Names are an important thing, and doubly so when you're establishing an entire city. No amount of economic and military might is going to save your metropolis if some schmuck of a founder saw fit to name it Monkey Butt Junction. That's why people tend to be extra careful when naming their residential areas. Just think of places like Rome, London, New York City, and Fucking -- all powerful, expressive names that a city can proudly stand behind.
Still, not all cities get it right the first time. Some choose their original name with the exact same amount of forethought as a drunken frat boy at a tattoo parlor ... and the results are often just as hilarious.
#5. Melbourne Used to Be Batmania
In 1833, an explorer called John Batman (John Batman!) was roaming the coastline of Australia. Batman (damn right we'll call him that for the rest of the article) was on a mission: The British government had given him permission to set up a new city in southern Australia. Sighting a nice, uninhabited place through his telescope, Batman splashed down the anchor, rowed ashore, and decided it was the perfect spot for his city.
He keeps his bat-gadgets in the neckbeard.
However, the "uninhabited" part proved to be a bit of a dud: There were plenty of natives wandering the area wondering what the hell Batman was doing there. Being a nice guy, he didn't just kick their asses and take the land by force. Instead, he became one of the few Australian settlers to actually pay for the land he used. This was a good deal from the Aborigines' point of view, as they had never really conceived of owning the land in the first place. It was a great deal for Batman, who, according to his own words, was now "the greatest landowner in the world." This treaty became known as Batman's Deed, because sometimes the universe just gets things goddamn right.
Now free to establish the city of his dreams, Batman brought in a bunch of settlers, set up shop, and named the place Gotham City. Ha, just kidding! He decided to take the "8-year-old naming his tree house" route and dubbed the city Batmania.
His entire Rogues Gallery was spider-themed.
Despite sounding like a combination of an Adam West wrestling show and the aftermath of a rabid bat attack, Batmania was off to a good start. However, a rival land plotter called Richard Bourke soon saw that Batman was on to a good thing and decided to swoop in, presumably in full Joker makeup. With the backing of the government, Bourke ripped up the treaty and started taking over the city. Batman did not like it one bit, but since the city was becoming the regional capital and Bourke happened to be the governor of said region, the Australian government put its foot down and basically told Batman (and the Aborigines) to eat a great big bag of platypus dicks.
In 1837, the new, Batman-free arrangement was made final, and the city's name was changed to honor the prime minister at the time, the Second Viscount of Melbourne.
Who at least had the decency to be called William Lamb and look like a mutton-themed Batman villain.
#4. Sasmuan in the Philippines Used to Be Called Sexmoan
Sasmuan started existence as a quiet fishing village in the northern Philippines province of Pampanga. A fishing municipality with a healthy population and stable government, its name (which means "meeting place for courageous men") is perfectly reasonable, if slightly boring.
It's basically the Springfield, Illinois, of Southeast Asia.
When the 16th century rolled around, the Spanish came sailing in and, like the good colonists that they were, decided to change everything with a system of threats and disease. Along with explorers and conquistadors, Spanish friars also came ashore to map the place and threaten heathens with fire and brimstone. Due to linguistic differences, they discovered that no matter how they tried, they simply could not get the name of the town right -- they kept interpreting the second "S" in "Sasmuan" as an "X." As the friars were busy setting up the church in the area, they decided to just wing it and started calling the place by the name they kept hearing -- "Sexmoan."
Which is understandable when your district looks like a big vagina.
This in-no-way-subliminal naming error by the monks wasn't too big a deal at first. The locals, oblivious to the unfortunate implications, were completely cool with Sexmoan and just started using it as the official name. Problems didn't arise until the area became something of a hot pocket of international bickering. Over the next few hundred years, the area was controlled by the Spanish, then the Americans (who presumably had a fairly impressive poker face), then the Japanese, then Americans again. Finally, the Filipino people gained control of the area and the tourists started pouring in.
Which is when the laughter started.
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Laughter interspersed with "Shut up! They can totally hear us!"
Tourists, being culturally insensitive at best and total dicks at worst, immediately took the ever-loving piss out of the name, blatantly pronouncing it the way they saw it spelled and finally letting the citizens of the by that point extremely Catholic area finally realize that to the English-speaking world, their name sounded like a freaking cartoon brothel.
"Shit, so that's why people keep stealing the town signs."
The locals demanded a name change, but the country's dictator at the time was too busy buying shoes for his wife to give a damn. In the end, it took until 1987 for Sexmoan to officially revert back to Sasmuan, much to the chagrin of jackass travelers everywhere.
#3. Eugene, Oregon, Was Called Skinner's Mudhole
Eugene is the second largest city in Oregon. A prosperous and powerful (for Oregon) town, it boasts over 150,000 residents, the University of Oregon, a vibrant cultural scene, and, for some reason, one of the highest concentrations of anarchists in the United States.
"WE ENJOY THE SCENIC VISTAS!"
Also, it used to be called Skinner's Mudhole. While this is not a euphemism (as far as we know), it's probably not a good idea to search the term on RedTube.
In 1846, explorer Eugene Skinner was trudging through hell (which has since been renamed western Oregon). Spying a snug location by a river, he thought it would be a sweet spot for a ferry business and a general store. Skinner built a cabin, got a bunch of goods, and started selling supplies for insanely low prices. What he absolutely failed to do was listen to the Native Americans who repeatedly advised him to build on higher ground. Skinner soon found out why, as the area was prone to heavy winter rains that reduced the ground to a swampy mess. Still, the location proved to be otherwise excellent, and Skinner didn't even have time to think of a name for his up-and-coming settlement before people started flowing in.
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It's tough to think clearly with people ankle deep in your dirt hole.
So it was up to the settlers to come up with a name for the place. Since people who have been through the Oregon Trail are not in a mood for imaginative naming, they took one look at the ridiculous amounts of mud and the dude named Skinner standing in the middle of it and ran with those two facts. The city officially became Skinner's Mudhole, Oregon Territory.
Skinner's Mudhole started growing and growing, a sentence that is wrong in every discernible way. By 1850, they had a post office and master plans for proper infrastructure. Eventually, as the Mudhole accommodated enough people to qualify as a proper town, residents started realizing their hometown maybe could do with a name that wouldn't send everyone into laughing convulsions. Clearly, a change was needed.
"Skinner's Chocolate Starfish?"
By 1864, after a mere decade as Skinner's Mudhole, the town's name was quietly changed into the much less expressive "Eugene." Still, the town hasn't completely forgotten its roots: The prominent hill overlooking Eugene's downtown bears the magnificent name of Skinner Butte.