Sunday, January 4, 2009

Top nine ridiculous place names

According to rumours, Dildo got its name from the phallic-like shape of its harbour.

Australia may boast some of the funniest sounding place names in the world, but it doesn't have a monopoly. Scattered across the globe are towns and villages with names so unfortunate that it's hard not to feel sorry for the locals. But if you're looking for an amusing spot to add to your travel itinerary, these places are ideal for a visit, especially if you'd like your smiling mug captured on camera next to a silly sign.

Muff — County Donegal, Ireland
Undeterred by a name that conjures up all sorts of hairy images, tonnes of people have been crossing the border from Northern Ireland in recent years to relocate to this once-sleepy village. Despite the population explosion, Muff hasn't lost its traditional soul. Each year, during the first week in August, residents celebrate the Muff Festival, which includes all kinds of parades, parties, copious beer consumption and a raft of bizarre competitions, like JCB heavy vehicle driving, pig racing and lorry pulling events.

Twatt — Orkney Islands, Scotland
While unfounded rumours abound that this is Muff's twin town, the inhabitants of Twatt have become rather used to people laughing at them. This far-flung village off the north coast of Scotland featured at number four on the list of most vulgar sounding names in the book Rude Britain. Perhaps surprisingly, Bell End, Minge Lane and Cocks were ruled even cruder than Twatt, which also has a namesake on the Shetland Islands.

Whiskey Dick Mountain — Washington State, US
Mountaineering aficionados may dream of reaching the peaks of Everest and K2, but the humorous hiker heads to Whiskey Dick Mountain. A two-hour drive from Seattle, a 15km trail leads you through rugged desert area, blessed with rocky outcrops, hidden canyons and a blaze of flora and wildlife, until the 1200m-high summit appears before your eyes. People have been known to reward themselves at the top with a swig of Jack Daniel's whisky from their hip-flask.

Titty Hill — Sussex, England
Although it's just 40km from Portsmouth on England's south coast, Titty Hill feels like it's in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by a patchwork of fields, the tiny hamlet consists of a couple of houses and a farm called, appropriately enough, Titty Hill farm. In a country that's well known for its wealth of silly place names, Titty Hill is within easy driving distance of Thong in Kent and Shitterton in Dorset, but a fair way from Wetwang in Yorkshire.

Gobblers Knob — Pennsylvania, US
Immortalised in the 1993 film Groundhog Day, Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney is a place of pilgrimage for those wanting to hear if winter is finally over. German tradition holds that if the sun comes out on Candlemas, the precursor to Groundhog Day, the hedgehog (or badger) will see its shadow and six more weeks of the cold season will follow. When German settlers came to Pennsylvania they continued this tradition, using groundhogs instead of hedgehogs to predict the weather.

Dildo — Newfoundland, Canada
Dildo was founded in 1700 around fishing and whaling activities, with unsubstantiated rumours that its name came about because of the phallic-like shape of its harbour. Consistently named among the prettiest towns in Canada, it's recently become a magnet for tourists. Australians may already be familiar with Dildo as it was featured in the 'What the?' segment of Rove Live in 2006. The Dildo museum is popular for the replica of a 9.1m squid hauled from local waters in 1933.

Hell — Stordal, Norway
This pleasant Norwegian village hardly lives up to its dastardly name, especially in winter when, with temperatures as low as minus 20°C, Hell literally does freeze over. An easy train ride from the major city of Trondheim on Norway's fjord-peppered west coast, Hell was put on the map in 1990 when Mona Grudt, a green-eyed redhead, was the country's Miss Universe representative. She billed herself as 'the beauty queen from Hell' — and lost.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch — Anglesey, Wales
Although there's an uninhabited hill in New Zealand called Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, this Welsh town has one of the longest officially recognised place names in the English-speaking world. Locals claim that when translated from Welsh it means 'St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio of the red cave'. Thankfully, it's also spelt Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and commonly known as Llanfair PG or Llanfairpwll.

Fucking — Tarsdorf, Austria
Arguably the world's most shockingly-titled town, Fucking — 30km from Salzburg and apparently named after a sixth-century local called Focko — has been the centre of much controversy in recent years. After souvenir hunters kept stealing the signs, local authorities arranged a poll to ask the townspeople whether or not they should change their name. The stubborn lot gave a two-fingered salute, and a four-letter word response, to that little idea

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