50 Strangest Town Names in America (and Where They Came From)

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Source: Famartin / Wikimedia Commons

46. War, West Virginia
> Municipal status: City
> Population: 1,044

War takes its name from War Creek, which in turn was named by local Indians for a battle that apparently occurred near its headwaters in 1788. Formerly called Miner’s City, War was incorporated under that name in 1920.

Source: Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota / Wikimedia Commons

47. What Cheer, Iowa
> Municipal status: City
> Population: 729

There are several theories as to the origin of this city’s name. An account of railway-connected place names published in 1908 attributes it to a Scottish miner who discovered coal in the area and exclaimed “What cheer!” — an old English expression. Another possibility is that a 19th century store owner in what was then called Petersburg, knowing the expression, simply thought it would be a good name for the town’s first post office.

Source: Ken Lund / Wikimedia Commons

48. Why, Arizona
> Municipal status: Census designated place
> Population: 162

This town probably got its name from the simple fact that it was near the Y-shaped junction of two state highways. According to one of the community’s early settlers, though, it was inspired by people driving through who asked, “Why are you living way out here?”

Source: Jayron32 / Wikimedia Commons

49. Whynot, North Carolina
> Municipal status: Unincorporated
> Population: 228

Whynot was founded in the 18th century by English and German immigrants. The story is that there was a long discussion about what to call the community, and finally somebody asked “Why not name it Why Not and then we can go home?”

Source: dankalal.net

50. I.X.L, Oklahoma
> Municipal status: Town
> Population: 51

According to the town website and the Oklahoma Historical Society, there are many theories as to the meaning of I.X.L. (or simply IXL). Some people think it’s an onomatopoeic boast suggesting “I excel.” Others believe it to be a Roman numeral (though the letters are in the wrong order for that). The website ends up deciding that, because the town was built on a piece of former Cherokee land, its initials signify Indian Exchange Land. The Oklahoma Historical Society, however, points out that the surrounding towns were at that time predominately African American, and adds, without further explanation, that “IXL was the name used to describe a widely dispersed African American community.”