Wednesday, March 26, 2008


North of Phoenix on the I-17 interstate, on the way to Flagstaff, you pass through a hamlet called McGuireville. Ordinarily I wouldn't even notice McGuireville save for two signposts; the one pointing to Montezuma's Well and the other to Cornville!

I thought I had some photos of Montezuma's Well to show you but if I still have them I'm damned if I can find em. I'm quite sure I took em, I just can't find em. Another time, when we go back thataway.

That's a side trip from where I was going with this post anyway. I could never help laughing whenever we saw the sign to Cornville! The name struck me as both risible and terribly lacking in imagination. I mean, who on earth would name a town, no matter how humble, Cornville? And lest you think this is another of those Aussie knocking the Yanks posts, I'll point out that we have some pretty unimaginatively named places back in Australia too. I'm sure Snake Valley got the name because someone found a snake or two there! And who, having named a place Emerald Hill, would change the name to South Melbourne?

Nonetheless I'd chuckle whenever we saw the signs to Cornville. You can imagine my surprise then, upon consulting a pamphlet my wife picked for 50 cents and titled 'place names in Arizona and why they are so named' (their capitalisation, not mine), to discover that apparently it was named after early settlers named Cohn and a mistake was made in Washington, changing Cohnville to Cornville.

Of course this begs the question; do I believe everything I read in pamphlets? Wikipedia repeats the story[^] but who knows where the person who wrote the Wikipedia page got the story from? Same source possibly (the pamphlet is undated though it has an ISBN number. It looks considerably older than Wikipedia).

The short answer is no, I'm way too much the cynic for that. Nonetheless, I'd like to believe the story. You can't beat a good apochryphal story! I still like the story about the word 'Kangaroo'[^] though it's unlikely to be true. That's the one that goes thusly; Englishman in first settlement at Sydney Cove sees a Kangaroo bound by and, never having seen anything like it in his life, turns to a conveniently located Aboriginal and asks 'what was that?'. The Aboriginal answers 'kangaroo' and the Englishman, secure in the knowledge that everyone speaks English, assumes it's the local name for the animal. Of course, the Aboriginal had no idea what the Englishman said and answered 'I don't know what you're saying'. The Wikipedia version of the story is more specific than the version I heard.

As I say, not terribly likely but I'd like to believe it!


Guy said...

In Australia, have you been to the Snowy Mountains or Sandy Beach?

Rob said...

Yeah, I didn't think of those unimaginitive names while writing. But yes, I can confirm that Sandy Beach does have sand and there is sometimes snow on the Snowy Mountains :-)