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Sunday, January 2, 2005

Rants

New Jersey place names: a broader view

A comment on the New Jersey town names post made me realize a fault of my analysis: I worked from the official list of municipalities in New Jersey, which excludes non-municipal places like your Basking Ridges and your Wortendykes. For those, you have to check out the state’s page of official localities. There are fewer than 600 municipalities in New Jersey, but more than 3,000 localities. A fair examination of the state’s naming habits would be based on the larger group of names.

And what a group it is. I take back everything I said about an apparent lack of creativity in the names of places in New Jersey.

To the people of Pork Island, Poverty Beach and Nummytown, I apologize and plead ignorance. Until this week, I was shamefully unaware of your localities and others like Feebletown, Scrappy Corner and Lower Squankum. In some 14 years in the Garden State, I never had the opportunity to visit Blue Ball, Chestnut Neck or False Egg Island Point. Foul Rift, Buckshutem and West Chrome simply weren’t on my radar, and neither were Bivalve, Cheesequake and Great Piece Meadows. Hayti and Hacklebarney, Bargaintown and Pestletown, Moe and Mower, Communipaw and Comical Corner — these are all exactly the kind of names we need more of.

All the same, these are just a few names out of a few thousand, and no guarantee that the list as a whole isn’t as unimaginative as the list of town names. As unique as these names sound, New Jersey seems determined to recycle and reuse. Example: In Gloucester County, there is a place called Manunkachunk. Miles away in Warren County lies another place — Manunka Chunk.