Every few months or so, it seems the badly-named places of North America are dragged out from their various dark corners of the world and given a good airing in the papers. Car bombs, economic bailouts, and crooked politicians all make for a heavy slog through the newsprint, which may go a long way in explaining the presence of recurring fluffy features on Boring, Oregon or, as is the case with today's Guardian, plucky headlines that ask, "Anyone fancy a break in Asbestos, Canada?" (No, but thanks for asking.)
I will be the first to admit that I welcome a good chuckle at the expense of Hell, Michigan and Intercourse, Pennsylvania as much as the next person. A few place names in these features are old saws (Truth or Consequences, New Mexico) while others (Purgatory, Maine) delight anew. But no matter how many silly lists of oddball place names I've perused over the years, nothing beats the thrill of unexpectedly spotting one of these rare beasts out in the wild.
Take Bad Route Road, Exit 192 off I-94 in Montana. This ominous sign came into view through the cracked windshield of the Balthrop, Alabama tour van last summer on our month-long tour of the U.S. We were hauling out to the west coast from Fargo, North Dakota, recovering from our show the night before opening for the wonderful Josh Ritter, lulled by long stretches of road in Big Sky Country and driving through a steady grim drizzle. The first road sign whipped past at 75 m.p.h. There was a pause, then an uncertain voice from the front seat: "Did that just say Bad Route Road?" "Yep. I think it did."
Among the well-documented entries in the Ministry of Silly Names, I have yet to come across a list as bizarre as those in Bill Bryson's amusing Made in America, but in the meantime, here's the regurgitated list from today's G2 magazine, which brought me a few much-needed grins on the downtown number 2 train. The list came with the following promising headline: Some more holiday ideas: Other North American towns that might struggle to attract the tourist pound. I don't know about the tourist pound, but you can bet there's a whole lot of nudge-nudge wink-wink going on at the city limits of these towns:
Intercourse PennsylvaniaBoring OregonDull OhioOrdinary VirginiaSpunky Puddle OhioMosquitoville VermontHell MichiganSlaughterville OklahomaTightwad MissouriRoaches IllinoisDildo NewfoundlandCrotch Lake OntarioBummerville CaliforniaGas KansasPurgatory Maine
But enough laughter at the expense of my fellow countrymen and continent-folk. I'm off to sigh over more fetching photographs of Nick Clegg read the serious news of the world, and when I'm done with that task, I think I just might kick back with a beer from Fucking Austria.