More Full Names

On April 3, 2014 · 6 Comments

I enjoyed compiling a list of Full Name counties in the United States earlier this week. In a comment "The Basement Geographer" improved the article significantly with a list of similarly-constructed counties in Canada. It was great work on his part. Readers should refer back to his comment and check it out.

That led me to wonder whether I might be able to find examples in other nations. I focused on places where English was an official language either by itself or alongside others, due to my lack of ability to work with other languages. The upside of this approach was that it left lots of nations for the international 12MC audience to investigate if it so chooses.

I found one example in Australia and then I hit the jackpot in South Africa.

Deas Thom(p)son

County of Deas Thompson, Queensland, Australia

Queensland, Australia contained the County of Deas Thompson, named for Sir Edward Deas Thomson (1800-1879), a "public servant and parliamentarian" in New South Wales, and chancellor of the University of Sydney. As with a couple of examples in the United States (Jo Daviess instead of Daveiss and Anne Arundel instead of Arundell), authorities screwed-up Thomson’s name and in this case inserted an extra letter. Seriously, why would someone fail to proofread a name before affixing it permanently to the landscape?

The county, from the very little data that I could gather, was situated between Rockhampton and Gladstone on Queensland’s Capricorn Coast. I’m certainly no expert in Australian governance although the lack of any tangible information or web presence led me to believe that the so-called County of Deas Thompson couldn’t possibly retain much authority.

I’d never heard of Deas Thomson, the man, although that was hardly surprising given my lack of depth in Australian history. Fortunately the Australian Dictionary of Biography provided a remarkable amount of information, and frankly much more than I cared to review although I included the link in case it sounded interesting to anyone else.

Deas Thomson Street, Vincentia, New South Wales, Australia

Thomson was a competent administrator albeit a lesser functionary in Australian history which is probably why his name adorned a minor county in rural Queensland, a short residential street near the Jervis Bay Territory — and possibly Thompson Point in the general vicinity of the aforementioned county (map) although I couldn’t confirm that last one.

Deas Thompson Point, Northwest Territories, Canada

More inexplicable was Deas Thompson Point (again with the extra letter), a cape in Canada’s Northwest Territories. It wasn’t labeled on the online maps I examined although the coordinates were included in the Natural Resource Canada geographical names data base. Thomson did spend some time in Canada according to his biography although it didn’t seem to merit geographic representation. Clearly he had friends in high places looking out for his good name.

South Africa

Kuruman, John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality, South Africa

I’m not sure any nation will have more full name geographic units than South Africa. It had 52 districts in total, which were roughly analogous to counties in function, and a dozen of those incorporated full names.

  • Alfred Nzo District Municipality: African National Congress political leader (source)
  • Chris Hani District Municipality: General-Secretary of the South African Communist Party (source)
  • Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality: First President of Zambia (source)
  • Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality: ANC official; part of delegation that negotiated peaceful transition of government (source)
  • Fezile Dabi District Municipality: ANC leader; author, poet, philosopher (source)
  • Frances Baard District Municipality: "Organiser of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League and Trade Unionist" (source)
  • Gert Sibande District Municipality: "Organised farm workers, member of the ANC, accused in the Treason Trial of 1956, helped expose working conditions in Bethal, provincial president of the Transvaal ANC" (source)
  • Joe Gqabi District Municipality: "Photographer, Reporter, Member of the ANC and MK" (source)
  • John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality: "Trade unionist, member of the ANC and General Secretary of SACTU, Robben Island prisoner, banned person" (source)
  • Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality: Nelson Mandela obviously requires no further explanation.
  • Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality: "historian, political activist, author and medical practitioner" (source)
  • Pixley ka Seme District Municipality: "Lawyer, journalist, author member of the South African Native National Congress, launched the SANNC newspaper, Abantu Batho, President-General of the ANC" (source)

Admittedly, South Africa was a unique situation. All of these geographic names arose after the peaceful dismantling of apartheid in the early 1990′s. They served as a tangible means to recognize the leaders of the struggle for equality, replacing names that had been imposed by colonial powers.


On March 27, 2014 · 6 Comments

I’ve long wanted to add Washington’s San Juan County to my county counting list and maybe someday I’ll succeed. Pondering that eventuality I began to grow increasingly curious about its only incorporated town, Friday Harbor, specifically the story behind its name.

