Unfolding the Map
We arrive with William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) in a city that serves as a funny laugh in a lot of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. It seems to have a lot of nice things going for it that belie its name. The strangeness of its name leads me to think about some other interesting place names in America, and takes me off on a risque and prurient little exercise - so read on with caution! If you want to see where Walla Walla is located, go to the map!
"The future passed eastward to Walla Walla ('little swift water') with its many small streams instead of navigable rivers. Outsiders may laugh at the name until they consider the original one: Steptoeville. Walla Walla, a pleasant little city of ivied college buildings, wasn't at all what you'd expect of a town with a name that sounds like baby babble."
Blue Highways: Part 6, Chapter 10
Walla Walla, Washington
I remember Walla Walla always being a name to laugh at. Bugs Bunny used Walla Walla at least once in the animated short Transylvania 6-5000 as he casts a spell against a vampire. In another Warner Brothers Looney Tunes involving a baby mouse delivered to Mr. and Mrs Sylvester Cat, another cat trying to get the mouse poses as a salesman, by the name of Carl, for the Little Giant Vacuum Company in Walla Walla, Washington.
I currently live in a town that has also been the part of a longstanding Bugs Bunny joke. Every time Bugs tunnels and shows up in an unexpected place - like Pittsburghe, Transylvania in Transylvania 6-5000 or Scotland in My Bunny Lies Over the Sea, he always laments that he "must have made a wrong toyne in Albuquerque!" Now that we have our interchange fixed in Albuquerque, I'm sure that less people are making wrong turns here.
There are lots of funny and strange place names in the U.S., and it's interesting that LHM tries to seek these places out. He mentions a few in the opening paragraphs of Blue Highways, such as Why, Arizona and Whynot, North Carolina. While Arizona has the only Why, there is also another Whynot in Mississippi and a Ynot in Montana. Some of my favorites are: Hopeulikit, Georgia; Knockemstiff, Ohio; Humptulips, Washington; Tightwad, Missouri; Ding Dong, Texas; Boring, Oregon; Spread Eagle, Wisconsin; Toad Suck, Arkansas; Lizard Lick, North Carolina; Roachtown, Illinois.
Of course, there are some names that tend toward the prurient. I remember in my early 20s being tickled by the place name of Climax, Michigan. I could envision all kinds of marketing ideas for the town based on its name (Come to Climax for an earth-shattering experience!), but before you judge me too much, I was a young and horny twenty-something at the time. Intercourse, Pennsylvania is always referenced when it comes to funny place names in the risque genre. But there are plenty of other places that have such suggestive place names. If you can't get past first base in Romance, Arkansas you might try Sweet Lips, Tennessee. But if you are really desperate for some fun you could go to Hooker Hole or Vixen, Louisiana. From Dicktown, New Jersey or Penile, Kentucky you might search out Sugar Tit, South Carolina which, of course, leads directly to Big Beaver, Pennsylvania. At this point, you might get so excited that you find yourself at Erect, North Carolina or New Erection, Virginia. Once there, it's hard to avoid Intercourse, Pennsylvania. Of course, if you go too far too fast, you might enter Climax, Minnesota, or blast through Dickshooter, Idaho but in either case you won't be able to avoid Cumming, Georgia. After all that action, you'll probably pray that you don't end up in Conception, Missouri, where you'll sweat out nine months hoping you don't see Baby Head, Texas - unless that's what you wanted all along. Of course, you might just strike out everywhere, and end up in Blue Ball, Ohio.
There are plenty more place names that you can have fun with. Here is a list I found on the internet that highlights some interesting ones by category and then lists interesting place names by state. I think I might leave this post here, since I don't think that I can top my little risque story using place names. A shorter post than most, but since I don't know much about Walla Walla, I'll keep it short and sweet.
Oh, one more tidbit. There is a town in Austria called Fucking. The pronunciation rhymes with "booking" but you can imagine how many times the town signs have been stolen by English-speaking tourists. The town got its name because a Bavarian nobleman named Focko supposedly founded the town, and the name means "place of Focko's people."
Ok, I'm done!
The Offspring, a punk band, wrote a song about Walla Walla. Well, more specifically, it is about someone going to prison at the Washington State Penitentiary near Walla Walla. It's the only song I could find remotely relating to this post.
If you want to know more about Walla Walla
City of Walla Walla
Discover Walla Walla (blog)
Downtown Walla Walla Foundation
Experience Washington: Walla Walla
Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine (blog)
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (newspaper)
Walla Walla University
Walla Walla Valley Daily Photo (blog)
Welcome to Walla Walla
Wikipedia: Walla Walla
Next up: Clarkston, Washington