matthew's name back to the original!

Kelly Krysten said...

Intercourse, Pennsylvania would have to be the weirdest(and funniest) town name I've heard.lol.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Nancy, I've always loved Fuquay Varina - prounounced Few-quay Vah ree na, btw. Lizard Lick and Intercourse. Pumpkin Run and Pumpkin Center are two I'm very fond of as well. I mean really, did the pumpkin run? Heehee.

As you can guess, Nancy, I lose big chunks of time and any music or tapes when I'm driving.

Then again, I shouldn't really talk about town names. I'm from Boomer.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Anna! I love that! The Bungle Bungles. Snork. The Oooops mountain range, down in Australia...

Had to LOL too about Titus/Matthew. My heroine's name changed in Dark and Dangerous. SHe was originally Ehlana. E-lane-a. I didn't think it was that difficult. The Powers that Be, however thougth it was a sticking point. Heck, I'd call her "Fred" if they wanted me to, so we renamed her Dana. It rhymes w/ the original so it doesn't bother me much, but she'll always be Ehlana to me. :>

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Kelly, I remember Charles Kuralt doing a segment from Intercourse PA and everyone laughing about the name. :>

Oh, I just remembered another one - probably something Freudian w/ the Intercourse PA thing - I saw this one down toward Pensecola. Shiplick Road.

Um....yeah. The visual...

Christine Wells said...

Hi Duchesse! You left out the best name for a place--Snork. That is the name of your principal estate, isn't it?

There are plenty of interesting names for places in Australia, as Anna mentioned. Two streets I've lived in -- Binowee (let's not go there) and Ngungun, which the locals pronounce gun-gun. Contrary to its name, it's a very peaceful street. As opposed to Binowee, which sounds like something else beginning with p and ending in ful!LOL

Did I just say that?

Congrats, Donna! Jeanne tricked us all today.

Helen said...

Congrats again Donna

I love reading the names of towns and streets as I drive around as well one that I like is a place on the central coast of NSW called Kangy Angy I always think of kangaroos being angry when I see that one another one is a beach down south called Wattamulla (think I have spelt it right) great beach have no idea where the name came from I think it is Aboriginal. I know there are lots more but I can't think of anymore at the moment when I do I will be back.
Have Fun
Helen

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, numerous German town and street names caused great hilarity to my teenage self. All those words ending with 'fahrt'. Snork! Clearly air quality was an issue there.

Christine, your Binowee seems to have lowered the tone significantly! ;-)

I always get a giggle when I get a hit from a place in America called Hicksville. I'm sure it's a lovely place, but...

jo robertson said...

Great subject, Duchesse! Your thinking might be an occupational hazard because I do the same thing!

Donna, go, you!

We have a street here named PFE Road. Now, clearly it's an acronym for something, probably Pacific Freight something or Pacific Fruit something since my town began as a railway town and shipped lots of fruit via rail.

But I wonder about the "E" -- is it Express? Engineering? Elevator? Embargo? Heck, it could be Excrement or Ernest for all I know. You can't underestimate the sense of humor of our ancestors.

Now, AC will probaby know what "E" stands for, but I rather like contemplating the mystery of it.

Christine Wells said...

And I see you're happy to continue in that vein, Anna. LOL It might be difficult to believe, but the implications of living on that street never really occurred to me, growing up. No one ever said anything. Isn't that strange?

flchen1 said...

Hee! Congrats, Donna! Bok!

Jeanne, I do enjoy unusual town and street names, but we don't often do too much driving around in a leisurely way so I can indulge in that pasttime. When driving through towns I don't know, I do like looking for places that have the same names as people I know :)

Around our neighborhood, it's mostly either descriptive (i.e., Hillcrest) or nature-y (i.e., Arbor, Maple...)

Wow--how would you pronounce Oine? I see it and think hm... it's got to sound like "oink," without the "k" sound, right?

