Geoffrey Taylor
Geoffrey Taylor

8 Fictional Places (That Sound Real)

Geoffrey Taylor
Geoffrey Taylor

Science fiction and fantasy stories can inhabit worlds that we are familiar with, even though they have no basis in reality: Narnia, Middle-Earth, Westeros, Tatooine, etc. Then there are fictional nations inserted into movies, TV, comics, and other pop culture media that are vaguely reminiscent of real places, but the name is made up to avoid offense. You might remember a few of these.

1. Freedonia

In the 1933 Marx Brothers’ movie Duck Soup, the character Rufus T. Firefly (played by Groucho) is made dictator of the nation of Freedonia in order to secure a substantial loan from a society matron who fancies him. However, the name Freedonia was in use before the movie, as a euphemism for a free nation, often the U.S. It was also used afterward for an experimental micronation in the 1990s.

2. Lower Slobbovia

Al Capp invented the nation of Lower Slobbovia in 1946 for his comic strip Li’l Abner. Meant to be a euphemism for Siberia, the inhabitants of that arctic region lived in waist-deep snow at all times. In the years since, Lower Slobbovia has come to mean “any place considered to be remote, poor, or unenlightened.”

3. Moronica

In 1940, the Three Stooges parodied Adolf Hitler in the short You Nazty Spy! Moe, a handyman, became the dictator of a country called Moronica. Moe dons a greasepaint mustache and takes over the country.

4. Starvania

Moronica is part of Starvania, which is an entire fictional continent, featured again on a map in the 1949 Three Stooges short Malice in the Palace. As you can see in the map above, it has plenty of nations, each one named with a joke in mind. In this version, Moronica has been replaced by Oomphola. The “face” of the continent is not so grim by 1949.

5. Elbonia

The Republic of Elbonia is referred to in the comic strip Dilbert. It is an Eastern European nation that is slowly emerging from under communist rule, although conditions are still dismal and jobs are scarce. In fact, political tension split Elbonia in two, with North Elbonia returning to a communist system and South Elbonia remaining under a dictatorship. The country is covered in a waist-deep layer of mud, and mud is their biggest export. Dilbert’s company outsources work to Elbonia to save money.

6. Grand Fenwick

Leonard Wibberley wrote a series of books about the goings-on in a fictional European duchy named Grand Fenwick. The first book, The Mouse That Roared, was made into a movie in 1959. In the story, Grand Fenwick is a tiny Alpine nation with few resources and little money, but it managed to win a war against the U.S. because no one took their invasion seriously (although the aim was to lose and receive foreign aid to rebuild). That movie was followed by The Mouse on the Moon in 1963, in which Grand Fenwick beat both the Americans and the Russians to the moon.

7. San Sombrèro

The nation of San Sombrèro (autoplay sound) is a Central American country that exists only in a travel guidebook. The 2006 book San Sombrèro: a Land of Carnivals, Cocktails and Coups, is a parody of travel guides, filled with stereotypes in a somewhat-believable format, but with jokes nestled in every section. San Sombrèro raised the literacy rates by jailing or deporting illiterate people. The nickname “the Venice of Central America” is attributed to coastal cities that are sinking. The screenshot above is from a video of San Sombrèro’s national anthem “La Bababumba,” which features quite a bit of twerking. The Jetlag travel guides also include a the European fictional country Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry and the Asian nation Phaic Tan: Sunstroke on a Shoestring.

8. San Serriffe

San Seriffe sounds like a lovely place to visit, a tropical island nation in the Indian Ocean. It was cooked up by the British newspaper The Guardian in 1977 for April Fool’s Day. But after reading the seven-page special report, you have to say, what a country! You can get an overview of the island’s geography, history, and culture. Every facet of this country is typographical, just like its name. The capital city is Bodoni, the major islands are Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse, and the country is ruled by General Maria-Jesu Pica.

Dan Bell
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.


All images by Dan Bell

Leon Neal, Getty Images
The Best and Worst States for Online Dating, Mapped
 Leon Neal, Getty Images
Leon Neal, Getty Images

If your online dating experience is more awkward than romantic, maybe you have geography to blame. An AT&T retailer called All Home Connections recently crunched some data on the online dating landscape, and let's just say we hope you aren’t trying to Tinder in New Mexico.

The southwestern state turns out to be one of the worst for online dating prospects, at least according to this methodology, which looked at dating opportunities, demographics, and safety. It took into account the state’s percentage of singles and gender balance, along with things like unemployment rate and median earnings, percentage of people with smartphones, data on whether or not people there say they are even interested in online dating, and the violent crime rate.

A map of the U.S. with states colored on a gradient from red to white to show online dating prospects
All Home Connections

According to this data, if you want to find love online, you should head to the Northeast: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine topped the list. That may not be surprising considering the data that went into the calculation—those states have some of the highest incomes in the U.S., and fairly high rates of educational attainment.

By contrast, the lowest states on the list, New Mexico and Arkansas, both come out looking pretty bad by those standards. So if you’re not looking for a rich spouse with a bachelor’s degree, you might not necessarily agree with some of rankings. (Although those states also have some of the highest violent crime rates, so you might want to do a little extra online sleuthing to background check your dates before you meet up there.)

Here are the 10 best states for online dating, according to the data:

1. New Hampshire
2. Massachusetts
3. Rhode Island
4. Connecticut
5. Maine
6. North Dakota
7. Washington
8. Minnesota
9. New York
10. New Jersey

And these are the 10 worst:

1. Arkansas
2. New Mexico
3. Mississippi
4. Louisiana
5. South Carolina
6. Tennessee
7. Alabama
8. Oklahoma
9. Texas
10. Nevada

For those still struggling to find a Valentine, the map might be a little comforting, in a way. If you’re not finding the love of your life on Tinder in the South, know that you might not be the only one struggling. It’s not you; it’s the state.


More from mental floss studios