Calling someone a moron would be offensive, maybe even fighting words. It derived from Greek for stupid or foolish, and later came down through Latin with a similar meaning, then finally passed along to modern languages. I knew it retained that meaning when it came to English, certainly more widely recognized than the colloquial use of something like Nimrod. However, it couldn’t mean the same thing universally across other languages. Still, it surprised me to see a Moron in Haiti. They wouldn’t name a town Moron unless it meant something other than moron would they?
Moron, Grand’Anse, Haiti
Moron, Haiti after Hurricane Matthew. Photo by CDC Global on Flickr (cc)
I spotted Moron (map) as I researched the ladylike place of Dame Marie, both of them found in Haiti’s Grand’Anse department. Very little information existed about either location. I did learn that people from Moron call themselves Moronais. Unfortunately Haitians had more to be concerned about than posting information about obscure settlements on the Intertubes. Hurricane Matthew devastated the entire Southern Peninsula. At least 85 people died in Moron in a situation described as apocalyptic. Only 25,000 people lived in Moron so the deaths represented a horrific toll.
I imagined Moron must have meant something different in French or Creole although I couldn’t figure it out.
Morón de la Frontera, Spain
Moron de la Frontera. Photo by G B on Flickr (cc)
A Spanish translation offered better possibilities. Morón de la Frontera in Seville seemed to be the most noteworthy example out of several in the Spanish speaking world (map). Morón meant Hummock, as in a little knoll or mound. Alternately, people of Moorish ancestry dominated the area around Morón de la Frontera from the 8th through 13th Centuries. That possibly influenced the name as well. The Frontera portion of its name referred to its placement on the border with Grenada. Morón sat on a frontier during this period.
Argentina contained a substantial Morón within the larger Buenos Aires metropolitan area. Nobody really knew how this one got its name either. It could have come from the name of an early landowner; it could have come from Morón de la Frontera, or possibly from some other source. The town became very prosperous over time and later became the site of the Universidad de Morón. Moron University would seem to be an oxymoron in English, although I assumed it was a solid institution without any stigma in its native Spanish.
Lac de Moron, France/Switzerland
Lac de Moron. Photo by Denis De Mesmaeker on Flickr (cc)
Back in Europe, along the border between France and Switzerland, stood Lac de Moron (map). The Doubs River began in the Jura Mountains, a portion of the Western Alps. From there it flowed into the Saône River, then onward into the Rhône. A portion of the Doubs flowed through a steep valley and it seemed to be a great place to build a dam for a reservoir. The Châtelot Dam was built in 1953, creating Lac de Moron, shared between the Doubs department of France and the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. It generated electricity for both nations.
Moron 2008 on Wikimedia Commons (cc)
Not all moron locations got their names from European words or place names. I found a rather substantive Mörön in Mongolia (map). It actually meant "river" and locals pronounced it something like mu-roon, not moron. Nonetheless, I didn’t have a lot of Mongolian sites on my Complete Index Page so I kept it on the list. This one didn’t exist until the early Nineteenth Century. Here, along the Delgermörön river, rose the Möröngiin Khuree monastery. A settlement later grew around it as the years passed. Eventually Mörön became the capital of the Khövsgöl province, with more than thirty thousand residents. Surprisingly, I noticed it even had Street View coverage.
It made me wonder about places in the English-speaking world that sounded rude or insulting in foreign languages. Does anyone know of any?