Just as Enigmatic

On January 16, 2014 · 6 Comments

Why? Because. Why Not? I dunno. It’s a puzzle. It’s a riddle.

I’d unearthed Enigma and I’d discovered Paradox. Then I decided to have a little fun with a few more place names along a similar vein. Many of them defied explanation and remained enigmatic. They can still be enjoyed simply for their unusual names.


Why, Arizona, USA

Why? Good question. That’s exactly what I wondered when I encountered the Town of Why in Arizona. Search engines did their best to answer the query often in unexpected ways. One branch led to the website why.az which dealt with the question generically rather than leading to the town specifically. I parsed the source code just because I was curious and found a comment hidden within: "Why did we do it? Why the hell not?"

That was cute although it didn’t answer the question. Wikipedia tried its best albeit without any attribution or source citation. The explanation may or may not be true.

The unusual name of the town comes from the fact that the two major highways, State Routes 85 and 86, originally intersected in a Y-intersection. At the time of its naming, Arizona law required all city names to have at least three letters, so the town’s founders named the town “Why” as opposed to simply calling it “Y.”

Why? Because

Why and Because Islands, Ontario, Canada

The Thousand Islands on the Saint Lawrence River between Canada and the United States had a problem — not withstanding that there were actually 1,864 islands — no, it was a problem with naming. How could the experts come up with 1,000, uh 1,864, different names? I’m certain that’s the only reasonable explanation for Why Island and Because Island located adjacent to each other in Ontario. Well, technically they’re only near the thousand islands not amongst them although they’re close enough. Go ahead and try to come up with an intelligent list of almost two thousand different names. I know I’d be throwing out anything that came to mind after a few hundred, with Why and Because probably being some of the better ones. Island #1,864 would probably be something like Mutant Jello Island.

I also wanted to know why there were actually two Why Islands. Maybe the middle portion washed away. Maybe the namers thought they could slip one by.

Why Not?

Whynotts Settlement, Nova Scotia, Canada

I actually found a Why Not Mountain in British Columbia although Whynott’s Settlement in Nova Scotia fascinated me a little more because of its unusual spelling. I never found anything about the village other than it had a wind turbine.

Internet sleuthing determined that Whynott was a surname so apparently the settlement was named for a pioneer that moved to the area at some point long ago. Nearby I spotted Whynacht Road (map), a variation on the surname. Nacht was a German word that translated into English as "night." Why didn’t translate into anything and I don’t know why. Anyone speak German? or was it Dutch?

I dunno

Dunno Creek, Oregon, USA

I dunno why Oregon’s Collawash River had a tributary named Dunno Creek. Insert your own speculation here.

It’s a puzzle

Puzzletown, Pennsylvania, USA

Yes, Puzzletown, Pennsylvania was a puzzle, primarily because I’m still puzzled by how it acquired its name. I researched as close to an original source as I could find, the History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties, Pennsylvania, 1883 and it included an entry on Puzzletown. All it said was, "About the year 1840 a man named Baird or Beard established the town of Puzzletown or Poplar Run post office and sold village lots afterwards." It was like everyone a generation later already took the name for granted, and either understood an obvious explanation or they simply didn’t care.

There’s not truth to the rumor that Puzzletown, Pennsylvania inspired Richard Scarry’s Puzzletown. Actually I don’t know if that’s true or not. I made it up. Maybe it did.

It’s a riddle

Riddle, Oregon, USA

Riddle as a surname was more common than Whynott (for instance). I had no doubt that I’d find a riddle. It was only a matter of discovering the most significant occurrence. I propose Riddle, Oregon with 1,200 residents as a likely candidate. According to the town history, "Riddle was founded in 1893 by John B. Riddle. John named the city for his ancestors, the William H. Riddle family from Springfield, Illinois who settled on one of thirteen land claims that were made available in the Cow Creek Valley in 1851." Right. He named it for his ancestors who just happened to have the same name. I’m sure it was a complete coincidence.

Riddle solved.

On January 16, 2014 · 6 Comments

6 Responses to “Just as Enigmatic”

  1. Rhodent says:

    Regarding “Whynacht”: The ‘wh’ digraph doesn’t occur in any European languages other than English, and the /w/ sound doesn’t appear in German, so it seems unlikely to me that the name is anything other than English in origin. The fact that the second syllable is spelled identically to the German and Dutch words for “night” is likely just coincidence.

    • Philip Newton says:

      “wh” occurs in Cornish as well. (At least in those spellings that don’t use “hw” for the sound.)

  2. Philip Newton says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the name “Whynacht” was related to the German word now spelled “Weihnachten”, which means Christmas. (Originally from a phrase meaning something like “at the [time of the] holy nights”.) Names presumably derived from this include spellings such as Weynacht and Weinacht; Whynacht looks as if it would fit in.

  3. Guy says:

    The name Whynacht made me think of Weihnacht(en) (Christmas in German), which is also a surname (see White Pages and LinkedIn. It’s probably not so far-fetched to imagine that Weihnacht got misspelled and became Whynacht (which is a more obvious spelling of the sound for English speakers), and even Whynott (as the German ch-sound is rarely used in English).

  4. This series of comments is exactly why I love writing 12MC. I learn something new every day. Thanks, all!

  5. Joshua D says:

    As for Puzzletown, I now have a very vague recollection that I might have had one. Or maybe it’s being reaquainted now as my little son is reading “Richard Scarry’s Best First Book Ever” and loves it. Especially the pickle car and Mr. Frumble (the pig always loosing his hat).

Comments are closed.

12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
Don't miss an article -
Subscribe to the feed!

RSS G+ Twitter
RSS Twelve Mile Circle Google Plus Twitter
Recent Comments
Monthly Archives
Days with Posts
September 2017
« Aug