Here, there, everywhere. We have to call it something, don't we? Who's got an idea? Let's call it Toponymy.


The Story of Booger Mountain

I was going to title this post Unusual and Derogatory American Toponyms, but it just didn't feel right.

A ten minute segment on Weekend America pondered the significance of strange place names. Reporter Kelly McEvers investigated a small Illinois town named Goofy Ridge. According to local accounts it was dangerous, filled with meth-addicts, and really backwards. The "official account" of the origin of Goofy Ridge's name can be traced to a time when men in the area shot walnuts off one-another's shoulders (a la William Tell).

According to the sociologist interviewed here, the factual and truthful reason for Goofy Ridge's name is less important than how listeners respond to hearing an outlandish story. In his framework, toponyms like Goofy Ridge are applied by more powerful groups onto their weaker neighbors.

The second half of the segment is a discussion with Gary Gladstone, a photographer who sought out American towns with bizzare names (such as booger mountain). A gallery of his work is available online, you can go from Idiotville, Oregon to Tightwad, Missouri.

If you would like to listen to the segment you have two options. Download the MP3 [24.9MB] and start at the 31 minute mark. Or go to the Weekend America page and use Real Player.

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