Somehow I got pointed to the Wikipedia article Place names considered unusual, which besides the usual suspects (e.g., Fucking, Austria) has all manner of amusing names: Germany alone has Affendorf (“Monkey Village”), Bösgesäß (“Bad-ass” or “Evil-Buttock”), Faulebutter (“Rancid Butter”), Fickmühlen (“Fuck Mills”), Katzenhirn (“Cat Brain”), Lederhose (Lederhosen, leather trousers), and Warzen (“Warts”), among others. But I was particularly struck by “Rednaxela Terrace in Hong Kong, which is believed to be the name Alexander but erroneously written right-to-left (the normal practice for writing Chinese in the past)”; that link has a more detailed origin story:

Although there are no official conclusions to the origin of the name, it is believed that the road was part of the property owned by a Mr. Alexander, and Rednaxela is an understandable transposition of the English name Alexander, since the Chinese language was typically written right-to-left at the time. Most of the naming errors in Hong Kong are a result of incorrect transliterations. Another explanation is that the name is linked to abolitionist Robert Alexander Young, who was known to have used the name Rednaxela in his 1829 work Ethiopian Manifesto. Chinese transliteration followed suit and was adopted by the neighbourhood, and the government never made any further alterations.

There’s something very pleasing about “Rednaxela.”


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    The village name “Sakoti” in the Nabdam district in Ghana means “yesterday’s porridge leftovers” (from the Nabit cognate of Kusaal sa’akɔnt /sa̰:kɔ̃t/.)

  2. Has the village name lost the nasal, or is it simply not written?

  3. Jen in Edinburgh says

    This reminds me of the bus stop listed as ‘Lamington, at Emahroo’.

  4. PlasticPaddy says

    Die älteste bekannte Erwähnung von Bösgesaß stammt vom 21. September 1384 unter dem Ortsname Buensgesesze. Der Ortsname wird als „Wohnsitz des Bunzo“ gedeutet.

    Therefore the current name is a corruption of “Bonzo’s Seat”, so not at all silly.

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    Has the village name lost the nasal, or is it simply not written?

    Just not written.

    The final -i in the village name (as seen on maps and as spoken by people speaking English) is a Mampruli-ism, as in “Bawku” for Kusaal Bɔk: Nabit shares with Kusaal the loss of underlying short final vowels in most contexts. Conceivably the absence of nasalisation is a Mampruli thing too (Mampruli itself has lost contrastive vowel nasalisation), but nasalisation is not written very consistently in place names anyway.

  6. Lamington, at Australia. It’s name ultimately derives from the same Lanarkshire bus stop.

  7. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I certainly never knew that it had anything to do with the Cochranes, although this Alexander seems to be a descendant of the respectable Alexander rather than the disreputable Thomas. HMS Surprise pops up in Alexander’s story, though, in the way that familiar names do.

    (I was once reading an unrelated kind of book (apart from being about the same general time period) and came across Lord Cochrane’s father and George Heneage Dundas’s father going into business together.)

    There are other Emahroos out there, apparently – I think it’s a terrible name, but if you like that kind of thing, that is the kind of thing you like.

    Things in other countries are always named after tiny places in Scotland, that is just How It Works.

  8. J.W. Brewer says

    “Emahroo” sounds like an Australian toponym that was for some reason borrowed into Scotland by some sort of returning imperialist/colonist. Unless it’s an odd Anglicized spelling of a perfectly cromulent Gaelic toponym that would more properly have lots of silent bh’s in its orthography.

  9. Jen in Edinburgh says

    It’s just the same as Rednaxela, really!

  10. “Oorhame”?

  11. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Now you just need to undo the great vowel shift 🙂

    Sorry – I wasn’t trying to be desperately cryptic, because it had never been very cryptic to me!

  12. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Or possibly redo it. I’ve lost the edit button for some reason, I had it earlier…

  13. In other words (to spell it out): “oor hame” = “our home.”

  14. I find the idea that Rednaxela is Alexander written in the other direction particularly charming. It reminds me of when I was first studying Japanese, and we were assigned an essay which discussed a truck with the word グンニーリク written across the front, and the author speculated light-heartedly that this must be a Finnish company of some sort (paste it backwards in Google…).

  15. When I visited my late brother on sabbatical in Cameroon in 2011, we hired a car and driver to visit the town of Lolodorf in the South Region. When I saw the town sign, I asked the driver to stop and let me take a photo of it. (In Hawaiian, lōlō means ‘crazy, feeble-minded, sleepy’, etc, and pakalōlō is ‘numbing tobacco’, i.e., Cannabis.) As we got ready to pull out, a policeman monitoring road traffic came across and began finding ways to fine us enough to buy himself another six-pack of beer. It was getting toward noontime. After quite a bit of patient back-and-forth while he examined our various IDs and the condition of the vehicle, we ended up paying him enough CFA to get another six-pack for the afternoon.

