More Weird Placenames

This isn’t one of those lists passed around the Intertubes. You’ve all seen them and I’m certain you know what I mean. No Monkey’s Eyebrow or Turkey Scratch here. These are placenames that I’ve encountered as I’ve conducted the daily task of keeping Twelve Mile Circle current. They came from various sources as I researched articles or as I obsessed over reader statistics. As usual, I attempted to peer behind the curtain to understand the reasons for these names.


Full-Reuenthal, Switzerland

I noticed Full through Google Analytics. Somebody from Full landed upon 12MC and left behind a little digital footprint for me. Nothing more. Sure, whatever "Full" referenced in any one of Switzerland’s four official languages, whether German, French, Italian or Romansh, probably didn’t mean the same thing as English. Nonetheless the thought of a Full town made me smile. It could spark a lot of entertaining jokes.

A little digging determined that Google Analytics shortened Full and the actual name was Full-Reuenthal. German Wikipedia mentioned that Full began as Wulna circa 1303-1307 and merged with Reuenthal in 1798 to form Full-Reuenthal. It then explained, "Dieser Ortsname ist von (ze) follinun abgeleitet, was auf Althochdeutsch «beim aufgeschütteten Boden» bedeutet." Google Translate deciphered that as, "This place name is derived from (ze) follinun, which means to Old High German ‘during backfill soil’."

During backfill soil? That didn’t make sense. I ran the identical phrase through several different translation websites and generated other possibilities.

  • “with heaped upon the ground”
  • “with heaped up the ground”
  • “with the piled up ground”
  • “at the bottom heaped-up”
  • “for the deposited ground”

I think that provided sufficient context to understand to the Full meaning. Do we have any native German speakers in the 12MC audience who might be able to offer further clarity?


Cooks River Cycleway
Cooks River Cycleway by Brian Yap, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
This scenic cycleway is an amenity of Hurlstone Park

Once again, Google Analytics hurled an interesting placename towards my direction. A reader arrived from a spot identified as Hurlstone, in suburban Sydney, Australia. I could imagine residents dodging rocks as an unidentified malcontent hurled missiles in their direction.

The name had been truncated in the reader log just as I’d observed with Full. The complete name was Hurlstone Park (map). I found an explanation of the name in the Dictionary of Sydney.

In 1910 a new post office was approved for Fernhill, but the Postmaster General’s Department insisted that the name of the locality would need to be changed as there were already two post offices with that name, one in Victoria and one in Queensland. A local referendum was held in conjunction with a municipal election, the choice being between Hurlstone, Fernboro or Garnett Hill. Hurlstone was selected. This was the name of a college that had been founded by John Kinloch (on the site of today’s Yeo Park, south Ashfield) and given his mother’s maiden name.

The surname Hurlstone "derived from a geographical locality. ‘of Hurlston,’ a township in the parish of Acton, Cheshire," somewhere right about here. The original Hurlston placename seemed to have derived from "’fenced farm’ from the pre 7th century Olde English ‘hurdl-tun’"

Fenced farm. That was lame. It had nothing to do with hurling stones.

Tippity Wichity

Tippity Wichity Island, Maryland, Maryland, USA

I found Tippity Wichity Island while researching Saint Marys River. It was right there in the river channel outside of St. Marys City in Maryland. Tippity Wichity wasn’t a large parcel so I figured I wouldn’t find any meaningful information about it, and frankly was quite satisfied simply to discover an image even if I couldn’t embed it because it was copyright protected. The island was rather modest.

Then I ran across an article in, Ghosting Past Tippity Wichity which provided an explanation for the unusual name.

There, according to noted Potomac River historian Frederick Tilp, Howgate established "a gambling, drinking, and girlie place known as Happie Land and then altered the place name to a short version of Tippling-house and Witchery-house"-Tippity-Witchity. Eventually, the island itself took on the name, accommodating a lively trade with crews from schooners and cargo vessels who would visit for a little entertainment.

Tippling houses specialized in liquor by the glass. Witchery House was an unfamiliar phrase to me although I could read between the lines, and assumed witchery probably referred to its alternate definition, "Compelling power exercised by beauty, eloquence, or other attractive or fascinating qualities." rather than the actual practice of witchcraft. There was drinking and um, not witchcraft, happening on Tippity Wichity Island. Happie Land, indeed.


Walkaway Railway Station Museum, Walkaway, Western Australia

Walkaway. Why would someone walk away? That didn’t sound like an attractive endorsement for a town. I noticed Walkaway in Western Australia while working on Make Tracks to Midland. This was a station on a line operated by the Midland Railway Company a century ago, and the station later became a museum with "railway artifacts, military relics, local history."

I couldn’t find a definitive source for its name. Every website seemed to copy directly from its Wikipedia page and that site didn’t offer attribution either. Let me join the masses and spread the same statement in an entirely irresponsible manner: "Its name is a corruption of the native ‘Wagga wah’, referring to the bend in the nearby Greenough River." It must be true because the Internet said so. Right?

6 Replies to “More Weird Placenames”

  1. The OHG ‘ze’ is, I believe, the ancestor of modern German ‘zu’ and cognate to English ‘to’ (here in the meaning of ‘at, by’; cf. ‘zu Tisch’ = ‘at the table’, ‘zu Weihnachten’ = ‘at Christmas’); the modern German ‘beim’ (< ‘bei’ + ‘dem’) is ‘by the, at the’.

    So I would make it something like ‘by the heaped-up earth, by the artificial embankment’ or something along those lines.

  2. German readers to the rescue: The “Full” origin in Old High German («beim aufgeschütteten Boden») actually means “Next to the heaped-up soil”. If you want to come in punnery range, you could translate it as “Next to the landfill”.

  3. I’m not a native German Speaker, so could be wrong about this, but I imagine that with that etymology Full was probably founded on land reclaimed/stabilised from marsh or river using the soil removed from a large excavation for a trench or quarry or suchlike.

    Alternatively ‘during backfill soil’ could be referring to a town founded while refilling a trench to create level ground- the soil within such a trench is known as the backfill in archaeological contexts.

    Either way the land it’s sitting on was probably artificially flattened at the time of founding.

  4. Hi
    So happy to see my suburb – Hurlstone Park- on your site. The footbridge shown is at the end of my street , Foord Avenue.
    The naming of the area is even more complicated than you report. The area was originally land grants which began to be broken up from 1880 onwards. The area then was called Fernhill or Wattle Hill. When the railway arrived in 1995 the station was called Fernhill. The station was renamed with the suburb in 1910.
    The intersection of Old Canterbury Rd, New Canterbury Road and Canterbury Rd was called Wattle Hill junction in the days of the tramways. The term seems to have passed out of use but I can recall a sign saying Wattle Hill Junction when I moved to this area 30 years ago

  5. So, it looks like “Full” is built on a prominent sandy deposit at a large bend it the river. Is it possible that this is what the name “heaped-up soil” is refering to? The large (apparently fertile) soil that the river has heaped-up there in the middle of forested mountains?

    Similar deposits on the Mississippi:

    Port Deposit, MD: It’s hard to see, but the hillside to the NE is VERY steep (every now and then a Tractor Trailer loses its brakes and crashes through the town). Every time the Susquehana floods, this narrow strip of land–the only useable land along that section of river–becomes exactly what the name suggests.

    1. also, the German Wikipedia “Geographie” section mentions a particular geographic feature, the FullerHalde, which Google translated as both the “Fuller Heap” and “Fuller Stockpile”. If you could find out what a Halde is, you might get your answer.

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