Friday Harbor, Washington, USA

It seemed unusual to name a settlement after a day of the week. What confluence of events could lead to something like that? Maybe an early explorer sailed into a harbor on a Friday, I figured, maybe even one of the original Spanish expeditions that charted the archipelago in the late 18th Century. Actually that wasn’t the case at all. The name referred to the day of the week although it happened decades later and indirectly.

View from Friday Harbor House by Jamie Campbell on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

According to the San Juan Historical Society:

Friday Harbor was named for a Kanaka — a Hawaiian named Joseph Poalie Friday, who was employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company to tend sheep on the land overlooking the harbor. His was the only habitation to be seen for miles, and when sailors coming along the coast saw the smoke from his camp, they knew they had reached “Friday’s Harbor” … Poalie is a shortened form of “Poalima,” the Hawaiian word for Friday. Joe might have dropped his native surname in favor of Friday when he came to the Northwest.

That sounded a bit convenient, perhaps apocryphal. I examined the reference using a modern Hawaiian dictionary. It included the word Pō’alima and confirmed the definition Friday. The theory wasn’t completely out of the question. Thus Friday Harbor was likely named after a man either with the surname Pō’alima or Friday, in either case Friday.

Friday, Texas

Friday, Texas, USA

Texas included a small village named Friday. I love encountering Texas place names because I can almost always find an explanation in The Handbook of Texas, published by the Texas State Historical Association. That source noted,

FRIDAY, TEXAS… was established around the time of the Civil War and was originally known as Ellis Prairie… In 1903, when a post office was established, the name was changed to Friday. By 1914 the community had a general store, a cotton gin, and a gristmill… The post office continued to operate until 1955… The population in 1990 was forty-one. In 2000 it had grown to ninety-nine.

While the Handbook explained when Friday became Friday, it did not explain why that happened although it dangled a tantalizing clue. I speculated that there was already an Ellis elsewhere in Texas and the residents had to select an unused name in a hurry if they wanted a post office. The pages of 12MC record numerous instances where unusual names arose from similar circumstances.

Joe Friday Well

Jack Webb Harry Morgan Dragnet 1968
Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) on Dragnet
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons in the Public Domain

I mentioned Joe Friday only a few weeks ago in Just the -fax, Ma’am when I wrote,

Police sergeant Joe Friday never actually said "just the facts ma’am" on the vintage television show Dragnet, according to Snopes. Rather, the character played by Jack Webb uttered different lines that were later confused with the classic phrase now erroneously attributed to the show.

Joe Friday Well, Arizona, USA

Nonetheless Joe Friday had his own well in Arizona. Or maybe it was Joe Friday for whom Friday Harbor was allegedly named? Seriously, what were the odds of three different Joe Fridays suddenly appearing in a matter of days on 12MC? I swear it wasn’t intentional. If it were I’d have created an entire Joe Friday article.

Friday Island, Queensland, Australia

Friday (and other day) Island, Queensland, Australia

Friday Island appeared off of the Cape York Peninsula at the far northern tip of Queensland, about as close as Australia could possibly get to New Guinea. I didn’t find anything unusual about the name as much as when it was combined with some of the neighboring islands including Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Islands. And what happened to Monday and Saturday, which didn’t seem to be present, and Sunday charted much farther down the peninsula (map)? Notable features included lighthouses on Tuesday and Wednesday, pearl farms on Friday, and a sizable population of about 3,500 residents on Thursday.

Black Friday Lake, British Columbia, Canada

I wondered about Black Friday Lake in British Columbia, Canada, too. Which Black Friday inspired the name? I assumed it wasn’t the 1945 riot at the Warner Bros. studios, or the 1910 suffrage protest in England, and certainly it wasn’t the day after Thanksgiving shopping event in the United States because that would make no sense at all in Canada. Perhaps it referred to the alternate name for Good Friday.

Best Avoided by Those With Delicate Sensibilities

Reader "Glenn" sent an email to 12MC with a map link, and a firm "no comment." I followed the link, chuckled, and noticed another geographic feature about a mile southwest of there. I replied, "apparently we have quite the, um, interesting theme going on there in Florida’s nether regions."