  16. Emahroo

    Love this!

    Somebody should add it to the list on the English Wikipedia page for anadromes.

    P.S. Red Naxela would make a great drag name, especially for a someone named Alex.

  17. Richard Hershberger says

    That Wikipedia page is a travesty, omitting as it does Intercourse, Pennsylvania, which is not far from Paradise, Pennsylvania.

  18. J.W. Brewer says

    I’m not confident that wikipedia page is working with a very coherent or consistent metric for unusualness. When you think of place names that seem striking-to-comical, one thing that’s often going on is that a toponym that makes perfect historical-or-etymological sense in a very specific region seems off-the-wall to those from outside that region and unfamiliar with the relevant context. To limit ourselves to English-language toponyms, Chipping Sodbury (Gloucestershire) and Medicine Hat (Alberta) might both be good examples of that.

  19. That Wikipedia page is a travesty, omitting as it does Intercourse, Pennsylvania, which is not far from Paradise, Pennsylvania.

    Take a wrong turn, and you might wind up in Bird-in-Hand, or even Blue Ball.

  20. There is also Route Twisk in Hong Kong which links Tsuen Wan and Shek Kong. The name derives from a misreading of the abbreviated label TW/SK of the places it connects. It’s rather charming as a name, and it’s quite a twisty road as well.

  21. That’s great!

  22. While passing through, I got my friend a shot glass that said “I ♥ INTERCOURSE.”

  23. In somewhat belated followup to Ook’s comment about reversed katakana on a truck, I was reminded of a rather lengthy and generously illustrated 2005 blog post by Sakurahama about right-to-left writing on the starboard sides of Japanese vehicles (車体右側面上右横書き). One of my favorite examples therein is the cement truck labelled ナマコン (“nama-con” for “ready-mix concrete”), whose initial reading on the starboard side as “Nkomana” is suggested to convey “a strong sense of foreignness”.

  24. David Marjanović says

    I’ve seen front-to-back writing in China – you can read it as the bus passes you (left-to-right on the left side, right-to-left on the right side).

  25. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Actual mirror writing: some ambulances here have AMBULANCE mirrored on the front so car drivers will see it right way around in their rear view mirrors. (Many of those letters are symmetrical to begin with, and none of them are mirror images of other letters, so it’s not like it’s very hard to recognize the normal writing when seen in a mirror. It’s mostly the right-to-left order that makes it harder to read). I haven’t seen right-to-left on the right sides of buses, though.

  26. @Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his): Virtually all ambulances in America have the word reversed on the front. I failed to notice the mirroring when walking through the ambulance parking area under the hospital with my father once, when I was about five. He asked me if anything seemed weird about the word, but I said no.

  27. Back in the day, Weed, in rural northern California, was not a place where you would want to make jokes about marijuana. These days, I ♥ Weed / Mile 420 / University of Weed souvenirs are at every gas station.

    (No, there is no exit 420. Weed is around mile 745. There are exits 418 and 423, near Gustine in the middle of the state.)

  28. People get quite imaginative in outback Australia:

    Useless Loop in Western Australia

    Misery Creek and Mt Disappointment in Victoria

    The great thing about these place names in Europe is the heraldry that comes with it:

    Mokronog in Slovenia

  29. Mount Disappointment:

    After making the arduous climb to the summit in 1824, British explorers Hume and Hovell hoped to view the distant Port Phillip Bay. Unfortunately, the mountain’s dense vegetation prevented them reaching the summit (they got within 5 kilometres), resulting in their immense disappointment. In addition, Hume suffered a painful injury to his groin nearby which caused him much distress and necessitated a five-day rest for their party. Consequently, they recorded their feelings in the name they chose for the mountain.


    Recent history

    A report from the Age newspaper about people falling to their death at Mt.Disappointment referred to an incident in California USA and not the Mt. Disappointment in Victoria. It would be impossible for a group of people to roll to their death on this mountain in Victoria Australia.

  30. There’s several Mount Miserys around New Zealand.

    You can see Mount Awful from Mount Dreadful, and v.v. Desperation Pass would take you to Headlong Peak.

  31. David Eddyshaw says

    If this were the Guardian, we’d need to include a contact number for the Samaritans after that comment.

  32. It would be impossible for a group of people to roll to their death on this mountain in Victoria Australia.

    I think that’s one of the best sentences I’ve ever read.

  33. David Eddyshaw says

    It strikes me as a challenge. Or perhaps a hostage to fortune. If people are really determined to roll to their deaths …

    And the honour of Australia may be at stake, too.

  34. PlasticPaddy says
  35. If it cannot turn deadly, it’s no fun in Russia.

  36. Inflatable ball rides you.

  37. David Marjanović says

    Mokronog in Slovenia

    nassenfues = nassen Fuß = wet foot (acc.), with the dialectally retained diphthong

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