So check out Donald Orth, who wrote a book called Dictionary of Alaska Place Names about forty years ago. And well, as it turns out, Alaska has some pretty interesting place names, to be sure:
Mishap Creek, aka Big Loss Creek, is Unimak Island stream named for a lighthouse keeper who stripped naked to cross the water, then tried to throw his clothes to the other side, only to watch helplessly as they landed downstream and disappeared.
There’s Chicken, an old mining town established during the Klondike Gold Rush. A detailed history of the name is not in Orth’s dictionary, but according to oft-told lore, miners wanted to call the community Ptarmigan after a bird common to the area, but no one knew how to spell it. So they settled on Chicken, since miners also called ptarmigans “tundra chickens.”
Atlasta Creek was inspired by a remark uttered by the wife of the owner of a nearby roadhouse after the first building was completed: “At last a house.”
Lost Temper Creek, an Arctic Slope stream, was named over a “camp incident.” Eek, a western Alaska village, was derived from an Eskimo word that means “two eyes.” Big Bones Ridge, in the Talkeetna Mountains, came from the large fossil mammoth or mastodon bones found at the site.
Orth wrote the original book in 1967 (there are plans for an updated version in 2009) but still finds the topic compelling:
The subject holds no end of fascination for the former executive secretary of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.
“Language, history, geography, all of those things come together,” he said during a phone interview from his Falls Church, Va., home. “Place names are part of the language, part of our psyche.”
The town where MRP grew up was rather unremarkably named for a white guy who owned a lot of land there. Exciting stuff. Surely, your town’s name is much more interesting — do share.