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 In this version, Moronica has been replaced by Oomphola.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.

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Interactive Map Shows Where Your House Would Have Been 750 Million Years Ago
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Your neighborhood traveled a long way over several hundred million years to reach the spot it occupies today. To trace that journey over the ages, check out Ancient Earth, an interactive digital map spotted by Co.Design.

Ancient Earth, a collaboration between engineer and Google alum Ian Webster and Paleomap Project creator C.R. Scotese, contains geographical information for the past 750 million years. Start at the beginning and you'll see unrecognizable blobs of land. As you progress through the ages, the land mass Pangaea gradually breaks apart to form the world map we're all familiar with.

To make the transition even more personal, you can enter your street address to see where it would have been located in each period. Five hundred million years ago, for example, New York City was a small island in the southern hemisphere isolated from any major land mass. Around the same time, London was still a part of Pangaea, and it was practically on top of the South Pole. You can use the arrows on your keyboard to flip through the eras or jump from event to event, like the first appearance of multicellular life or the dinosaur extinction.

As you can see from the visualization, Pangaea didn't break into the seven continents seamlessly. Many of the long-gone continents that formed in the process even have names.

[h/t Co.Design]

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The Best (and Worst) States for Summer Road Trips
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As we shared recently, the great American road trip is making a comeback, but some parts of the country are more suitable for hitting the open road than others. If you're interested in taking a road trip this summer but are stuck on figuring out the destination, WalletHub has got you covered: The financial advisory website analyzed factors like road conditions, gas prices, and concentration of activities to give you this map of the best states to explore by car.

Wyoming—home to the iconic road trip destination Yellowstone National Park—ranked No. 1 overall with a total score of 58.75 out of 100. It's followed by North Carolina in the No. 2 slot, Minnesota at No. 3, and Texas at No. 4. Coming in the last four slots are the three smallest states in America—Rhode Island, Delaware, and Connecticut—and Hawaii, a state that's obviously difficult to reach by car.

But you shouldn't only look at the overall score if you're planning a road trip route: Some states that did poorly in one category excelled in others. California for example, came in 12th place overall, and ranked first when it came to activities and 41st in cost. So if you have an unlimited budget and want to fit as many fun stops into your vacation as possible, taking a trip up the West Coast may be the way to go. On the other end of the spectrum, Mississippi is a good place to travel if you're conscious of spending, ranking second in costs, but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the quality of your trip, coming in 38th place for safety and 44th for activities.

Choosing the stops for your summer road trip is just the first step of the planning process. Once you have that covered, don't forget to pack these essentials.

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