Where is Old Jersey? (and 6 other "New" location origins)

iStock / Kalulu
iStock / Kalulu

I grew up in New Jersey... exit 4, to be more precise. But it wasn't until I left home that I actually started to think about the original Jersey, off the coast of France. Technically, the original Jersey is a bailiwick composed of an island and two groups of small islands, which, along with another bailiwick called Guernsey, make up the Channel Islands. Jersey isn't part of the U.K., nor is it a full-member state of the EU, but is a separate possession of The Crown in Right of the United Kingdom.

So why is New Jersey named after Jersey? Well, When Charles II of England was exiled in Jersey, a man named Sir George Carteret, a royalist statesman in Jersey, often came to the monarch's assistance. To repay the favor, later Charless II gave Carteret a huge tract of land over in the American colonies where Sir Bruce Springsteen would later grow up, which Carteret promptly named New Jersey. This also answers the question: why is there a borough in Middlesex County, NJ called Carteret? Glad we cleared that one up, aren't you?

Okay, but what about New Brunswick, NJ?

Well, in 1714, the area originally inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans was named New Brunswick after the city of Braunschweig, in state of Lower Saxony, in Germany. Bruno II, a Saxon count who lived during the 11th century, settled the original area in Germany and the town is named after him (Bruno + wik).

Leaving New Jersey and traveling into New York, which, of course, was New Amsterdam, we come to the awfully quaint village of New Paltz, NY. Founded in 1678 by French Huguenots, including Louis DuBois, who lived in Mannheim, Germany, for a brief period of time before sailing on to the New Land, New Paltz is probably most famous for being the place Penny got an abortion in the Dirty Dancing.

But what about the name? Well, Mannheim, Germany was a major town of the Rhenish Palatinate or, in German, the Rheinpfalz (try saying that with a saltine in your mouth!). Take away the Rhein and you're left with pfalz, which the good people of Mannheim pronounced Paltz! When they made their way to New York, it was a no-brainer to call the land New Paltz.

New Rochelle, located in Westchester County, New York, was originally settled by refugee Huguenots in 1688 who were on the run from Catholic-instigated massacres back in France. As history would have it, many of the pioneers hailed from the city of La Rochelle, France, which is in south-western France on the Bay of Biscay.

Moving north to Connecticut, we come to one of the most affluent communities in the US, New Canaan, which takes its name first from the parish established in 1731 called Canaan. When the parish finally became a town in 1801, they called it New Canaan. Of course, the original Canaan was a tract of land defined in the Bible as the "Land of Canaan," which, according to the Canaanites, extended from Lebanon southward across Gaza to the "Brook of Egypt" and eastward to the Jordan River Valley.

Our last stop on this Old/New tour is New Hampshire.

The original Hampshire is on the southern coast of England Hampshire, sometimes historically referred to as Southamptonshire, Hamptonshire, and the County of Southampton, which may answer all sort of questions about those precious Hamptons on Long Island. Since Hampshire was on the coast, it made for easy access back in the 17th century for those leaving England and settling in the region they then called New Hampshire.
New Durham, NH was named after Durham, NH, which got its name from England, as well. New Durham is probably best known as the place where Reverend Benjamin Randall founded the then-new religious denomination in 1780 called the Free Will Baptists, later known as Free Baptists. The original Durahm is located in north east of England and is home to Durham University, England's third oldest educational institute after Oxford and Cambridge. It's located not too far from Durham's city center, er, rather centre.

Welcome to Cool, California. Population: 2520

Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

It’s not hard to find U.S. towns with some pretty weird (and sometimes depressing) names, so we shouldn't be surprised that people have the option of settling in the tiny town of Cool, California.

Initially named Cave Valley, due to the limestone formations nearby, the town popped up around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. The population eventually grew to 4100 people.

It's unclear when the town went from Cave Valley to being Cool. One legend suggests that a beatnik named Todd Hausman bequeathed the name after passing through in the 1950s, but the veracity of that story is doubtful since the Cool Post Office was founded as early as 1885. According to Condé Nast Traveler, records show that a reverend named Peter Y. Cool came out to pan gold and settled in the town in 1850, possibly serving as the source of the change.

Whatever the origin of its name, the town of Cool has ample branding opportunities. There’s the Cool Grocery Store and the Cool Beerwerks brewery and restaurant, which specializes in Hawaiian-Japanese fusion cuisine. Cool has held the Way Too Cool 50K Endurance Run every year since 1990.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

11 Weird Place Names From Around the World

The sign on the train station platform helps you pronounce this 58-letter-long Welsh town name.
The sign on the train station platform helps you pronounce this 58-letter-long Welsh town name.
hipproductions/iStock via Getty Images

Shakespeare wasn’t wrong when he said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But if these places had any other names, they probably wouldn’t have made this list (or international headlines, in a couple of cases). Read on to discover the fascinating details behind Tasmania’s Eggs and Bacon Bay, French Polynesia’s Disappointment Islands, and other strangely named locales from all corners of the globe.

1. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales

At 58 characters, this tiny Welsh village on the isle of Anglesey has the longest place name in Europe. Translated to English, it’s a phrase that describes the town’s location: Saint Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave. According to Atlas Obscura, the town has existed in some form for thousands of years, but in 1880 a publicity-oriented tailor changed its name from Llanfairpwll to its current moniker in an attempt to attract tourists. Luckily for us, Llanfairpwll is still an acceptable nickname, as is Llanfair PG. Listen to weather reporter Liam Dutton pronounce it like a pro here.

