Nearly Nothing Named for Nixon

On July 1, 2015 · 1 Comments

I joked as I wrote More Presidential County Sorting that no county will likely ever be named for disgraced former U.S. President Richard Milhous Nixon who resigned in 1974 in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. That led me to wonder, well, had anything ever been named for him? Maybe I was being overly harsh? Actually I learned that if someone would like to undertake one of the loneliest search engine queries in history, try variations on "named for [after, in honor of] Richard [M] Nixon." There were precious few results.

Nixon and Elvis via Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

The pickings were so slim that I had a difficult time finding photos to illustrate the article so I decided to use this iconic image of Richard Nixon meeting Elvis Presley in 1970. Enjoy that for a little while as I attempt to unspool the very small set of actual confirmed places named for Tricky Dick.

Yorba Linda, California

I began with the obvious.

Yes, naturally there was a Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum that was named for Richard Nixon (map). Obviously that was true by definition so I’m not even sure it should count. It was established in Yorba Linda, California, the town where Hannah Milhous Nixon gave birth to a son in 1913.

Looking northwest along garden at museum - Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
Looking northwest along garden at museum – Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum by Tim Evanson, on Flickr (cc)

Nixon established his presidential library on land adjacent to his childhood home, a prominent feature of the museum complex. There used to be a Richard Nixon elementary school nearby although it closed in 1988 due to declining enrollment. Nixon had the distinction of being the president who died farthest from his birthplace (as proven by 12MC — a great circle distance of 2,436 miles / 3,920 kilometers). He made up for that by being buried on the grounds of his library within feet of his birthplace.

In addition, a stretch of Imperial Highway through Yorba Linda was renamed The Richard M. Nixon Parkway.

Twelve Mile Circle wasn’t overly surprised to see a few Nixon tributes scattered about his home town. What about other places though?

Elsewhere In the United States

Nixon Elementary School & Park, Hiawatha, Iowa

Loyal 12MC reader Calgully noted that in Australia they don’t name things for living people just in case they become embarrassments later. Those were wise words indeed, a fact that others should have considered before referencing Nixon.

There were plenty of features named Nixon although usually for different Nixons. It wasn’t an entirely uncommon surname. Most of them made it clear that they were NOT named for Richard Nixon. However I found two elementary schools definitely named for Richard Nixon, both bestowed before he became a national disgrace. The school district in Hiawatha, Iowa opened Richard M. Nixon Elementary School in 1970. The adjacent park had the same name. Another Nixon Elementary School was built in Roxbury Township in Landing, New Jersey (map). Nowhere on its website did it mention that it was named for that Nixon although clearly it was. I’d try to ignore or deny it too.

Other than that I saw a reference to a "President Richard Nixon’s Iowa Ancestor Historical Marker" listed in the Geographic Names Information System. It was located in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery, Indianola, Iowa (map). I also found a few minor streets. That was it.


International tributes were even more scarce. I found a mention of Richard M. Nixon High School, in Monrovia, Liberia in the Autobiography of John Wulu, Sr.

I wrote him a letter. In my letter I stated, "Mr. President, to you defeat means success. You were defeated two times for the office of the President, you did not allow that to deter or discourage you… My entire family and I have strong admiration for you… I decided to rename my school in your honor and call it Richard M. Nixon Institute. The school is located in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, West Africa." President Nixon replied to my letter through the American Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia, and said it was okay for me to name my school in his honor.

The school still existed as recently as February 2015. It was mentioned in a BBC article, "Ebola outbreak: Liberia schools reopen after six months."

There also used to be a Nixon Library in Hong Kong according to the U.S. National Archives. Nixon visited Hong Kong while he was Vice Presidential in 1953.

The First Nixon Library — Except for its name, there was little remarkable about the modest library that stood in the neighborhood of Yuen Long on the outskirts of Hong Kong from 1954 until 1977. It held only a few thousand books and employed just one librarian, and its patrons were mostly schoolchildren, farmers, and shopkeepers. Nevertheless, the humble building was a monument to Richard Nixon.

Nixon passed through Hong Kong several times after his initial visit, and even toured the library in person in 1966. He may not have been there to see the library though. There were rumors that he was having an affair.

