The world has its share of funny place names, from Condom in France to Worms in Germany, though often they gain in translation. But when it comes to English-language names that make you laugh out loud or scratch your head, the USA is hard to beat. There are hundreds of them, from Intercourse, Pennsylvania, to Eek in Alaska. And anywhere that has a town called My Large Intestine (it's in Texas, where else?) has to get the Gold Medal every time.
Here are just ten of the numerous peculiar US place names, beginning with:
1) Peculiar, Missouri
I wonder how many times the good folk of Peculiar, Missouri, have heard the word 'Really?' when giving their address over the phone? Especially if you happen to live in Peculiar Drive, Peculiar, about 30 miles south of Kansas City. It's said that the first settlers couldn't decide on a name for their new town, so asked the Postmaster to pick one that was sort-of peculiar. So he picked one that was exactly peculiar. For more Peculiar facts and the latest Peculiar news, visit the city's website: www.cityofpeculiar.com.
2) Tightwad, Missouri
The Missouri village of Tightwad is said to have got its name from a store owner who wanted to charge a customer extra for a better watermelon, but the customer happened to be a postman who started calling the place Tightwad. The citizens now embrace the name and as well as Stingy Street and Miser Street, there's a Tightwad Bank. People like the name so much that the bank has customers from all over the USA and Canada, and millions of dollars on deposit, which is good business for the 64 people who live in Tightwad.
3) Why, Arizona
Thirty miles north of the Mexican border, Why, Arizona, should by rights have now changed its name to Tee. Its founders wanted to call it Y, for the simple reason that two highways met there in a Y-shape. But Arizona law decreed that place names had to have at least three letters, so it became Why instead. The roads now meet in a T-junction. But at least you now know Why.
4) Boring, Oregon
The most boring thing about Boring is that there isn't an interesting story behind its name. It was named after an early resident, William H. Boring, and today boasts business like Boring Petroleum and Boring Brewing. To show they've a sense of humour, the town has twinned itself with Dull in Scotland. For more Boring information, see the town's website: www.boringcpo.org.
5) Intercourse, Pennsylvania
Originally called Cross Keys, the name of this town in Amish country goes back to 1814 and refers to social rather than sexual intercourse. Naturally that doesn't stop the 'Welcome to Intercourse' sign from being stolen occasionally. One claim to fame is that the Harrison Ford film Witness was shot here, and if you want to visit the town then check this page on things you can do while you're in Intercourse: http://lancasterpa.com/intercourse/things-to-do. Spare a thought for young couples who may have to tell people, 'We got engaged in Intercourse.'
6) The Bottle, Alabama
Sixty miles north east of Montgomery is the little community of The Bottle. The original bottle was a 64-foot wooden soda bottle, built in 1924 by the owner of a bottling plant as a bit of roadside publicity: the biggest bottle in the world. It contained a grocery store and a service station in the bottom, and became a popular meeting spot. Nothing remains these days but an empty lot as The Bottle lost its bottle when it burned down sometime in the 1930s.
7) Oatmeal, Texas
Fifty miles north of Austin is the rural community of Oatmeal, which was originally founded by German settlers and whose name is probably a corruption of one of the oat mills that was built here. The big event of the year is the annual Oatmeal Festival, so book now for the Labor Day weekend, 2015: http://oatmealfestival.org.
8) Eek, Alaska
It would be nice to think that maybe the tiny city of Eek, which is in the middle of nowhere in Alaska, got its name when some early explorers stumbled unexpectedly across a bear. In fact the name comes from an Eskimo word meaning 'two eyes', though no-one seems to know why on earth it was called Two Eyes anyway.
9) Hell, Michigan
Yes, every winter in Michigan Hell - 60 miles west of Detroit - freezes over. There was originally a sawmill and other businesses here, all owned by a George Reeves. The area had no name, but when Michigan became a state in 1837 it had to acquire one. People asked Reeves what he thought, and he reportedly said he wasn't interested: 'You can call it Hell for all I care.' So they did.
10) My Large Intestine, Texas
And finally, of course, there's My Large Intestine (Population 143). It was named by its founder, the almost as impressively named Philo Bumbaugh. Mr Bumbaugh's plan was to put the town on the map, but he didn't succeed in the literal sense as no map-makers have yet included it. The town does have a Facebook page, though it was last updated in February 2013 and, to be honest, it could do with a few more Likes: www.facebook.com/pages/My-Large-Intestine-Texas/203458556340797
Mike Gerrard is an award-winning British-born travel writer who divides his time between England and Arizona, where he has a home in the rather prosaically named Green Valley. He is co-editor of the 101 USA Holidays website.Suggest a correction