Summer has officially arrived with the solstice on June 21. That means it’s vacation time. With a strong dollar and low(ish) gas prices, you can go just about anywhere in the world. The glamour and excitement of it all: Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Tokyo, Mumbai (Bombay if you’re my age). The trouble with these places is that we’re all too familiar with them. Your story about Vegas or Berlin is almost exactly like mine (charges dismissed).
To avoid that, I recommend a unique method of choosing a vacation destination: Pick a place with a bad or embarrassing name. The odds are no one in your social circle will have been there.
So, go to Hell.
It’s in Norway, not far from the coastal city of Trondheim. It has a population of 1,440, and I don’t know if you call them Hellers or Hellions or Hellish or what. Anyway, Hell comes from the old Norse hellir, meaning an overhang or a cliff cave. You can visit its grocery store (food from Hell), gas station and retirement home (which ought to be called Purgatory, but it isn’t).
Don’t have a passport, speak no Norwegian or hate the idea of eating lutefisk (as well you should)? You can still go to Hell. Michigan has one; its about 15 miles from Ann Arbor.
Staying in Scandinavia (which my ancestors didn’t), we come to Middelfart, Denmark. Historically, this was a whaling village, but whaling isn’t cool anymore, so the 14,000 or so Middelfarters have diversified the economy. Now, you can go whale watching. Oh, yeah, there’s jazz festival there, too. Legoland is about 45 minutes away, so the trip isn’t a total waste.
Trotting across the North Sea to Ireland (we’ll come back to Britain in a bit), we come to Magh. Why is this on our list? Not because the place is near Burnfoot (although it is). No, Magh is merely the Irish name for the place; it’s Magh in Gaelic. In English, it is written Muff. And before you ask, yes, there is a scuba group there the Muff Diving Club. This is why hyphens matter.
Ireland figures in the next entry on our list, this time a township in Ohio. Located in Pike County east of Cincinnati, is a place named after an Irishman whose initials were P and P. Running through the Township of Pee Pee, Ohio, is Pee Pee Creek. I think this is funny because my granddaughter is starting toilet training. What’s your excuse?
Before heading back across the Atlantic, we should drop in on Humptulips, Wash. It’s located along the Humptulips River. Humptulips is a word in Salish, a language spoken by the Chehalis tribe that lived along its banks for centuries. The river here is difficult to travel, and in Salish, Humptulips is hard to pole. I should think so.
I have nothing to say about Dildo on the island of Newfoundland, except to observe that Canadians tell Newfie jokes the way the English tell Irish jokes, most Americans tell Polish jokes, and Coloradans tell Texan jokes. Now, you know why.
Back to the U.K., where I think the Brits are deliberately rude just for the tourists. Let’s start with Maidenhead. It’s a town along the River Thames, you go through it on the train to Oxford. Windsor Castle is nearby, and the local Member of Parliament is Teresa May, Home Secretary (one of the biggest jobs in British politics). When the Speaker of the House gives her the floor during a Commons debate, he sometimes refers to her as the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, but sometimes he calls on the Member for Maidenhead.
In Dorset, a bit of a drive west of Maidenhead, is a place called Shitterton. From the Olde English, it means farm at the stream used as a sewer. At least, that’s what it says on the Internet, so it must be true. It’s not far from a place called Titty Hill Farm in Sussex. It’s rather far from Wetwang up in Yorkshire, so that might require an extra day’s travel.
This isn’t just an English thing. Scotland has two Twatts. I’ve been a professional writer for more than 30 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever written a sentence quite like that. I just shot tea out my nose. Anyway, there’s a Twatt in the Orkney Islands and another in the Shetlands (yes, where the ponies come from). Both of these were Viking outposts for ages, and in Old Norse, twatt just means a small parcel of land.
Then there’s Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales. The Guinness Book of World Records lists this as the longest place name in the world. It has more letters in its name than it has full-time residents. I include it because I couldn’t find out very much about Bully Hole Bottom, Penisarwaen, Tarts Hill or Three Cocks all in Wales.
However, I believe that the French actually take the prize here. Let us head south from Paris on the A6 autoroute. We pass the D943 westbound because, although Douchy should be on the list, it’s a distant second (if that) to our final destination. Near Auxerre, we take the N151 south. We are in the heart Burgundy, and near Courson-les-Carrieres, we take the D130 east. And yes, ahead, I can see it, the town with the most embarrassing name of all.
Welcome to Anus, France. The next time you have a bottle of Burgundy that tastes like ass, you know where it came from.
Editor’s note: Obviously, Jeff adding the town of Fucking, Austria (notice comma placement) to this list would’ve been just too easy … pun intended, of course.
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.