In Popular Culture

The Simpsons Springfield expansion phase 2 at Universal Orlando
The Simpsons Springfield expansion phase 2 at Universal Orlando by Ricky Brigante, on Flickr (cc)

I discovered an entire list of pop culture references to Nixon. My favorite one by far drew inspiration from his middle name, Milhous. The writers of The Simpsons added an "e" to his name to create the character Milhouse (full name Milhouse Mussolini Van Houten).

Half of Something is Better Than Nothing

On June 21, 2015 · 1 Comments

Would Twelve Mile Circle stoop so low as to devote an entire article to a bad pun? Well yes, that’s been known to happen.

For the benefit of the non-native English speakers in the audience, when something is said to be half-assed it implies that the effort used to produce it was insufficient, ineffectual, incompetent, lazy, low quality or other words and phrases to that effect. An example might be, "he did such a half-assed job on the roof and that it leaks every time it rains." I wouldn’t consider the term vulgar necessarily although it might qualify as mildly crass. I probably wouldn’t use it in a casual conversation with my mother so maybe that could serve as a guidepost. Those in the 12MC audience with delicate sensibilities might want to skip today’s article.

My trip to Ireland was decidedly NOT half-assed
although I took a photo of half an ass

Nobody really knew where the term originated although linguists proposed various theories, some more half-assed than others:

  • A tawdry version of half-hearted, except using a different body part.
  • An intentional mispronunciation of haphazard
  • A tool called an adz used in woodworking; i.e., using an adz on only the front part of a piece would leave it half completed, or half-adzed
  • Half asked, as in you only did half of what I asked
  • Donkeys are often used in pairs; being half-assed would denote a deficiency

The earliest documented usage of half-assed in print seemed to date to 1863 according to several sources, found in the record of a general court marshal held in the United States.

Specification 1st — In this that he, the said Captain John H Behan, Company F, 16th Regiment Virginia Volunteers, while on duty in camp on or about the 12th day of December 1862 did use abusive and grossly insulting language to Joseph B Hamilton, 2d Lieutenant… in words as follows to wit: "There goes our half-assed Adjutant…"

I went ahead and created my own fake etymology as it applied to geography. A one-horse town would be one that’s considered small and unimportant. With that in mind I examined another member of the genus Equus, specifically Equus africanus asinus, the donkey (or ass). Thus, wouldn’t it make sense that a half-assed town would be only half as significant as a one-horse town? I don’t have any evidence to corroborate this usage because I made it up. It’s false. Also the theory wouldn’t work in the United Kingdom and various other places where it’s half-arsed instead.

Half Assini, Ghana

Half Assini Senior High School

The proceeding several paragraphs were an extremely long and tedious lead-in designed simply to provide an excuse to talk about a town I discovered on a map of Ghana named Half Assini (map). It was located on the Gulf of Guinea on a little jut of land at the far southwestern side of the nation, only five kilometres from Côte d’Ivoire.

According to the Half Assini Development Association,

Half Assini is the district capital for the Jomoro district, a district in the Western Region of Ghana (Jomoro means "fresh fish" in the local dialect). Half Assini’s real name is "Ewianeh" and is supposed to mean "the end of Nzema". It has a population between 5000 and 10,000. The main occupation of the people is farming and fishing.

The Nzema people inhabit southwestern Ghana and southeastern Côte d’Ivoire. I didn’t know what "the end of Nzema" represented although I speculated that perhaps it marked the end of a territorial border. In other words, maybe Ewianeh / Half Assini was the last town before leaving the Nzema area?

Half Assini was noted for two minor historical events. First, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana received part of his education there. It was a British colony at the time — the Gold Coast — and his father was working there as a goldsmith and he was Nzema. Kwame Nkrumah became a student-teacher in Half Assini as a teenager. Educators noticed his talents and arranged for him to continue his education, which eventually led him to the United States and the United Kingdom. Later he fought for Ghanaian independence, served time in prison for leading the struggle and ultimately prevailed in 1960. He was overthrown by a military coup d’etat while on an overseas trip in 1966 and lived the remainder of his life in exile.

The second historical footnote happened in 1913 when the Welsh ship S.S Bakana sailed from Liverpool and wrecked off the coast of Half Assini. Captain Richard Williams drowned during the shipwreck and his body washed ashore several days later. As was custom, those who found Captain Williams buried him in the bush nearby. However the town grew as the years passed and the formerly tranquil gravesite stood in the way of street construction. Developers built around Captain Williams’ tomb, now protected by a wrought-iron fence in the middle of the street. In death he’s become somewhat of a local celebrity of sorts (that page also shows a photo of the sunken ship and the tomb). There’s even a Captain Williams Hotel although authorities aren’t sure why they found four people there recently with two human heads. They were arrested.

