Which Towns Have The Most Unfortunate Names? And Does it Matter?

May 31, 2017

The name of a place is the most powerful part of its identity. It has often been said that being introduced to a brand is like meeting a person. Their name is important - it’s how we remember them, make associations, and refer to them. It’s as if there is a filing cabinet in our brains where we keep everything relevant to that name. When we hear London, Paris or Saigon, we recall the many pieces of information, thoughts and feelings large and small, that we have assembled about each over the years, even if we have never been there.

I recall that in a survey a few years ago, Toad Suck, Arkansas, was voted America’s “most embarrassing or unfortunate” town-name, in a global poll. It beat Climax in Georgia, Boring in Oregon (and its namesake in Maryland) and Hooker in Oklahoma in a poll of almost 2,000 people by findmypast.com.

The web site and its global network of partner sites asked users in seven English-speaking countries (U.S., UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) to pick from its own shortlist of 11 unfortunate or embarrassing American town- and place-names. True, it’s not the worst thing you might unearth when tracing your ancestry. But some people are disconcerted to learn that their forebears came from somewhere called, for example, Toad Suck, Roachtown or Monkey’s Eyebrow.”

However, rather than feel embarrassed, residents of many towns with unfortunate names embrace their odd names with pride, have a laugh and use them as a feature to promote their towns. Of course, Intercourse PA has done that for decades. Boring OR and Dull Scotland have proclaimed "Boring and Dull Day in Perpetuity" in honor of the two communities. In today’s stressed and over-worked society the prospect of visiting places that embrace boring and dull might actually have some appeal to it. It might create some interesting economic development opportunities for visionary leaders. Make no mistake though - capitalizing on their unusual names will take more than providing a humorous photo-op with local town signs.


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