2. Batman, Turkey

Both a Turkish province and its capital city are named Batman for the nearby Batman River. Batman itself could have come from the ancient unit of measurement (equal to 16.96 pounds), or it could be a shortening of the name of the nearby Bati Raman mountains. Either way, the city became the source of scandal in 2008 when its then-mayor, Huseyin Kalkan, threatened to sue Warner Bros. and director Christopher Nolan over their use of the term in the Dark Knight trilogy. (No lawsuit was ever actually filed.) There are also plenty of people who want to reinforce the connection between the place name and superhero—over 26,000 have signed a petition to change the province’s borders to look like the bat symbol.

3. Eggs and Bacon Bay, Tasmania

eggs and bacon flower
KarenHBlack/iStock via Getty Images

Tasmania’s Eggs and Bacon Bay is named after a regional wildflower commonly known as eggs and bacon, whose petals are a mixture of the sunny yellow of egg yolks and the deep red of bacon. The bay made national news in 2016 when PETA petitioned unsuccessfully to change its name to a more animal-friendly “Apple and Cherry Bay.” It doesn’t look like the idea ever made it to a vote at the local council, and officials didn’t seem keen on it. Huon Valley deputy mayor Ian Paul told The Guardian that the idea was “ludicrous,” adding “I feel pretty strongly about it. This is our heritage, it is our history.”

4. Wonowon, British Columbia

It’s not a coincidence that this Canadian town, pronounced “one-oh-one,” is located on Alaska Highway’s Mile 101, where the U.S. Army operated a 24-hour checkpoint during World War II. The town was originally named Blueberry after the nearby Blueberry River, but was eventually changed to Wonowon to prevent people from confusing it for another Blueberry in the southeastern Kootenay region. It’s not clear when the name officially changed to Wonowon, but according to a mention in a 1956 issue of the Northern Sentinel, the Post Office recognized it as Wonowon, while the residents still called it Blueberry. Why Blueberry in the first place, you ask? Possibly because British Columbia produces 96 percent of Canada’s cultivated blueberries.

5. Spa, Belgium

fountain in Spa, Belgium
Jean-Pol GRANDMONT, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Spa, Belgium, sounds relaxing, and for good reason. The word spa comes from this eastern Belgian town, whose curative mineral springs have been visited since the 16th century and were even mentioned by Pliny the Elder. Spa itself could be derived from espa, the Walloon word for "spring" or “fountain,” or the Latin word spagere, meaning “to scatter, sprinkle, moisten.” Or it could be an acronym for the Latin phrase sanitas per aquas, which fittingly means “health through water.”

6. Westward Ho!, England

book cover of Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley
Frederick Warne & Co, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1855, Charles Kingsley published a book called Westward Ho!, in which a young man leaves his home in Bideford, England, to pursue a seafaring life of adventure under the tutelage of famed explorer Sir Francis Drake. The book became a bestseller, and some enterprising folks formed the Northam Burrows Hotel and Villa Building Company in 1863 with the intention of capitalizing on the attention. They started by building the Westward Ho! Hotel, and continued to develop the area by constructing terraces, lodges, bath houses, stables, and a golf club. As development progressed, the village that sprung up around the hotel became known as Westward Ho! also.

7. The Office Girls, Antarctica

The Office Girls are two glacial islands, also called nunataks, about seven miles away from Welcome Mountain near the Southern Ocean coast of Antarctica. There are so many tiny pieces of land to map in Antarctica that the U.S. has an Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names to name them all—and in 1970 they chose “The Office Girls” as a tribute to all of the personnel who assisted with the administrative side of the missions from home in the continental U.S.

8. Punkeydoodles Corners, Ontario

The origin of the name of this tiny hamlet has been debated for decades. Some people say it’s the product of a German tavern owner’s slurred rendition of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” while others say Punkeydoodle was an insult thrown at resident pumpkin-grower John Burbrigg by a vexed neighbor, and from then on his plot of land was called “Punkeydoodle’s Corners.” The charming Canadian town was once home to a somewhat charming Canadian crime: Mischief-makers often stole the town’s sign, until Canada Day in 1982, when community members replaced it with a concrete monument that weighs almost a ton.

9. Malpelo Island, Colombia

Sunset over Malpelo Island
Janos/iStock via Getty Images

The Spanish words mal pelo translate to “bad hair” in English, implying that this island is in some way a nightmare for bouffants, beehives, and blowouts. It’s more likely the result of a metaphorical game of telephone that spanned half the globe and several centuries. It could be derived from the Latin malveolus, meaning “inhospitable” or “spiteful,” which might’ve become malbolo and later mal pelo [PDF]. It’s also on a world map from 1550 as ye mallabry, which probably means malabrigo, a word for “shelterless” that Spanish cartographers used to mark some islands and bays. Malabrigo sort of sounds like mal pelo, at least if you’re shouting it to someone on the opposite side of the island.

10. Hotazel, South Africa

Welcome to Hotazel, where it’s hot as hell—or at least it was on the day in 1915 when a group of land surveyors assessed a farm in South Africa and named the whole place “Hot As Hell,” now spelled “Hotazel.” The climate is actually pretty reasonable, with summer temperatures sometimes reaching the 90s (in Fahrenheit) and winter temperatures sometimes dipping into the 30s.

11. Disappointment Islands, French Polynesia

In 1765, Lord Byron’s grandfather John Byron was sailing around the tip of South America when he chanced upon a tiny island in the distance. To him and his scurvy-ridden crew, it looked like paradise, but he soon realized the high surf and coral reefs prevented safe anchorage. That, in addition to the spear-wielding natives stationed along the shore, dashed their hopes so severely that Byron named the island (and its nearby sister landmass) the Islands of Disappointment. This may have shielded the islands from centuries of follow-up explorers, but it also literally gives them a bad name. In reality, says BBC Travel’s Andrew Evans, they’re "timeless."

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