The name Half Assini would imply the existence of a full Assini nearby. Alas, that didn’t seem to be the case. We may never know how Half Assini got its curious name.

End of the Line

On June 10, 2015 · 14 Comments

Many longtime Twelve Mile Circle readers probably already guessed that this article that would come next. Immediately after a story about the beginning of the alphabet, naturally one would expect to find one about the end. It became an equally difficult task too, except for the most notable location.

Take a moment to ponder this insect.

Zyzzyx chilensis
Zyzzyx chilensis by Pato Novoa, on Flickr (cc)

Zyzzyx chilensis, a type of sand wasp native to Argentina, Chile, and Peru, gained its name in the 1930’s. Flies would view this creature as particularly nasty and formidable. This wasp had a peculiar habit of laying its eggs on flies, which then hatched and consumed its host parasitically as larvae grew. I thought it sounded pretty gruesome.

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone completely off the deep end just yet. What may seem completely irrelevant actually helps establish context. Every site I examined included Zzyzx (spelled slightly differently than the name of the wasp) as the final entry on any alphabetical list of place names. Actually, it was the only entry. Like Zyzzyx chilensis, it preyed upon the weak and helpless in a parasitic manner as readers will soon see.

Zzyzx, California, USA

Zzyzx by Leif Harboe, on Flickr (cc)

I couldn’t find a definite connection between Zyzzyx chilensis and the settlement of Zzyzx (map) although the timing seemed oddly coincidental. The former Soda Springs became Zzyzx in the 1940’s, during the same basic time period. However I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about it for a couple of reasons. First, every oddball website mentioned Zzyzx so I didn’t have anything new to add. Second, it was a contrived name designed specifically to place it at the end of any alphabetical list. Zzyzx cheated.

A self-proclaimed minister-slash-doctor named Curtis Springer created Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort on the western edge of the Mohave desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He promised all sorts of miracle cures and made piles of money. It was a complete fraud including the alleged "hot springs" he heated with a boiler. Springer didn’t even own the land. The government removed him from his desert domain in the 1970’s. After that Zzyzx became the Desert Studies Center for California State University, Fullerton so at least some good came from it. Roadside America had a particularly nice summary.

Everything about Zzyzx was fake including its name. Nonetheless, I couldn’t find any other place that began with a Double-Z, and it will likely remain alone until someone decides to honor ZZ Top.

Beginning with ZY

Żywiec polish beer in Warsaw (Warszawa)
Żywiec polish beer in Warsaw (Warszawa) by Ulf Liljankoski, on Flickr (cc)

I jumped farther down the alphabet for places beginning with ZY. There were several waiting to be found. Żywiec, Poland seemed to be the most significant. It had a population of a little more than thirty thousand and its own brand of beer. The Żywiec Brewery had a nice range of beverages although I couldn’t figure out much because the website was entirely in Polish — not that I’m complaining since it should be in Polish — just that my navigation was less than elegant as I guessed randomly and hoped for cognates.

Zyryanka (map) in the Sakha Republic of Russia also deserved a mention primarily because the 12MC Complete Index Map lacked decent coverage of Russia. I didn’t even know if the Russian name (Зырянка) would be remarkable in its native language or not. Anyway, the settlement apparently dated back to the 1930’s to serve local coal mines, and other than that was probably more notable for its remoteness and frigid temperatures.

Beginning with ZW

Beautiful view of Zwolle at night
Beautiful view of Zwolle at night by Ley, on Flickr (cc)

I didn’t find any ZX places although there were plenty of ZW’s as I worked my way back down the alphabet. There were too many to discuss although here’s a small sampling:

  • Zwönitz, Germany (map): a smallish town in Saxony founding nearly a thousand years ago.
  • Zwolle, Netherlands (map): the Province of Overijssel’s capital city, perhaps the most predominant ZW location with more than 125 thousand residents.
  • Zwicky, Canada (map): an unincorporated area (railway point) in Kootenay Land District, British Columbia

Feel free to nominate your favorites.

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