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Date Posted: 17:41:26 09/19/01 Wed
Author: Harpodoll
Subject: The Depths - reprinted from http://www.marrder.com/htw/nov2000/cultural.htm
In reply to: mo 's message, "Bizarre Food Related Town Names" on 05:17:56 09/17/01 Mon

Delving into the depths of bizarre names

It is pretty easy to accept the fact that cities will be called by proper names and titles in a country known by the cold and clinical designation of "the United States." No funny business there. One can locate the occasional bizarre city or town name in North America, but most of them carry names that have little or no meaning in English. There are a lot of names that carried over from the native American languages, some brought in from Europe, and more that are named after their founding fathers. Good proper names for proper places. There wouldn't be a town called, for example, "Frogs singing."

The Spanish took a few more liberties with geographic names. After all we live in "Honduras." That is Spanish for "the depths" a deep place, or profound thought or mood. The name is derived from the deep harbors off the coast of Honduras, according to lore. And if that isn't descriptive enough, just to the west of us is The Savior (El Salvador). Living in a country whose name brings to mind a deep, dark hole, you can see the precedent for weird names.

A recent Honduras This Week field trip in the car developed into a full-fledged game of "What's the weirdest name in Honduras." I'm a novice at this sport, so I came up with the obvious: Gracias a Dios. "Thank God." The department got this name from a famous remark attributed to Christopher Columbus, who said, "Thank God we have left these depths" after riding out a terrible storm off the Honduran coast.

I think that the Pilgrims were pretty excited to reach dry land after a nauseous sea voyage, but they just called the place Plymouth. They didn't doom future generations to such ridiculous statements as, "I was born in Thank God."

Even stranger -- in Lempira there is a town just called Gracias. "Thanks." Concise, at least.

My HTW colleagues were soon off making a list of strange town names. They have more experience than I, and trust me there is a wealth of possible candidates for strange names here in the Depths. The half-hour car trip was not long enough, but luckily Mario put pen to paper when we got home, and I am now the proud owner of a list of weird names that are actual towns in Honduras.

One of my favorites is El Porvenir. This means, literally, "the future" in Spanish. Some day I'm going to ride the bus to El Porvenir and back, just so that I can come home and say, "I've come from the Future, and it's been a rough ride."

Without even leaving the department of Intibuca you can go straight from Hope to Grief (La Esperanza and Dolores). Then of course you could go back to the Future, but that would be taking things a little far, wouldn't it.

There's a town called Charity (Caridad, La Paz) and several towns called Loneliness (Soledad, in Francisco Morazan and El Paraiso). Some Hondurans also live in places called Virtue, Liberty, Progress and Protection.

If descriptive adjectives don't give you enough illustration, wait until you come to a town named after an object. There's the Lime and Lemon (La Lima, Cortes and Limon, Colon). Vado Ancho is a wide crossing or ford. There are several towns just called "Flowers." Pimienta, Cortes is pretty weird too. "I was born in Pepper. Probably die in Pepper, too."

Town's are also named after geographic features. From the Valley of Angels (Valle de Angeles) to the hills (Colinas, Santa Barbara) or right out on the Big Savannah (Sabanagrande), people here just loved to name the town after a local landmark. Gold Mines (Minas de Oro) and the Ceiba Tree (La Ceiba) are located right where they ought to be.

There are Old Towns (Pueblo Viejo, Valle) and New Towns (Villa Nueva, Cortes). A perennial favorite in the weird names contest is Ojos de Agua, or Water Eyes, although that was just a figure of speech used to describe the town's twin freshwater wells. Singing Frogs (Cantarranas, Francisco Morazan) is pretty hard to beat too.

It makes it almost seem tame to live in a place called Tegucigalpa.

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