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A to Z Missouri, The Dictionary of Missouri Place Names (Show Me Missouri) Paperback – November, 1996


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"How interesting! Reading about the pioneer days in Missouri, I'm seeing out towns and cities in a whole new light . . ." -- Phillip Ratterman

From the Back Cover

Place names are, in a sense, a comedy of errors. Though many place names were the result of careful deliberation, many towns hark back to chance events, mishaps and stodgy local characters. California, Missouri is a perfect example. Though it seems this town was named during the California Gold Rush, it was actually named for California Wilson. At the raising of the first log buildings, he offered two gallons of whiskey to the local boys if they'd name the town after him.

In 1886, the postal system ordered that names had to be unique. Of the many Cross Roads and Stringtowns, there could only officially be one of each. In 1894, the post office went a step further and ordered "from this date only short names or names of one word will be accepted. . . ."

When application was made, local names were often thought unflattering and were changed. Pucky Huddle was changed to the more refined Davisville. Toad Suck became Millersville and Exist, where people barely got by, changed to Burch.

Post office requirements gave people a new way to complain about the government and as a result we have some of our best place name stories. The town of Glad became Plad due to a clerical error that was too hard to get fixed. Enough became a dot on the map after two hundred other post office names were rejected.

The requirement that names be distinct helps explain Peculiar, Rat and Ink. The requirement that names be short was taken to mean three letters. The result was town names just three letters long-from Abo to Zig.

Reading the stories of Missouri place names and their origins, history comes alive in vivid detail. The stories within these covers will definitely turn many a smile and offer insight into the care and comedy that helped found our state.

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