Morris Mandel once said, “A name is a blueprint for the thing we call character.” For the sake of these strangely styled settlements, we sincerely hope that isn’t true…
Most unfortunate names evoke giggling and double entendres – others evoke hefty repair bills, chemicals, and health problems. Once home to the world’s largest asbestos mine, this 7,000-strong Quebec town has the excruciatingly unglamorous distinction of being named after a deadly chemical. Sadly, Asbestos may not be long for this world, as the town is trying to attract multinationals and ‘investing in Asbestos’ is proving a hard sell. The town is set to get a new name this year.
The USA alone contains not one, not two, but three towns named Boring – in Oregon, Maryland, and Tennessee. The Oregon edition is best in show. Named after Union soldier William Harrison Boring, the 8,000 strong town is actually twinned with the village of Dull in Scotland and the Australian region of Bland.
Tomtit’s Bottom, UK
We’ve opted for Tomtit’s Bottom in Gloucestershire, but the UK is crawling with centuries-old names just begging to be taken out of context. Consider Witt’s End in Essex and Great Cockup fell in the Lake District.
An entirely pleasant little village near Trondheim, Norway, Hell has attracted international attention for its satanic title and the capacity for signposts and residents to use the line, “Welcome to Hell.”
Mistake Island, USA
The backstory is disappointingly mundane (it’s probably a corruption of ‘moosabec’, a Native American word for moose head), but this small island off the coast of Maine still sounds far too silly to be real. Rumors that it will host Prince Andrew’s new royal residence are as yet unconfirmed.
Perhaps the final proof that life can be stranger than fiction, this offering from Oregon is a former mining town-turned-ghost town apparently named because only an idiot would live there. A small stream runs alongside the ex-community – now officially termed Idiot’s Creek.
Santa Claus, USA
Named at a town meeting in 1856, this Indiana town has doubled down on its branding with landmark attractions like Frosty’s Fun Center, the Lake Rudolph Campground, and Santa’s Candy Castle. For one month of the year, it’s a seasonal smorgasbord of wintry wonder. As for the other 11? It’s… there. Pity the poor postmaster – come December, the Santa Claus Post Office gets a bit busy.
Humpty Doo, Australia
This Australian town eschews obscenity for downright silliness. We’ve never previously had to envisage what a hybrid of Humpty Dumpty and Scooby Doo might look like and, on reflection, that was fine. Humpty residents have embraced their frivolous branding, and the town’s main attraction is a statue of a giant boxing crocodile.
“Batman sues Batman over Batman” read an immortal headline in late 2008, when the mayor of Batman, southeast Turkey, attempted to sue Christopher Nolan over his hit superhero movie, The Dark Knight. “There is only one Batman in the world,” he continued, pointing out that his town’s neolithic origins predated the 1939 debut of the caped crusader. The suit did not reach court.