Monday, March 31, 2008

Fine Oregon Place Names

This is in response to Tim's comments on the previous post.

Yes, there is indeed a town of Wanker's Corner, Oregon. It was never much of a town--actually, just a corner, in fact, with a grocery store and saloon. Of course, I haven't been there since 1993, so things may have changed.

Even before the term "wanker" invaded America, people thought this was a pretty funny name. The proprietors of the store--who were comprised of at least three generations of Wankers--were unamused, and informed everyone it was pronouced "WAHN-kers."

Over time, of course, the town's name became its main attraction, and the Wanker's Corner Saloon capitalized on it. The saloon had always been a bit odd--the kind of place where peanuts in the shell were free and everyone was encouraged to throw the shells on the sawdust-strewn floor. The owner had a taste for offbeat decor, and stuffed the place with antiques...and not tasteful, grandma's antiques, either--wooden Indians, old advertising signs, oversized chickens. old gasoline pumps.

In addition, he accumulated a lot of odds and ends from Australia. Not to engage in any national stereotyping, but a place that served beer and was in a town called Wanker's Corner was a magnet for Australian tourists, even though Wanker's Corner was a bit off the beaten track.

The peanuts, the name, and the Australian connection provided the joint with its logo: a kangaroo pulling a handful of peanuts from its pouch over the words "Grab your nuts at Wanker's Corner." The grab-your-nuts design is still available on t-shirts, but calmer shirts and hats (and a subtle red thong) are also available. After all, with a name like Wanker's Corner Saloon, do you really need anything but the words?

The town is still there, but Wanker's Corner Saloon has moved to larger quarters in the nearby town of Wilsonville. The location may have gone downhill, but all the geegaws and antiques have been relocated to the new site, and it is apparently now quite a popular place--the photo here shows a Maxim Magazine "talent search night" (the 'talent' they are searching for being looking good naked).

Wanker's Corner isn't the only fine place name in Oregon, however. The poor spellers and visually challenged transcribers who settled the state provided us with a host of mistaken place names:

Milwaukie (named after Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Idea (named for "Ida" someone, but misread)
Olex (same thing, but for "Alex")
Ewe (they meant "Yew")
Depoe Bay (umm, "Depot")
Owyhee River ("Hawaii River," named for some Hawaiian students who drowned there)

And, then, the just plain inscrutable:

Boring, Oregon
Drain, Oregon
Zigzag, Oregon
Ragic, Oregon and Ekoms, Oregon (two small places near one another; that's "Cigar" and "Smoke" spelled backwards, and, no, I don't know why)

and, of course, the rather large town of Beaverton, Oregon. Happily not far from Wanker's Corner.

PS. The estimable Rob from Denver dropped a link on the comment trail to a video where some folks visit the town of Mianus, Connecticut. It's a one-joke sort of video, and a bit juvenile. Therefore, it naturally had us roaring with laughter.


Rob in Denver said...

Too funny!

As awesome as those are, nothing *ahem* beats Mianus, CT.

David Isaak said...

Oh my God. Never heard of that one before, but I think it wins the award.

Roger Morris said...

What is it about Oregon?????

David Isaak said...

Hi, Roger--

Oregonians have a sense of humor AND can't spell. An unbeatable combination.

Al Stewart's most recent album (yes, he has a recent album) has a song entitled "Katherine of Oregon." Presumably a wife of Henry VIII, version 2.0.

Tim Stretton said...

All you ever wanted to know about Wanker's Corner--and then much, much more...

David, your admirably comprehensive post has quelled my budding curiosity to track down this Mecca: if I wanted to see a load of semi-clad drunken Aussies, London is a whole lot closer.

Neil said...

I thought the Milwaukie one was really rather amusing.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Tim--

London would indeed be easier for you--unless you mean London, Oregon, which is about the same size as Wanker's Corner.

London, Oregon is near the intersection of London Road and Shoestring Road. As it turns out, the nearest legitimate town is Drain, Oregon.

I am not making any of this up.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Neil--

Yeah, you'd think a fan of Milwaukee--which is an odd idea to begin with--would be able to spell the name. But he was probably one of those Wankers who pioneered the settlement of Oregon.

