Friday, February 22, 2008

What's in a name?

How does a thing or a place get named? Sometimes the name fits, sometimes it makes no sense. We've had a good laugh recently at some of the names in Washington State, and we thought we would share this with you.

If you didn't know already, we have close to four hundred "project pages." These project pages are Web sites that report information about projects in local areas with information about the process or phase of any particular project.

With each new project, we attempt to name them so that, when we post the project information to the Web, everyone understands the location and the type of work that is being done.

The funny part about this is when you sit back and wonder why those places were named the way they were. What is the history behind it? Why was it named a particular way?

Sometimes it seems very obvious, and sometimes the story is just plain funny.There are places like the "Dismal Nitch" rest area, near the Astoria bridge, crossing into Oregon. You know Lewis and Clark must have had a bad day to name something that strongly.

Sometimes the names reflect the local history. Names like Blakeslee junction, Iron Goat Trail, or Pickle Farm road. Sometimes the names seem like they don't make any sense, like Monkey Hill or Grand Mound (as opposed to little mound?).

Other times the names just tell it like it is: Road 100 (near Pasco), Ship canal bridge, Quiet Cove Road, and Rattlesnake Hills.

Sometimes there just is no name, like the Unnamed tributary, near SR 305.

One of our staff favorites is the a town name of Wilbur, WA. When we looked it up in the Tacoma Public Library's place-name search, we found this out: Wilbur is seventy miles west of Spokane in the San Poil Mining District on Goose Creek in northwest Lincoln County. In 1887, it was founded by Samuel Wilbur Condit, homesteader. The original name Goosetown was Sam Condit's nickname, Wild Goose Bill. It was applied to his trading post. Wild Goose Bill is presumed to have shot into a flock of wild geese, killing a neighbor's gander. In 1889, the name was changed to its present form, adopting Condit's middle name.

You can't make up stuff like that. Check out the amazing Washington place name search for yourself. Try it out, and see why the place you live near is named the way it is. Today, I learned that the word Keechelus means few fish, in contrast with Kachess, which means many fish.

Are their any names of towns or locations near you that seem to not make any sense? Give them a look up, they may be as interesting as the town of Wilbur.