Keep those comments, ideas, and discoveries coming!

Land of Disco

On February 2, 2014 · 3 Comments

I came across an unusual neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina where many of the streets were named for different genres of dance. Why yes, it was a mobile home park. How did you guess?

Schenley Square, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

It further confirmed my theory that trailer parks have the best street names, using labels that everyone would love to have if society didn’t constrain them with highfalutin notions. Waltz, Minuet and Polonaise sounded almost normal. Modern and Folk were pretty lame, though — get it, Modern Dance, Folk Dance, really? Cha Cha, Swing and Twist started getting more adventurous. Break Dance and Hip Hop definitely took some guts. At a main entrance to the community though, visible to the entire outside world (Street View), a road named Disco Lane? Exceptional.

That transported me mentally to a carefree time in musical history when Disco ruled the planet, sandwiched firmly between the activism of Hippies and the anger of Punks. Did the denizens of discotheques, mirror balls and polyester leisure suits leave any physical marks upon the geographic landscape other than a random trailer park in North Carolina? Not particularly. Disco may have become a pop cultural phenomenon briefly during the 1970′s, however most partakers denied knowledge afterwards. Nonetheless I found plenty of places with coincidental naming.

Disco Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The U.S. Geographic Names Information System listed four populated Discos, one found in Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin respectively. None of them was larger than a flyspeck. The occurrence in Tennessee may have been the most significant. It even included the wonderfully-named Disco Loop Road (map).

I’m not letting Canada off-the-hook either. The Canadian 12MC audience can always visit Disco Road in Toronto. They can dump their garbage at the Disco. I’m not kidding. The city maintains a drop-off depot for household hazardous waste and electronics at 120 Disco Road. I’m sure Toronto wasn’t trashing Disco intentionally. I’m also sure that Toronto West Detention Centre at 111 Disco Road wasn’t intended as a slight either. All coincidental, I assure you. Or was it? Why did all the Disco fans disappear suddenly after Disco Demolition Night?

Do the Hustle

Hustle, Virginia, USA

The Hustle may have been Disco’s defining dance. It exploded in popularity after Van McCoy & the Soul City Symphony released their song of the same name in 1975. This will be the one and only time Van McCoy & the Soul City Symphony will ever be mentioned in Twelve Mile Circle so mark it down and remember the date.

I found Hustle in Virginia. It wasn’t a town proper, just a crossroads, although it did have its own Zip Code – 22476. Conceivably, disco aficionados could carry an envelope to the post office and go home with a coveted Hustle postmark if they so desired.

Saturday Night Fever

Saturday Night Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

If Disco had a defining dance it also had a defining movie, Saturday Night Fever, a theatrical pandemic from 1977. IMDB summarized it with few words, "a Brooklyn youth feels his only chance to get somewhere is as the king of the disco floor." That was the extent of any meaningful plot. It launched the career of John Travolta in the title role.(¹) The soundtrack released by the Bee Gees also became phenomenally successful.

I found Saturday Night Lake in Alberta (map above) and Saturday Night Hill in Montana (map) along with several other much smaller features with similar names.

Travolta St., Stafford Heights, Queensland, Australia

With respect to Mr. Travolta once again, I discovered him amongst several other era-appropriate actors, singers and entertainers in the streets of a development in Stafford Heights, Queensland, Australia. The same development also contained, I believe, the only street in the world named for Ernest Borgnine. Personally, I’d love to live at the corner of (Dolly) Parton and (Elvis) Presley Streets.


McBurney YMCA, New York City, New York, USA

It would be difficult to assign a signature song to the Disco era because it had so many iconic contenders. Y.M.C.A. by the Village People certainly qualified for elite status because of its sheer staying power. New York City’s Greenwich Village was the village of the Village People so I’d nominate the McBurney YMCA for special attention. Technically I guess it’s on the wrong side of W. 14th Street which puts it just north of the Village. Close enough for me.

And now I can’t get The Hustle out of my head. This will be a long, agonizing day.

(¹) Let’s not even pretend he can afford a home with its own jumbo jet hanger because of his earlier "groundbreaking" work in Welcome Back, Kotter where his primary claim involved coining the catchphrase "up your nose with a rubber hose."


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