#2. Phoenix, Arizona, Was Pumpkinville
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In 1867, former Confederate soldier Jack Swilling decided to leave the South for good and head west to search for his lot in life. Wandering the Sonoran Desert in search of much-needed water, he came across an old riverbed. Somehow, he reached the conclusion that this random location in the middle of a deadly desert would be the best place ever for a city. So he and his posse dug out some canals from a few small rivers nearby, until they had enough water to start planting crops.
"Once we've built the dry goods store and a Hooters, this place will rival Paris!"
The first crop that came up was mostly malformed melons that looked more like pumpkins. And since the settlers coming into the region had a heavy habit of naming shit with a tried and true "call it the first thing you see" method, the new city soon gained the name Pumpkinville. However, they soon realized the name sounded like a goddamn Zynga game, so they decided to change it. The next name in line was the 1970s-porntastic Swilling's Mill, due to the fact that Swilling had established the place, and also because the man looked like he could stab each and every person within the town's borders without a second thought.
Even the photographer. Especially the photographer.
Over the next few years, the city schizophrenically flipped through names, ranging from Mill City to Salina to freaking East Phoenix, despite the fact that there were no other Phoenixes around. Finally, they just asked Swilling himself, who wanted to name the place Stonewall to honor Stonewall Jackson, the infamous Confederate general Swilling had served under. This was met with little success, as there were many settlers from the Union side, and to them, it would be like naming the place "Stalin."
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Plus it just drew attention to the town's lack of any actual stone walls.
Finally, in 1868, a resident suggested "Phoenix," as the place was built on top of an old Indian settlement and thus was "rising from the ashes" of a former civilization. After some debate over the spelling (some early maps somehow managed to spell it "Phenix"), the city finally gained a name after two decades of indecision.
#1. Wolfsburg, Germany, Used to Have the Most Ridiculous Name in History
Where would you place the most ridiculously overcomplicated city name in recorded history? What kind of messed-up culture could come up with a name so bloated and skull-fuckingly insane that it single-handedly leaves gems like Svalbarosstrandarhreppur and Parangaricutirimicuaro in its shadow?
Try Nazis. Because of course it's the Nazis.
These assholes sure managed to get around.
In the 1930s, Germany was growing by leaps and bounds, despite being run by a Chaplin impersonator with anger management issues. The economy was booming and new factory towns popped up all over the place. While most of these towns were given normal, vaguely threatening German names, one of them decided to go with something a bit more ... unconventional.
How unconventional? Try Stadt des KdF-Wagens bei Fallersleben. It's even better in English: "City of the Strength Through Joy Car at Fallers Living." Obviously, the citizens weren't massive fans of the name, but there was jack shit they could do: It had been personally chosen by Hitler, possibly during a particularly enthusiastic game of Let's See What Bullshit a Fuhrer Can Get Away With.
Which might finally explain that terrible haircut/mustache combo.
The logic behind the name is a pretty good example of the hugely flawed thought processes that ran the Reich. The "Stadt" ("city") part is pretty obvious. The KdF-Wagen ("the strength through joy vehicle") was a fancy propaganda name for the Volkswagen Beetle, which was all the rage at the time and also the main product of the city. The "bei Fallersleben" part just means the town is by a place called Fallersleben ("Fallers Living"). It just never occurred to the Nazi leaders that combining all these elements into an actual name reads like a murder robot's first attempt at poetry.
"ROSES ARE RED; VIOLETS ARE 10011010110. KILL KILL KILL."
City of the Strength Through Joy Car at Fallers Living churned out Volkswagens and war equipment until 1945, when it finally fell into Allied hands. It was promptly given the (marginally) less Nazi-sounding name of Wolfsburg, and received a relatively free pass in the aftermath of the war due to its potential to help the war-torn country recover. Wolfsburg remains the HQ and the most sophisticated plant of Volkswagen, played a large part in the German economic miracle of the 1950s, and presumably hates crosswords and Scrabble with the heat of a thousand suns.
Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. When he isn't trying to find out why Cleveland couldn't have a cooler name, he can be found on Facebook. Be sure to bookshelf and vote for his new book, The End of the Line.
Related Reading: Who thought names would ever be a good idea in the first place? You can see Cracked's take on the matter here. And speaking of bad names, did you know it's kind of a trend now to name your kid Khaleesi? That's almost as funny as some of the names on the FBI Gang Database- like the Oriental Lazy Boys.