If you travel to exotic lands, you're likely to run across places with names which make you smile or shake your head in disbelief, like the three communities in the US called Boring. This list doesn't include place names which make perfect sense in the local language, but amuse or offend speakers of other languages (for instance the now world-famous Austrian village called F**king). Nor does it include double entendres such as Knob Lick, Missouri. Rather, it's about five toponyms which even locals find impractical or embarrassing.
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu (New Zealand)
Said to be the longest place name in the English-speaking world, and featured in Guinness World Records as a record-breaking toponym, the 85-letter title of this modest hill (just 305m or 1,001 feet high) near the town of Waipukurau means: "The summit where Tamatea, the man with big knees, the climber of mountains and the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his beloved." Alternative versions are even longer. At 92 letters there is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaurehaeaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, while a 105-letter variant adds the details that Tamatea (a legendary explorer and Maori settler) had a slit penis and grazed his knees while climbing mountains!
Truth or Consequences (USA)
Formerly called Hot Springs (because of an abundance of geothermal wells), this New Mexico town of around 7,000 people changed its name in 1950 in response to a challenge from the host of an exceptionally popular radio quiz show, Truth or Consequences. Promising to broadcast the show from the first town to adopt the show's name as its official moniker, he was as good as his word when Hot Springs' civic leaders jumped at the chance to put their community well-and-truly on the map. The radio show transferred to TV, and continued until 1988.
The name of this village in Jiangxi province (an inland province with a population of 45 million) can be translated as "pig's mother-in-law's brain," but there seems to be no published explanation of how the name came about, or even any details as to the settlement's size, economy or ethnic background.
It's possible that people used to visit this neighborhood in Tainan, Taiwan's former capital and fourth-largest metropolis, to buy freshly-butchered canines, as a literal translation of Gourou is "dog meat." The sale of dog meat is now illegal in Taiwan, but during until two or three generations ago, dog-meat stews were a popular wintertime dish. Not far away, there's a small valley called Goushikeng ("dog feces hole"). Taiwan's second city and busiest harbor is now known as Kaohsiung, but until 1930 it was called Takao (variously spelled Takau or Dagou), and written using two Chinese characters which mean "hit the dog." The Japanese, who ruled Taiwan between 1895 and 1945, thought the written form was undignified, so they replaced it with different characters meaning "lofty hero," and pronounced Kaohsiung in Mandarin. Credit: Creative Commons
A neighborhood in Gifu City (population: 410,000) in the inland prefecture of the same name, Shikke means "buttock hair." For this reason, the bilingual sign at the commuter-rail station is often photographed by young Japanese, not to mention foreigners studying the Japanese language. Elsewhere in Japan, Sendai City can boast of Hanage-bashi ("Nasal-hair bridge").
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