Billings may be a fairly boring name, but at least it’s not Boring.
It turns out there are two Borings in the United States, one in Oregon and the other in Maryland.
They tied for third place on a list of the 10 most unfortunately named towns in the United States, recently compiled by the genealogy website FindMyPast.com.
Billings, as I hope everyone around here knows, was named for Frederick Billings, the onetime president of the Great Northern Railway. Our name makes some sense if you know the history, but as a friend of mine likes to say, outsiders probably think it might as well be named Accounts Receivable.
Unlike Billings, named after a man who didn’t actually live here, Boring, Ore., was named for an early-day resident of the area, William H. Boring. Boring, Md., was named for a postmaster, David Boring.
The town in Oregon has tried to put a good spin on the name, billing itself as “the most exciting place to live.” Nobody believes it, but they tried. In Maryland, the similarly named community has the annual Boring Gas Engine Show and Flea Market. That probably is accurate.
And the winner is...
And if you’re wondering, the place that topped the list of unfortunately named towns was Toad Suck, Ark.
Supposedly, it was named after an expression associated with the steamboat crews who used to stop there while plying the Arkansas River. Sitting in the tavern there, locals said, “They suck on the bottle till they swell up like toads.”
That sounds like the sanitized version to me. It is widely known that the secretions of certain toads can have hallucinogenic effects if either licked or smoked, so perhaps our Arkansas boatmen were not drinking at all.
In second place is Climax, Ga. Fourth, after the Borings, is Hooker, Okla., followed by Assawoman, Md. Bringing up slots 6 through 10 are Belchertown, Mass.; Roachtown, Ill.; Loveladies, N.J.; Squabbletown, Calif.; Monkey’s Eyebrow, Ky.; and Chicken, Alaska.
I couldn’t ascertain how all these other towns acquired their names, but Wikipedia, that infallible source, tells me Belchertown, Loveladies and Hooker were all named after prominent citizens.
Whatever the origins of Assawoman might be, I did learn that it sits on two bays, the larger of which is known as Big Assawoman Bay.
And Monkey’s Eyebrow? Supposedly the county in which it sits is shaped like a simian cranium, and the town in question occupies the space where the eyebrow would sit. But I’m guessing somebody just had a hankering to name a place Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky. Who wouldn’t, given the chance?
A match made
Last spring, by the way, Boring, Ore., formed a sister-city relationship with Dull, Scotland. The partnership came about after a tourist from Scotland visited Boring and got in touch with a friend in Dull.
The slogan for their partnership is “Boring and Dull: A Pair for the Ages.”
I studied a list of Montana place names, thinking surely one funny or unfortunate one had previously escaped my attention, but no such luck. We have some fine names — Absarokee, Big Timber, Great Falls, Ingomar and Judith Gap — and we have some rather boring and dull names — Dean, Craig, Mildred, Proctor and Circle — but we don’t have anything downright funny or unfortunate.
Some people have had fun with Butte, mispronouncing the name through ignorance or malice, but that’s about it.
We do have one great pair of names. If you drive east out of Anaconda on Montana Highway 1, you will quickly see signs for Wisdom, to the south, and Opportunity, a bit farther east. How many times, when you’re out for a drive, do you get to choose between Opportunity and Wisdom?
At least the road signs for those two towns are fairly safe. There is a town in Austria whose first four letters spell out the English word known euphemistically as the “F-bomb,” followed by “-ing.” Its road signs, supposedly, are constantly being stolen.
The problem isn’t as bad in Middlefart, Denmark, or Crotch Crescent, England, but I’d think their signs are also collector’s items.
Signs bearing the name of our humble burg are often used for target practice, but rarely stolen.