A few weeks ago, The New York Times ran a story about curious place names in Britain. Names like Titty Ho, Wetwang, Thong and Butt Hole Road (the "butt" in this case being an archaic term for "bucket"). Suspecting that Utah has its share of snicker-inducing names, I grabbed John Van Cott's Utah Place Names off the shelf to check for the silly and salacious.
One gets the idea that the early Beehive State place namers were breast men.
I found three Mollies Nipple, one Mollys Nipple, a Sadies Nipple and a Marys Nipple. Not surprisingly, all were inspired by mounds, buttes and hillocks. (Well, maybe not all; there is one inexplicably named Peters Nipple. The much more satisfactory Peters Point is just up the way .)
(A note: Geographical names don't use possessive apostrophes.)
One of the Mollies, it is said, was named in appreciation of cowboy John Kitchen's bride, and is just a few miles from Nipple Lake in Kane County. Another Mollie and a Teat Mountain, shockingly, are in Utah County just a few miles from Provo.
To the north in Box Elder County is the much more demure Mollys Stocking, a 2-mile long dike. But for sheer Western romance, it's hard to top Wayne County's "Ferns Nipple," allegedly named for outlaw Butch Cassidy's favorite girlfriend.
Hardup (Box Elder) was apparently named by some cowboy without a girlfriend. He may have camped in Blue John Canyon (Wayne), which was named for an outlaw with one blue and one brown eye. In any case, both are a long way from Shag Hollow (Beaver) which is just a hop from Long Lick Mountain.
Spanish Bottoms was a Colorado River crossing, while Roberts Bottom (Grand) was named for a farmer who found a good spot on the Dolores River. Fort Sodom was an early name for Goshen. "Sodum up" was the practice of putting sod roofs on pioneer dugouts. Ephs Hole near Beaver is named after one of the town's early sheriffs, Ephraim Puffer.
Cohab Canyon originates in Capitol Reef National Monument and got its name from the Mormon polygamists who went there to hide from federal officials.
S**tamaring Creek in Garfield was named for its poisonous, diarrhea-inducing waters. In the early 1990s, the U.S. Board on Domestic Geographic Names was looking to change the name to conform with less descriptive standards. A quick Google search turns up two items of interest: The name is still in popular use and the area sits on some of the richest uranium deposits in the world.
Utah is apparently the devil's favorite vacation spot. He can enter through two Devils Gates (Box Elder and Weber), into his Devils Gardens (Grand and Garfield), on his way to his Devils Playground (Box Elder) where he can play on his Devils Slide (Morgan) before casting himself, exhausted, into his favorite Devils Chair (Weber). When he gets a bit peckish, Hells Kitchen (Summit) is just down the hall.
While the Devil may have a heckuva time here, people didn't always find the place so agreeable. One is left to wonder about those who named the Disappointment Hills, which are in the Confusion Mountains, somewhere in the center of the state.
Pat Bagley is The Salt Lake Tribune editorial cartoonist. He is the author of Bagley's Utah Survival Guide.