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11 Cities Whose Names Are Actually Misspellings
written by Sam Greenspan

I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, named Beachwood. Outside of my city (and another on in New Jersey), there is no such thing as "beachwood." This does not exist. Beechwood does -- it's the wood from the beech tree.

According to one of my high school social studies teachers, our city was originally Beechwood... but someone once made a clerical error, swapped the second "e" for an "a"... and that stuck. In other words, I spent many of my formative years in a city whose name is permanently misspelled.

Thinking about this over the weekend sent me on a long, weird hunt for other cities whose names are actually spelling errors. Fortunately, I happened to find 11. Here they are.

  1. According to my friend Jared, who grew up in Albuquerque, their famous balloon festival "is overrated, and, like, four people die every year."
    Albuquerque, New Mexico. The city is named after Don Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva, who was the viceroy of New Spain and the duke of Alburquerque in the early 1700s. But... the white people couldn't quite pronounce that, so they dropped the first "r" whenever they referred to the city, and it stuck. It's just like how people say "libary."

  2. Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn was originally named Brueckelyn, after a city in the Netherlands. (I didn't look it up, but I think "Brueckelyn" might be the Dutch word for "can't afford Manhattan.") Anyway, no one could really spell Brueckelyn consistently, so it kept evolving into a more and more Americanized word... until everyone settled on Brooklyn.

  3. Cleveland, Ohio. My hometown metropolitan area was named after General Moses Cleaveland. (Who was not, by the way, actually the feared pirate Hans Cluveland.) He settled the city in 1796 and, when the local newspaper went to cover the story, they couldn't fit his whole name into the headline. So they dropped the first "a"... and that spelling became the official standard. Classic Liberal Media move there.

  4. Novi, Michigan. Novi was originally the sixth stagecoach stop for people leaving Detroit. It didn't have a name, just a sign that let people know it was "No. VI." But people passing through thought that was its name, so they dropped the period and varied capitalization and called the city "Novi." It's just more proof that there's no point in using Roman numerals -- they're right up there with Times New Roman and Roman Polanski as Romans that have outlived their usefulness.


  5. Frankfort, Kentucky. Frankfort was originally named after Steven Frank, a pioneer who was killed by Indians when he was trying to ford the Kentucky River. If you don't know what it means to ford a river, then I'm guessing you've also never had SHIT die of dysentery in your arms. Frank's Ford was eventually compressed and transformed into "Frankfort."

  6. Hackensack, New Jersey. The home of Lex Luthor's nuclear missile was originally named "Ackinchesacky," after an Indian tribe located there. The European settlers couldn't really be bothered with learning how to properly pronounce the name of the original land owners -- after all, their barrels weren't going to cooper themselves -- so they wrote down a successive approximation of the tribe's name. That turned out to be Hackensack.

  7. Newport News, Virginia. The city was named after two people: Captain Christopher Newport and William Newce. Their names were combined to make Newport Newce, Virginia. That was accidentally turned into Newport News... which is fine for Captain Christopher Newport, but a real smack in the balls to William Newce. (Although I do owe them both because I have dropped Newport News during Scattergories a few times for double points. At some point my curiosity about geography evolved almost entirely into Scattergories research.)

  8. Hartford, Connecticut. This started out as Hertford, after a city with that name in England. Apparently, the settlers' accents made it sound like "Hartford," so that stuck. I don't really get that -- I've been sitting here doing my spectacularly amazing British accent for about three minutes now and it keeps sounding like "Hertford" to me. Then again, every British person I've ever done my accent for tells me it's "rubbish" so maybe I'm a Costner-esque resource for this experiment.

  9. Muncie, Indiana. Muncie is named after the Munsee sect of Indians, who lived in the area. It's not clear how that became Muncie... but one theory I found was that no one knew how Munsee was spelled exactly, so they took their best guess and landed on Muncie. (It's like all those protest signs that say "Learn are language or get out." Spelling is just becoming a series of people's best guesses anyway.)


  10. A bowl of mussels. Not manly.
    Muscle Shoals, Alabama. This city is along the Tennessee River, where there are tons of mussels. Those kinds of mussels are way less manly than the other kind of muscles... so, wishfully thinking, the city's name transitioned from Mussel Shoals to Muscle Shoals. This reminds me of the a capella group at every college in America that makes an oral sex pun by swapping out "oral" and "aural."

  11. Selmer, Tennessee. This city was supposed to be named after Selma, Alabama. (Not Selma Bouvier. Although I can assure you, if I was naming a city Selma, that would be the reason. Though you'd probably be more likely to get a city named Moe or Lennyandcarltown.) But the guy who named the city spelled it wrong when he was filling out all of the paperwork to send to the Postal Service... and the city was officially registered as Selmer.

This list was originally published on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 10:00:00 AM under the category Travel.
It currently has View Comments.

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