Quotes about place names

Phnom Penh

From a 2008 article called “Khmer Legends” in The Cambodia Daily:

[T]he municipality has recently erected a statue of the fabled Yeay Penh, the woman who is credited with giving Phnom Penh its landmark hill.

As the story goes, in the 1370s, Yeay Penh asked her neighbors to raise the mound in front of her home so as to build on top of it a sanctuary to house the four statues of Buddha she had found inside a floating tree trunk. That mound, or phnom, is credited with giving Phnom Penh its name.

[…]

“The problem is we have no proof,” said Ros Chantrabot, a Cambodian historian and vice president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia.

“In all likelihood she did exist or, at the very least, the tale is based on an actual person, since Penh’s hill, or Phnom Penh, is there for all to see,” he said.

[“Yeah Penh” is the equivalent of “Grandmother Penh.” The word yeay in Cambodian is a title used to refer to and/or address an older female.]

From the book From Red Hot to Monkey’s Eyebrow: Unusual Kentucky Place Names (1997) by Robert M. Rennick:

Kentucky’s Mousie, still a post office serving many families in the Jones Fork area of northern Knott County, wasn’t named for a mouse at all but for a young woman — named Mousie. She was then (1916) the twenty-year-old daughter of Clay Martin, a large landowner in that area.

Why would a girl be named Mousie? Why not? Mousie is not at all an unusual given name in eastern Kentucky. Since the Civil War, scores of young Mousies throughout the region have borne this name. Mousie Martin, who later became Mrs. Mart Gibson, used to tell us that she was so named at the suggestion of her grandfather, for she had an older sister named Kitty and he rather liked the idea of having two little varmints in the family.

From a 2016 CTV News article about the Ontario town of Kitchener (formerly known as Berlin):

Meanwhile, 100 years after it was nixed, the Berlin name is enjoying a bit of a minor renaissance in Kitchener.

Two businesses prominently featuring the name have opened in recent months: The Berlin restaurant and the Berlin Bicycle Café.

Andrea Hennige, the restaurant manager at The Berlin, says the name was chosen with an eye toward the area’s history.

“It’s a nod to the people who settled the area, who probably laid the bricks in this building,” she said in an interview.

[Town residents voted to drop the name Berlin in 1916, during WWI. The name change ballot included the following options: Adanac (Canada spelled backwards), Benton, Brock, Corona, Keowana, and Kitchener.]

From a U.S. Forest Service webpage explaining the origin of the name of Lolo National Forest in western Montana:

“Lolo” probably evolved from “Lou-Lou”, a pronunciation of “Lawrence,” a French-Canadian fur trapper killed by a grizzly bear and buried at Grave Creek.

The first written evidence of the name “Lolo” appears in 1831 when fur trader John Work refers in his journal to Lolo Creek as “Lou Lou.”

In an 1853 railroad survey and map, Lieutenant John Mullan spelled the creek and trail “Lou Lou.” However, by 1865 the name was shortened to Lolo and is currently the name of a national forest, town, creek, mountain peak, mountain pass and historic trail in west central Montana.

From a 2020 article about the most common town names in America:

Many of the 18 places in the United States called Waverly are named after Sir Walter Scott’s 1814 novel, Waverley. Not only is Waverly, Nebraska […] named after the novel, but many of the city’s street names were also taken from characters within it.

[Here are more of the places named Waverly.]

From a 2019 Summit Daily article about the town of Dillon, Colorado:

[Dillon] was not named after a prospector named Tom Dillon who got lost in the woods, as has been a common oral tradition. Rather, the town was named after Sidney Dillon, a powerful railroad executive who became president of the Union Pacific railroad four months before the town was established. The entire point of naming the town Dillon was to somehow appeal to Sidney Dillon’s vanity and persuade him to build a railroad through the town.

But as it turned out, the railroad didn’t wind up going through Dillon or winding along the Snake River. Instead, it went through Tenmile Canyon and the town of Frisco — also named to flatter a railroad company, the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Co., in a bid to get them to build their next line through town.

From a 2019 article about the Louisiana town of Westwego:

[Lori] Guin runs the Westwego Historical Museum, which is actually housed in the city’s first general store. She likes to tell the story about how the city got its name.

“Actually we had a train depot station. The conductor would bring his passengers to the west, so he would say,” West we go!” That’s how Westwego got its name,” Guin said.

For more quotes about names, check out the name quotes category.

Image by Roth Chanvirak from Unsplash

[Latest update: Oct. 2023]

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