Anonymous said...

Completely off line in one way, but, just by way of sharing...There's a place just outside Bradford in the UK called Idle. As is common with many such places in the North, Idle has a Workingmens' Club. I called in once. Couldn't resist. In part I hoped I would find gaggles of Tyke flaneurs. My hope was misplaced. But it still causes me to smile when I pass by. I think Idle should be twinned with Wankers Corner forthwith. - Haarland Phillipps -

David Isaak said...

Hey, Haarland--

"Idle Workingmnen's Club is pretty funny."

I confess I had to look up your use of "tyke", however, as in the US that means only "child" or even "small thing" (such as a dog). I gather than in the UK it also means a churlish person.

Here's to the Idle-Wanker's Corner Friendship Society!

Tim Stretton said...

"Tyke" in the context Haarland is using is UK idiom for "Yorkshireman".

Leigh Russell said...

Drain? Boring? For the first time in my life, I feel like a tennis player as I want to shout "You cannot be serious!" This is hilarious. I'm so glad I dropped by to read your blog. I'm going straight back to check those names out again.

Leigh Russell said...

By the way, David - I like your cover 'Shock and Awe' very much. It certainly grabbed my attention! Good luck with it.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Tim--

Is that a fact, or a Yorkshire joke? And, if a fact, why 'tyke'? (And do you use 'tyke' for 'child' as well?)

David Isaak said...

Hi, Leigh--

Yes, Macmillan does some pretty punchy covers.

As to Boring (the village slogan is "The most exciting place to live"), some of the pillars of community are members of the Boring family. And there is a Boring Middle School, a Boring Library, Boring Teriyaki & Subs, and a group of cheaters, The Assembly of God In Boring. If they had any faith, they would have had the chutzpah to come right out and call it The Boring Assembly of God.

The best of all in my opinion, though, is the nearby Boring Lava Field. (I suppose it was more interesting back when it was still hot.)

I dropped by your blog. Good luck with CUT SHORT.

Anonymous said...

Hi David, yes, Tim is correct, Tyke for Yorkshireman. But tike for youngster - as in "Wait 'til I get me hands on yer, you little tike." Sounds like Dickens - Great Expectations - but is still used in the north.

Jen Ster said...

Here in Texas we can go to Paris, China Grove, Boston, Egypt, Las Vegas, Chocolate Bayou, Tiki Island and Earth without ever leaving the state.

Matt Curran said...

Near to where Sarah grew up in Cumbria is a particularly polite place called Unthank.
I've never unthanked anyone personally, but here you could probably give it a go (and get beaten up as a result).

I'm always wary of place names. For example, I'd never visit Spitalfields in London without wearing a waterproof jacket and hat.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Haarland--

I won't even venture to work out what the development of that term might be.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Jen--

"Tiki Island"? Sounds like a retro bar.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Matt--

Unthank? I guess someone thought the word "unwelcome" needed a parallel term.

America is filled with preposterous names. But one place I think the British Isles have us beat is in short place names that are just funny for no specific reason. Putney. Wapping. Tooting, and--as if that particular lily needed gilding--Tooting Bec.

I've often wondered about "Spitalfields," since it shows up a lot in books. Yuck.

Jamie Ford said...

Mmmmmmm...I love Oregon. I lived there until I was 12, in what was then the little hippie theatre town of Ashland. (Now it's a hippie theatre "resort" town).

My brother once lived in Bend, which we affectionately refer to as Bend-Over.

Great place.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Jamie--

Yeah, Oregon's great. We lived there for about a decade, in Mount Angel, Scott's Mills, and Salem. Indeed, ny undergraduate degree is from Willamette University (the oldest university west of the they never cease to remind everyone).

Ashland used to be a really great town, but I haven't been there in ages.

John said...

Ooooh! Wow, Nice Photo dude...And Its funny too...
oregon drug rehab

Cliff said...

These are great. Here are some more:

Cliff said...

These are great. Here are some more:

Gadfly said...

You forgot my personal favorite, Idiotville, Oregon. Along the banks of Idiot Creek, not far from Idiot Falls.