The 5 Most Shockingly Awful Names Major Cities Almost Had
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Phoenix, Arizona, Was Pumpkinville
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."
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.
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.