I noticed a lake that’s clipped by the stair-step border in Arkansas. What kind of nimrod would name something Nimrod Lake?
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Nimrod can be applied in a derogatory way in various usages of American English to a person who is perceived to be dim-witted. I don’t know if that applies elsewhere in the English speaking world so maybe our regular readers in Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, India, South Africa and various other places can confirm or deny that. In any case it would seem mildly amusing to many people living in the United States if they were driving along and encountered a sign for Nimrod Lake. Would the Nimrod refer to the absurdity of this particular geographic location or would it be a requirement of the people who fished there? Neither, actually.
Nimrod can be found in the Book of Genesis and the Books of Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible. I am by no means a biblical scholar so no disrespect is intended if I don’t get this exactly right: succinctly, Nimrod was a king of Mesopotamia/Babylonia, a great-grandson of Noah, and a mighty hunter of exceptional abilities.
There are way too many things named for Nimrod to even begin to cover them here adequately so feel free to jump over to Wikipedia’s disambiguation page if so inclined. Historically Nimrod has been a common name for ships and more recently for an airplane, a maritime patrol aircraft for the UK military, all playing off the "mighty hunter" theme. There was even a group of phantom islands named for Nimrod that were still appearing on maps as late as the early 20th Century.
It’s not surprising that Nimrod place name appears in various locations throughout the United States, drawing upon the biblical definition of the might hunter. The United States Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) lists 37 Nimrod features: towns, lakes, buildings, creeks, canyons, hills, mines, dams, historical sites and more.
Nobody seems entirely sure how Nimrod acquired its negative connotation. There’s a story often repeated as fact that it somehow derived from or was at least popularized by a Looney Tunes cartoon. Bugs Bunny apparently referred to the hapless Elmer Fudd — who continuously hunted the Wascally Wabbit all the while failing miserably — as "poor little Nimrod." It was meant as sarcasm but somehow the meaning flipped from Mighty Hunter to something more akin to Elmer Fudd.
I don’t have any way to fact-check that anecdote so take it as one of those Internet things that sounds plausible on the surface but may or may not be true. Other sources seem to point to an older origin as used amongst hunters to make fun of each other. Feel free to decide for yourself.
There are at least five inhabited places in the United States named Nimrod regardless of how the alternate usage arose.
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Nimrod, Minnesota is probably the largest, and even it had fewer than 100 people in the most recent Census. It is an incorporated "city" under Minnesota law, one of the smallest localities in the state with such a designation. It’s best known for it’s annual Labor Day celebration, Nimrod Jubilee Days, which you can see advertised in the banner of this Street View image at least until Google makes another pass and updates its photos. I also love that Nimrod was established as a halfway point for wheat traders traveling on the Wheat Trail between Shell City and the nearest railroad at Verndale. This places Nimrod firmly in the "Halfway to what?" category.
Other inhabited U.S. Nimrods include:
- Nimrod, Oregon (map)
- Nimrod, Texas (map)
- Nimrod, Arkansas (map)
- Nimrod, Montana (map) — coincidentally next to Running Rabbit Mountain, to keep with that Bugs Bunny theme!
Nimrods also exist outside of the United States.
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One such Nimrod is a small Israeli settlement in the disputed lands of the Golan Heights, named for and located near the Nimrod Fortress. The biblical Nimrod, by speculation and tradition was reputed to have lived on the summit.