Meanwhile, We’ve Got Pittsburgh

I have a serious case of Canada Envy.

It’s got nothing to do with maple leaves or socialized medicine or curling. I just happen to think they come up with some pretty awesome names for places.

Take Moose Jaw, for instance. A city in south-central Saskatchewan. (Hell, take Saskatchewan, for that matter. It’s a lot more fun to say than Ohio). Who names a city Moose Jaw? And why? You just know there’s a story behind that name, and chances are, it’s a good one. According to Wikipedia, there are two theories: it either comes from the Cree indian term moose gaw, meaning “warm breezes,” or it got its name from the Moose Jaw River, which got its name because it is shaped like a moose jaw.

OK, I was hoping for a better story, but the name is still cool. So are the residents of Moose Jaw. They are called Moose Javians. Man, I wish I was a Moose Javian!

Then there’s Medicine Hat, in Alberta. Who sticks their medicine in a hat? It’d be much safer in a pocket, I’d reckon. I didn’t want to look up the meaning of the name on Wikipedia lest it disappoint me ala Moose Jaw, but it turns out Medicine Hat is the English translation of a Blackfoot indian term for the eagle tail feather headdress worn by medicine men. That’s kinda cool. Meanwhile, we’ve got Pittsburgh.

The names get a lot stranger from there. Like Balls Falls, Ontario. Also in Ontario: Crotch Lake. Not to be outdone, Newfoundland’s got Dildo, Spread Eagle, and Conception Bay; Saskatchewan has Climax, Fertile, and Smuts; and Nova Scotia’s got Shag Harbour. Those Canadians sure do have one track minds, eh? Perhaps it was a Canadian ex-pat who went on to found Intercourse, Pennsylvania. (At least the U.S. has that going for it).

Those wacky Canadians...
Those wacky Canadians…

My favorite Canadian name of all, though, has got to be Saint-Louis-Du-Ha!-Ha! Yes, with exclamation marks. No, I’m not making it up. I’m not making any of these names up. I’m a creative guy, but not creative enough to come up with these wacky monikers.

I dearly love my adopted hometown of Portland, but it could not have a more boring name if it tried. It’s land. With a port. Port-land. Yawn. Besides, it’s not even original. We stole it from the town in Maine, thanks to a coin toss. If it had come up tails, we’d have been called Boston. True story. (I’ve always wondered why Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove didn’t just name the town after themselves. Both their last names are more interesting and unique than the cities they hailed from).

There is a Boring, Oregon – but that’s got nothing on Vulcan, Alberta. I’ll bet the residents there live long and prosper.

I haven’t forgotten about you, Manitoba. You’ve got Bird and Finger (flip people off much?). Also, Jackhead. As for British Columbia, how about Skookumchuck, Spuzzum, and Squamish? Best of all, B.C. – and maybe explanation for those names? – there’s Stoner.

You could practically build a Frankenstein-style monster out of Joe Batt’s Arm, St. Margret’s Head, Elbow, and Eyebrow. All real places. As are Blow Me Down and Asbestos and Mayo and Punkeydoodles Corner and Primate and Swastika. I could go on and on…seriously…but I think you get the point. Canadians have the best sense of humor on the planet!


15 thoughts on “Meanwhile, We’ve Got Pittsburgh

  1. “Like Balls Falls, Ontario. Also in Ontario: Crotch Lake. Not to be outdone, Newfoundland’s got Dildo, Spread Eagle, and Conception Bay; Saskatchewan has Climax, Fertile, and Smuts; and Nova Scotia’s got Shag Harbour.”

    See, this is WHY I need to get to Canada. LOVE those names, Mark!

    “Intercourse, Pennsylvania.”

    Okay, I LIVE in PA and didn’t know that?!? Gotta check it out.

    Florida (believe it or not) has Christmas, Florida. And Orlando has Kissimmee, Florida which when I first read the sign, I thought it was pronounced – Kiss-A-Me!

    Fun post, buddy!


    1. You didn’t know you had Intercourse, Ron? I find that hard to believe. Must not have been very memorable.

      I always thought it was pronounced “Kiss-A-Me,” too. I’m disappointed to learn it’s not!


  2. You forgot one of my favourite Canadian place names, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta, a place where Buffalo were chased off a cliff as part of the annual laying in the food stocks (or so I’ve heard).

    Growing up an anglophone in Montreal, a predominantly French-speaking city, my circle of friends used the fictitious place name of St. Pierre de Rubber Boot to mean “the sticks” or wherever you find yourself once you admit you are lost. I don’t know if the term St. Pierre de Rubber Boot enjoyed wider usage than just my friends.


    1. Ha! I actually saw that name on one of the sites I linked to, but figured nobody would believe it was real. In a list of already-bizarre names, that one truly takes the cake.


    1. I wouldn’t make up something so blatantly suggestive, Jess.

      Well, okay, I probably would. But I didn’t. Not this time around, anyway. It’s a real place, just like all the others.

      Sadly and surprisingly, there is no Geoduck, Washington. But there should be! I say we petition to change the name of some tiny burg up there, so that nobody will even notice. Seattle, for instance…


    2. Not only is there a Balls’s Falls (as it is spelt on Google Maps) but 30 minutes and a couple of municipalities away there’s Ball’s Falls Conservation Area. I’ve been to the former but not the latter.


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