5 U.S. Place Names That Need Changing
When I was growing up in Oregon, a trip to ski or sled on Mt. Hood inevitably meant a trip through the town of Boring, where we’d giggle as we passed the “Entering Boring” sign, and make obnoxious yawning sounds until we’d passed through. But Boring is relatively tame compared with some other U.S. place names, some of which are getting attention from residents and officials who want offensive-sounding names changed to something more palatable.
The Los Angeles Times has chronicled a successful effort to get “Negrohead Mountain” near Malibu renamed Ballard Mountain, after John Ballard, a former slave who was among the first to settle in the area. Other efforts are underway to get Mt. Diablo State Park in the Bay Area changed to Mt. Reagan State Park (if successful, this could be quite the year for Reagan, since conservatives in Congress are also lobbying for him to replace Grant on the $50 bill). Though a few people say the name Diablo is offensive because it is Spanish for “devil,” I would like to hear what those same people have to say about the following place names:
1. Shitbritches Creek, California. Look, I’m a grown woman, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t almost in tears just from typing that. This is a waterway, not an actual town, but that doesn’t make it any less terrible.
2. Frog Suck, Wyoming. There are plenty of places with the word Frog in it. I think it’s the word Suck that makes this place seem a little inhospitable. Combined, though, Frog Suck sound like a truly wretched place.
3. Podunk (Missouri, New York, Connecticut, Vermont). I’ve referred to my small hometown in Oregon as a “Podunk” town before, but there are people who can say this and mean it literally. I wonder whether there are also towns with names like Pitstop, Small Town, Cow Town, etc.
4. Whorehouse Meadow, Oregon. Funny, somehow my field trips as a child never involved a visit to what sounds like a lovely little place. This name even earned its way into geographer Mark Monmonier’s book on bizarre place names, “From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame.”
5. Cripple Bush Creek, Vermont. While some have successfully lobbied to get names with words like Negro removed from maps, as Monmonier points out, several place names include the word Cripple, an offensive term by today’s standards that people with disabilities aren’t likely to be thrilled by.