‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go’

Warning: This is not a tribute to the Dr. Seuss book of the same title… although perhaps it should be!

One of my favorite things about travelling is discovering the names of places.  I am in love with the art of naming!  There is so much character developed by local names, especially ones that are inspired by the land itself.

While on the road I like to collect names that I especially enjoy.  When I was little and my family would make multiple road trips up and down the Western United States, I used to keep a notebook full of my favorite places.  I’ve since lost the notebook, but I don’t think I’ll ever lose my fascination with names.

Thinking on it now, perhaps this love came from the name of the town I grew up in, Battle Ground.  Battle Ground is ironically named after a battle that never took place there.  The area the town resides was the proposed place for battle between soldiers from Fort Vancouver, lead by Captain William Strong, and the Klickitat tribe lead by Chief Umtach.  Sometime before the battle, Chief Umtach was killed, and to this day it is thoroughly disputed as to how.  The Klickitats asked to be able to bury their chief according to their customs, and so Captain Strong returned to Fort Vancouver without having fought with the Native Americans.  The area was named Strong’s Battle Ground, and once a town was founded it became known as Battle Ground, Washington.

And true to this story, I attended both Chief Umtuch Elementary School, and Captain Strong Elementary School.

My ironically named hometown aside, I grew up in a place surrounded by  names drawn from the area.  And it occurred to me, that when naming fictional places, it’s okay to draw from the land.  I used to think it would be too cheesy, but then I started to look at the local names and realized, that can easily be the best way to name.  Some of the names are so dreamy they remind me of names that Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables would come up with!  Here are a few of my favorite from my local area:

In Washington: 

Hazel Dell
Salmon Creek
Battle Ground
Brush Prairie
Daybreak Park
Pleasant Valley

In Oregon:

Terwilliger Curves
Happy Valley
Dunes City

What are you some of your favorite named places?  They can be streets, parks, towns, cities, lakes, rivers, mountains, etc.  Do you know the history behind the names or are they self explanatory like Salmon Creek?


About Aly Hughes
Unprofessional, unedited, unpublished. Aly is out to make a name for herself by blogging, twittering, facebooking, and general internet-ing. Be warned: She may not know what she's talking about.

7 Responses to ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go’

  1. Your story of Battle Ground made me think. My first elementary school was the Battle Hill School, on Battle Hill, and I realized I had no idea why it was called that.

    Turns out a battle was really fought there, in the Revolutionary War. I don’t envy those soldiers — the hill is so steep I used to have nightmares about losing my footing and sliding all the way down (the school was on top and we lived at the bottom).

    The place names like are the mysterious ones. I used to have a book which said where all the street names in Manhattan came from, and I loved the fact that there are some which aren’t known. Including Park Avenue. One of the most famous streets in the world. and noboby knows where the name came from. Did it go to a park? Was it named after somebody named Park? Who knows?

    There used to be two subway stations near me which were named after streets which don’t exist. I liked that, too, but now they’ve changed one and I imagine they’ll change the other one, too.

    Party poopers.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Oh my, Battle Hill is rather close in name. I wouldn’t envy those soldiers either!

      I would love to have a book like that one! I think mysterious names are very fun to imagine and create stories about. That is very intriguing about Park Avenue. It’s a little sad how things are lost to history, but at the same time the mystery of the past is always fun to delve in to. Gosh, maybe I should start writing historical fiction. And that’s sad they changed the names of one of the stations. Party poopers indeed!

  2. mrbrainsplat says:

    It’s definitely good when they have some history, or imagination in naming places. On the East cost I keep seeing places that pretty much have stolen English place names.

    It also amuses me in Arizona the lack of imagination in naming streets. Bullshead is full of “Canyon” roads and “Fox creeks”, for example.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I haven’t been on the east coast, but it is rather funny how they used a lot of English names. Although I think if they ever tried to change the names people would be in a riot over it!

      haha, Even though the names are boring, at least they’re better than numbers! The small town I grew up in is all on numbered streets…not very imaginative.

      • mrbrainsplat says:

        I think the numbers are useful in a big city, especially if you’ve never been there, but yes in a smaller more rural area, they add a bit more character, I think.

  3. Sara Flower says:

    I love places with unique names. In the old Victorian home areas of my city, the streets have really inspiring, pretty names like Meadowbrook or Springbank. A river runs through our city which is just lovely.

    Oh, and I tagged you on my blog for this writing exercise thingy. 😀

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I love names like that. They sound so fantastical, and again, it always reminds me of Anne of Green Gables. 🙂

      Thank you for tagging me, I look forward to posting it next week!

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