The fun of play­ing the name game

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - LOIS SUM­MERVILLE NOR­WOOD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

A RE­CENT road trip across the US got me think­ing about the com­plex­i­ties of place names.

In Ore­gon we rounded a large bend in the road and found our­selves in the town of, you’ve guessed it, Bend. Some time later we pulled into the de­light­fully named town of Bor­ing.

At that point it seemed es­sen­tial to buy a Bor­ing sou­venir. I headed to the Bor­ing Ho­tel where a lo­cal res­i­dent pointed me in the di­rec­tion of the su­per­mar­ket. In due course I emerged tri­umphant with a Bor­ing T-shirt.

In nearby Cal­i­for­nia lies a town with the eclec­tic name of Weed, which ap­pears to be very civic-minded and proud of its name. I did well in the Weed gen­eral store. My favourite pur­chase was a psy­che­delic fridge mag­net pro­claim­ing: Weed Makes Me Happy. A fit­ting sou­venir, one would think.

Many kilo­me­tres later, in Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch Coun­try, I was im­pressed with a town known as Blue Balls. Sadly, I could not find any sou­venirs. The Amish may be lovely peo­ple, and I was able to pur­chase hand-stitched patch­work quilt­ing and freshly squeezed ap­ple juice, but they do not run to sou­venir fridge mag­nets.

Small won­der then when overnight­ing at the Trav­elodge in the town of In­ter­course, sou­venirs were un­avail­able. I had mean­ing­ful dia­logue (or in­ter­course, one might say) with the mo­tel manager on the sub­ject of the town’s name. He was be­mused, un­com­pre­hend­ing of my queries, so I de­cided, per­haps wisely, to dis­con­tinue this line of ques­tion­ing.

Australia is not with­out sig­nage that tick­les the funny bone. I will close with just two ex­am­ples of the Aussie va­ri­ety. In Mel­bourne, I was im­pressed with a his­toric wrought-iron public toi­let sit­ting re­splen­dent in a shop­ping cen­tre car park. A prom­i­nent sign at­tached to the toi­let pro­claimed: 2P. Two-hour park­ing, I pre­sume, or maybe I just have a warped sense of hu­mour.

I was once search­ing for a pi­o­neer ceme­tery on the NSW Alpine Way and fi­nally lo­cated it on a side road. A large coun­cil road sign sim­ply read: Ceme­tery. A sim­i­lar no­tice di­rectly be­neath it read: Dead End.

And on that note I, too, will end.

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