Sensing Senses

Five senses came to mind; sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. They were very traditional human-centric senses I conceded, given various other senses in existence like echolocation, magnetoception and others. I ignored those. I also ignored the so-called sixth sense, extrasensory perception, ESP. You already knew that, though (kidding!). Could I find five traditional senses in placenames? Well no, not really although a few instances emerged. Some came with stories while others remained shrouded in mystery.


Sight Point, Western Australia

I could have selected any of several places featuring sight. I settled on Sight Point in Western Australia on the edge of Prince Regent National Park. I don’t know why. It didn’t seem any more significant than the others. Maybe it was because the park sounded interesting:

Prince Regent National Park is one of Australia’s most remote and beautiful places… The park contains more than half the mammals and bird species found in the whole Kimberley region, and more than 500 species of plants. Saltwater crocodiles are huge and abundant… There is no road access to the park, which is only accessible by boat.

I’d like to encounter every bit of that park except for any of the huge, abundant saltwater crocodiles.


<a href=
Noisy-le-Grand: Les Arènes de Picasso by harry_nl, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

I never thought that the French commune Noisy-le-Grand in the Île-de-France region would translate into English as "Great Noise," although that truly would have been, um, grand. It has been postulated that Noisy derived from the Latin nucetum for walnut grove. The town’s coat-of-arms included three walnuts in recognition of its likely etymology. The le-Grand part did indeed mean "great" and probably arose as a way to distinguish Noisy-le-Grand from several other French places with the Noisy prefix: e.g, Noisy-le-Sec; Noisy-sur-Oise; Noisy-le-Roi. Did Noisy-le-Roi mean Walnut King?!? That would be funny. It probably meant something less amusing like the Royal Walnut Grove or words to that effect.


Queens Taste Mine, New Mexico, USA

I found Queens Taste Mine in Hidalgo Co., New Mexico. I couldn’t discover anything else about it. However I did find Queens Taste in Queens, New York. It was a restaurant and food festival sponsored by the Queens Economic Development Corporation, billed as "the borough’s premiere networking and culinary event" and "feature everything from sweet to savory, Asian to Italian, and crunchy to creamy."

I doubted that Queens Taste in far southwestern New Mexico, set no more than ten miles from the Mexican border, had any relationship whatsoever with the Queens Taste in Queens, New York. Someone please prove me wrong because that would be awesome.


Smell-No-Taste, Liberia

Liberia faced severe financial problems in the 1920’s. Backed into a corner, the nation made a hard bargain with the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Their agreement allowed the corporation to amass the largest contiguous rubber plantation in the world under its Firestone Natural Rubber Company subsidiary. Firestone negotiated brutal terms, a 99-year lease on a million acres at 6 cents per acre. That’s an area about the same size as the U.S. state of Rhode Island by comparison. The company also got to choose the location, anywhere in Liberia it desired. Oh, and Firestone controlled all of Liberia’s finances for a couple of decades until various loans it offered were paid off. The plantation remains in Liberia today amidst various allegations of questionable practices including child labor exploitation.

The Firestone Plantation served as a beachhead for other foreign investments along with the infrastructure necessary to serve them. Hemmed-in between the Firestone Plantation and Roberts International Airport (informally called Robertsfield), a town arose with the curious name of Smell-No-Taste. Many sources recounted the story. One version came from the Center for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University:

Near Robertsfield International Airport in Liberia, there is a town named “Smell-no-Taste.” The town acquired its name in the period after World War II, when foreign contractors arrived in the country, tasked with building the airport. The massive construction project attracted a stream of Liberians hoping to find employment. Eager to be selected as a temporary worker, those migrants set up camps near the residences of the foreigners who were supervising the project. Every night, the contractors would cook dinner inside their compounds, the smell of the food drifting its way into the camps where the hungry migrants waited for the opportunity to work. Thus, the town became known to locals as “Smell-no-Taste.”

Apparently it was officially named Unification Town although that’s not what took hold as the popular name. Smell-No-Taste also became a bit of a euphemism for everything wrong with foreign investment in Liberia.

On a tangent, take a look to the south — A town named Snafu! The family-friendly version of this acronym is "Situation Normal All Fouled Up." Use your imagination or consult the Urban Dictionary for the more commonly referenced profane definition. Liberia hosted a US Military presence during the Second World War. I had to wonder if the name derived from a bit of military slang or whether it was completely coincidental and meant something different and innocuous in an indigenous language.


Touchit Cove, Alaska, USA

I didn’t have nearly as many options for touch nor any interesting stories for the location I selected either, Touchit Cove. The United States Geological Survey GNIS simply said it "extends E near mouth of Shoe Inlet, on NW coast of Long I., Alex. Arch." I liked the name. Nothing more.

4 Replies to “Sensing Senses”

  1. Per Wikipedia:

    “Son oncle Jean-François, propriétaire du château meurt en 1654. Ses héritiers cèdent la seigneurie de Noisy à François Bossuet, conseiller du Roi, cousin de Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet. À la suite de spéculations malheureuses, celui-ci ne peut répondre de ses dettes et ses biens sont saisis.

    “Le château de Noisy est adjugé en 1675 au roi Louis XIV qui, l’année suivante, achète la terre de Noisy. Par un décret du 20 mai 1676, Noisy est incorporé au domaine royal. Noisy deviendra, de ce fait, Noisy-le-Roi. Bossuet aura été le dernier seigneur de Noisy.”


    “His uncle Jean-Francois [Gondi], owner of the castle died in 1654. His heirs surrendered the lordship of Noisy to François Bossuet, advisor to the King, cousin of Jacques-Benign Bossuet. Following unfortunate [real estate] speculation, the latter could not pay his debts and his assets were seized.

    “The chateau of Noisy was awarded in 1675 to Louis XIV who, the following year, bought the Noisy estate. By a decree of 20 May 1676, Noisy was incorporated into the royal domain. Noisy became, by this deed, Noisy-le-Roi. Bossuet was the last lord of Noisy.”

    Other towns like Choisy-le-Roi, Mesnil-le-Roi, Bourg-la-Reine, Bois-le-Roi, etc. show similar designations from having been acquired completely into the royal lands at one time or another in their history.

  2. “Did Noisy-le-Roi mean Walnut King?!? That would be funny. It probably meant something less amusing like the Royal Walnut Grove or words to that effect.”

    Yes, I would interpret it as something along the lines of “King’s Lynn” — not just any Lynn, but the one associated with the King.

Comments are closed.