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Well, Christine that whole Binowee thing...I don't know! And Helen, I loved the angry Kangaroos. :>

PFE. Hmmmm. Sounds too much like BFE aka Bum-f**k-Egypt. I'd never read it without a laugh.

Hicksville. Yep, there's a town to be from!

Fedora, that's the thing about Oine, you hit on it. I think Oink for sure. Most of the names in my neighborhood are trees. Smoketree. Had to look that one up, it really IS a tree. But Devilwood? Bwah-ha-ha its the dark and dangerous place in sunny DC...

Kim said...

I always have to giggle at French Lick, Indiana. LOL Y'all know I have the mind of a teen age boy so that shouldn't be too surprising. And I like to joke that I'm from Podunk, IN but I worry people will take it literally *g*

Congrats on the GR, Donna!! Keep that little birdy safe in the midwest:D

doglady said...

Your chicken has come home to roost, Donna! Congrats!

Wetumpka (where I live) means rumbling waters in Creek. It is interesting that I have come to settle in what was the heart of the Alabama Creek Nation, as my maternal grandmother was full-blooded Creek. White water canoing is very popular in this area and the international trick canoing championships are held here.

Not 20 miles away is a town called Slapout. Yes, Slapout, Alabama. Natives of Slapout are very proud to hail from there and have the t-shirts to prove it.

When I went to grad school in Mississippi I saw some great town names. Hot Coffee, Mississippi and Tobacco Spit, Mississippi come to mind.

My mother grew up in places like Red Level, Pineapple, and Industry, Alabama.

The little village where I lived in England had the perfect name for the street where we lived - The Street. That was it. Our address was The Old Post Office - The Street - Kelsale nr Saxmundham, Suffolk, England. Isn't that a wonderful address. And the street where the Anglican church was? Church Street, of course.

I love the Australian names, Anna C. They evoke such a splendid picture of the uniqueness of the land where you live. And I have to admit that I was an adult and still got a giggle out of all the German street names that ended with "fahrt"!!

MsHellion said...

Hell, Grand Cayman is my favorite. I thought it'd be funny to say you lived in Hell, but the beaches are freaking awesome in GC, as is the Tortuga Rum.

Hell, Michigan is funny because it freezes over every year.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Oh, Ms. Hellion, I love that. Hell Michigan, it freezes every year. Now THAT should be a t-shirt! And Hot Coffee? Why would you name the town that?

Doglady, I love the Slapout. Some of my family is in Alabama and I've seen some of those odd names.

Grins.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Okay, again, I'm coming to the party really late, but I saw the shout out to Hell, MI & couldn't resist. I'm from Michigan after all & if you're going to talk about Hell, you have to include Climax (self explanatory humor there) & Bad Axe (which I always call Bad Ass because it's funnier that way.)

But up at my family's cottage, French road is the short cut to town, which always sounds just a little dirty to me, like French kissing, I guess. But then one day we were driving into town (on French road, heheh) & somebody happened to notice a sign for a street called Naylor. At which point, we all holler out in unison, "Naylor? I hardly know her!"

Anyway. French Road because unbearably hilarious for the next several days. Says something about my family, I suppose. :-)

Carol said...

Hi Romance Bandits and Friends...

Just a thought ...all the names of songs with places in the title... Key Largo, Baton Rouge,(viva)Las Vegas and more!

A town in Australia is 1770 or Seventeen Seventy...depending which map you look at! (named because Captain Cook ran aground there!)

Cheers

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Susan I was LOL about Naylor and French road. That's hysterical.

And Carol, I love that 1770 is the actual name of a town. And for that prosaic reason. *shakes head* no imagination! Heehee Or too much.

Its always also been a puzzle to me as to why you would name a town Red Stick. (Baton Rouge) I'm sure there's a GOOD reason, but the thought of what it might be is nearly as funny as naming a town red stick. :>

Keira Soleore said...

OMG! I'm dying laughing here. And how to explain that to my wee one who's questioning what the joke is.

Keira Soleore said...

Banditas, check out Susan's brand-spanking new blog and her gorgeous headshots.