I have a serious case of Canada Envy.
It’s got nothing to do with maple leaves or socialized medicine or curling. I just happen to think they come up with some pretty awesome names for places.
Take Moose Jaw, for instance. A city in south-central Saskatchewan. (Hell, take Saskatchewan, for that matter. It’s a lot more fun to say than Ohio). Who names a city Moose Jaw? And why? You just know there’s a story behind that name, and chances are, it’s a good one. According to Wikipedia, there are two theories: it either comes from the Cree indian term moose gaw, meaning “warm breezes,” or it got its name from the Moose Jaw River, which got its name because it is shaped like a moose jaw.
OK, I was hoping for a better story, but the name is still cool. So are the residents of Moose Jaw. They are called Moose Javians. Man, I wish I was a Moose Javian!
Then there’s Medicine Hat, in Alberta. Who sticks their medicine in a hat? It’d be much safer in a pocket, I’d reckon. I didn’t want to look up the meaning of the name on Wikipedia lest it disappoint me ala Moose Jaw, but it turns out Medicine Hat is the English translation of a Blackfoot indian term for the eagle tail feather headdress worn by medicine men. That’s kinda cool. Meanwhile, we’ve got Pittsburgh.
The names get a lot stranger from there. Like Balls Falls, Ontario. Also in Ontario: Crotch Lake. Not to be outdone, Newfoundland’s got Dildo, Spread Eagle, and Conception Bay; Saskatchewan has Climax, Fertile, and Smuts; and Nova Scotia’s got Shag Harbour. Those Canadians sure do have one track minds, eh? Perhaps it was a Canadian ex-pat who went on to found Intercourse, Pennsylvania. (At least the U.S. has that going for it).
My favorite Canadian name of all, though, has got to be Saint-Louis-Du-Ha!-Ha! Yes, with exclamation marks. No, I’m not making it up. I’m not making any of these names up. I’m a creative guy, but not creative enough to come up with these wacky monikers.
I dearly love my adopted hometown of Portland, but it could not have a more boring name if it tried. It’s land. With a port. Port-land. Yawn. Besides, it’s not even original. We stole it from the town in Maine, thanks to a coin toss. If it had come up tails, we’d have been called Boston. True story. (I’ve always wondered why Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove didn’t just name the town after themselves. Both their last names are more interesting and unique than the cities they hailed from).
There is a Boring, Oregon – but that’s got nothing on Vulcan, Alberta. I’ll bet the residents there live long and prosper.
I haven’t forgotten about you, Manitoba. You’ve got Bird and Finger (flip people off much?). Also, Jackhead. As for British Columbia, how about Skookumchuck, Spuzzum, and Squamish? Best of all, B.C. – and maybe explanation for those names? – there’s Stoner.
You could practically build a Frankenstein-style monster out of Joe Batt’s Arm, St. Margret’s Head, Elbow, and Eyebrow. All real places. As are Blow Me Down and Asbestos and Mayo and Punkeydoodles Corner and Primate and Swastika. I could go on and on…seriously…but I think you get the point. Canadians have the best sense of humor on the planet!
- Moose Jaw has some wonderful oddities: Photo Essay (ominocity.com)
- Moose Jaw (alysalovely.wordpress.com)