One of the sources I consulted for Follow the Letter referenced a town with an alphabetical street grid with one extra street. They named the street Ampersand instead of beginning a new sequence, although technically Ampersand did begin with an A as long as it wasn’t explicitly rendered as "&" on the street sign. I’ll never know because I couldn’t find it. The story may have been apocryphal.

However, during the search I did uncover several ampersand geographic features in the far northern reaches of New York State within the Adirondack Mountains.

Various Ampersands in New York, USA

These included Ampersand Lake, Ampersand Mountain (a very popular hiking destination), Ampersand Bay, Ampersand Brook, Little Ampersand Pond, and several roads. The town of Saranac Lake included an Ampersand Avenue, as an example. The map, above, displayed Ampersand Mountain (the arrow) and Ampersand Lake.

The whole amalgam sprang from Ampersand Brook which was alleged to resemble "&". I examined the maps and concluded that the name involved a bit of poetic license. It didn’t twist nearly as much as many other mountain streams I’ve observed. Even so I appreciated a creative description and wondered if places elsewhere took the form of punctuation marks.

Well of course they did

Comma Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

I traveled vicariously to my favorite Canadian geo-oddity hotspot, Newfoundland and Labrador, where I discovered Comma Island. It seemed to be located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and closest to the tiny Inuit town of Hopedale. I couldn’t determine any obvious reason for the name. It didn’t particularly resemble "," in my mind. It probably came closer to "/" so Slash Island might have been a better description. There were so many islands in the area that maybe early explorers simply ran out of choices. I’m sure Comma Island was easier to remember than its neighbor, Iglosoaktaligarsuk Island.

That was a typical story. Geographic features may or may not resemble the punctuation marks bearing their names. I thought Period might commonly represent something geographically small and round, however it turned out to be quite rare. Period Pond in Maryland was the only true example (map) and it certainly did not resemble the suggested shape. Hyphen Gulch (map) in Alaska’s Talkeetna Mountains came a little closer to the mark although one could argue that Dash Gulch or even Backslash Gulch might have been more appropriate. I’m such a nitpicker.

Percent was rather more common. I preferred One Hundred Percent Playground in Brooklyn, NY (map), which I’ll note was set within the Brooklyn Alphabet Avenues. As the City of New York Parks & Recreation explained,

Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” In the case of parks, a name often reflects the history of the place and the spirit of the time when the park was named. Some derive their name from a previous owner of the property, others from local streets. 100% Playground, received its name from its location on East 100th Street in Brooklyn.

An online review of 100% playground described it as, "Cool place its alarming at times but very chill atmosphere." Alarming and chill. I think I’d prefer simply chill.

The Worst Use of Punctuation

Colon, Georgia, USA

*** Immaturity warning — those in the audience with good sense and discerning tastes should probably stop reading right about now ***

Obviously a lot of mischief presented itself with Colon (punctuation) versus Colon (anatomy). The Geographic Names Information System didn’t disappoint either, with several Colons to select amongst, as represented by multiple populated Colons each with its own unique features. Many people built their homes in Colons.

  • Colon, Michigan (map): More than three thousand people live in Michigan’s Colon. It’s alleged the town was named for the shape of nearby Palmer Lake, which in my mind resembled the anatomical feature. There were two smaller ponds that resembled the punctuation mark so I’m hoping those were the actual inspiration. Colon also billed itself as a magical place. The Magic Capital News featured Colon Videos and Colon Services!
  • Colon, North Carolina (map): This didn’t appear to be much more than a crossroads although it offered an opportunity to stroll down Colon’s Memory Lane.
  • Colon, Nebraska (map): One can find a Colon Elevator here. Colon visitors can also grab a meal at a local Bar & Grill.
  • Colon, Pennsylvania (map): Only the Pennsylvania Colon showed any signs of dignity. The state seemed to have cleansed its Colon and effectively wiped it from the map; no signs of it existed.

My favorite had to be Georgia’s Colon because it was located in Clinch County. That made it a Clinch’ed Colon.

5 Replies to “Ampersand”

  1. 1) Those of us in Ohio would consider everywhere in Michigan to be its colon.

    2) Tangentially, have you done anything on places with punctuation marks (aside from periods and hyphens, of course) in their official names? St.-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, QC, is my favorite.

    3) Nice NYT Magazine article on Google Maps today.

  2. Had things worked out a bit differently the area around Brooklyn’s One Hundred Percent Playground would be completely unrecognizable from what it is today. In fact, the playground wouldn’t exist at all. Around the time of World War I the city concocted a plan to relocate the commercial shipping docks from the West Side of Manhattan, which even then was getting too crowded, to Jamaica Bay not far from the playground’s current site. It would be an enormous, ultra-modern harbor, the facilities for which would spread far inland, displacing the then-sparsely populated Canarsie neighborhood. There even would be a deep-water canal connecting Jamaica Bay with Long Island Sound, generally along a route that the Van Wyck Expressway occupies today.

    The plan, of course, got nowhere, and starting in the 1920’s Canarsie developed into a busy residential and commercial neighborhood. Only one trace of the plan remains today. As a test project, the city built a large pier into Jamaica Bay, the first of what it hoped would be at least twenty commercial piers. It’s now known as Canarsie Pier and is a popular recreation spot. The ships, needless to say, never came.

  3. Thanks to, my first Geocities blog about street signs is set to become a teenager next year.

    At the link above, you’ll find Ampersand Street, located at the top of Little Rock’s “alphabet city”.

    “I only wish that the actual sign read ‘& St.’ Then, we’d really be talking about some character.” — Haha, see? I was even oh-so-clever back then too.

    (Imgur link to pic:

  4. The Spanish name for Christopher Columbus is “Cristobal Colón”. Thus, you’ll find “Colón” as a place name in some parts of Central America, such as the port city in Panama.

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