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Towns That Got Things Backwards

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Place Names

As I write this I’m sipping a cup of local coffee at a table in the Amocat Cafe. If you don’t know what city that’s in, spell the name backwards. Owner Morgan Alexander named the shop a year ago after a friend suggested the reversal. It’s certainly more memorable than a traditional spelling. “Most people think it’s French,” he told me. Then they see the window sign from inside and all is understood.

There was once a Yreka Bakery in California (spell that backwards!) and some famous people have worked under the names of Harpo, Artanis, and Eivets Rednow. But what about whole towns? Believe it or not, there have been at least three Washington towns that decided to honor someone but reversed course on the way to the sign-maker. I’ll list them below or my name isn’t Evets Noipmac.

Have you encountered a business or town using a reversed spelling?

WASHINGTON TOWNS NAMED IN REVERSE

  • LEBAM, Pacific County. Joe Goodell, the town’s founder christened the post office in honor of his daughter Mabel.
  • NAGROM, King County. A railroad superintendent tipped his hat to (and mixed up the letters of) E G Morgan, the president of a lumber company operating in the area. I don’t think this settlement still exists.
  • RETSIL, Kitsap County. The state opened a veteran’s home and hospital at the site and officials decided to reverse Governor Lister’s name for the map.

SOURCE: various sources, but principally: Hitchman, Robert. Place Names of Washington. Tacoma: Washington State Historical Society, 1985. Phillips, James W. Washington State Place Names. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982.

PHOTO © Steve Campion

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