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    Quirky, USA

    Sara Rosett Icon

    I love quirky signs. I smile every time I drive by one sign above a restaurant in a little town not far from where I live.

    It reads:

    Peking Chinese Food
    Fried Chicken

    See…isn’t that eccentric combination just weird enough to me make you smile?

    I saw another of my favorite signs in Georgia where a vet called his practice “The Critter Fixer.” You don’t get more down-home than that.

    I’ve always taken an interest in names of places, too. I like how names can reveal the practicality or whimsy of the inhabitants. I grew up in the flat, windy plains of the Texas Panhandle. Basically, nothing to see but the wide open sky. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of the towns there is named Plainview. There’s also a Muleshoe, Texas and a Humble, Texas. And that’s not even mentioning Paris, Texas. I always wonder about the story behind the name. How did the town get the name Humble, not Paris?

    A good book title does the same thing. It piques your interest and makes you wonder about the story behind the title.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about names and titles lately. My editor and I emailed back and forth last week trying to come up with a knock-out title for the fourth book in the Mom Zone series. Since I’m writing a series, it’s better to stay with the same format for my titles. I started off with Moving is Murder and went on to Staying Home is a Killer. Book three is called Getting Away is Deadly. Book four is called…well, up until last week it was called Book Four. I’m quickly running out of gerunds and variations on the word “murder.” The book’s current incarnation is Starting Over is Lethal.

    We’ll see if that title sticks. In the meantime, I’d like to hear what book titles have intrigued you. And, are there any quirky town names or signs in your neck of the woods?

    23 Responses to “Quirky, USA”

    1. At the risk of everyone thinking I’m a nut, there is a road sign that I find funny in its wording. Whenever I cross the river into Illinois, you see signs warning motorists to watch for road crew. Normal enough. However, the sign is worded this way: Hit a worker, Pay $10,000.

      Every single time I see that sign I giggle. Because it reminds me of a card you might draw while playing Monopoly. Pass Go, Collect $200. Stuck in mud, pay $20.

      Am I the *only* one who finds the wording of that sign to be an almost dare?

      by Laura on January 9th, 2008 at 6:40 am

    2. Darlin’, I’m from North Carolina. We’ve got a bushel of weird place names. Lizard Lick, Bunn Level (not to be confused with Bunn), Black Ankle, Meat Camp, Pumpkin Center, Moyock, Micro, Locust, Efird, Pink Hill, Beulahville, Chocowinity, Dundarrach, Saxapahaw, Scotland Neck, Conetoe, Manly, Candor, and of course good ol’ Climax. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

      As for book titles…well, some personal favorites: THE BARBED WIRE KISS (Wallace Stroby), GOD IS A BULLET, (Boston Teran), THE BLOOD DIMMED TIDE (Rennie Airth).

      by J.D. Rhoades on January 9th, 2008 at 8:36 am

    3. Oh, and I’m afraid my favorite quirky sign can’t be reprinted here. Hint: it was for a guy who apparently sold chickens. And it’s worse than you think.

      by J.D. Rhoades on January 9th, 2008 at 8:46 am

    4. Fatal is another good murder word. That one’s going into my first title, I believe, but you’re welcome to it, too. Titles are so very important, aren’t they? It annoys me no end to come across a title that sounds great, but that has nothing to do with the story.

      We have Bucksnort, Tennessee, down here. And we have a Paris, as well. And where I come from, we have a town called Hell, although it means something else there.

      Laura, your road crew sign is wonderful. I’d be tempted, too!

      by JennieB on January 9th, 2008 at 8:49 am

    5. Laura, I think that sign is hilarious and my first thought was of Monopoly, too. Great minds and all that…

      Reminds me of the “Now Leaving Blast Area” road sign I saw during the summer.

      by Sara on January 9th, 2008 at 8:49 am

    6. Wow, J.D. that’s quite a list. Must say I’m intruged by Manly. I’ll have to put that one on my list of places to see before I die.

      by Sara on January 9th, 2008 at 8:51 am

    7. I’m not even going to ask about the sign, J.D. Probably better if you keep us all in suspense.

      by Sara on January 9th, 2008 at 8:53 am

    8. I grew up in Michigan. There a town there named Hell which has always been fun. (And lends a whole new meaning to Hell freezing over.) We used to have to go through Hell to get to my cousin’s cabin. I don’t mind if people tell me to go to Hell because it’s a quaint little town. Michigan also has a Climax. And a Christmas.

      It’s not just you, Laura. Reading about that sign cracked me up.

      I just picked up a book with a great title: The Accidental Vampire. I also love the titles of Natalie M. Roberts psycho dance mom series: Tutu Deadly, Tapped Out, and Pointe and Shoot.

      by B.E. Sanderson on January 9th, 2008 at 8:55 am

    9. Hey Jennie. Yes, I’ve got “Fatal” on my list. I’m saving it for the next book because it will go so well with “Family Reunions.” So appropriate, don’t you think?

      I hate it, too, when the title doesn’t go with the book. Or sometimes there’s just one line about it that was obviously wedged into the story as an afterthought.

      Bucksnort, Tennessee. Another excellently quirky name!

      by Sara on January 9th, 2008 at 8:58 am

    10. Who knew there were so many Hells and Climaxes?

      Another accidental title I liked was The Accidental Tourist.

      Others on my cool title list: Murder by Accident (makes you think, doesn’t it?) and Carolyn Haines’ Bones series–Crossed Bones, Buried Bones, etc.

      by Sara on January 9th, 2008 at 9:04 am

    11. Pennsylvania has Intercourse…

      by JennieB on January 9th, 2008 at 9:30 am

    12. In a little town in Wisconsin, there’s a Cemetary Road. Appropriately, it’s labeled as a Dead End.

      by judy larsen on January 9th, 2008 at 9:33 am

    13. Okkaaay….another quaint town, I’m sure.

      by Sara on January 9th, 2008 at 9:35 am

    14. The first chapter of Steinbeck’s East of Eden is about the naming of places, and it is some of the sweetest writing I’ve read. No names as…interesting as in North Carolina, but still a great bit od wordsmithing.

      And besides many of Steinbeck’s titles, such as East of Eden, there are so many cool titles, in so many genres, that I pretty much will take a look at anything that has a clever title. I think many sc-fi/fantasy works get noticed just for this reason - Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide, So Long and Thanks for All THe Fish, and a lesser known, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, come to mind. One of my all-time favorites titles is Tales From the Vulgar Unicorn…I just had to see what that was about. Outside of Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown titles, the first ‘adult’ mystery I read, I picked up because of it’s title, Green for Danger. How could green be dangerous, was my thought, and ooh, the cool way of killing someone, got my hooked!

      by Kate Hathway on January 9th, 2008 at 9:50 am

    15. I live not too far from Humble, Texas. I don’t know how it got the name, but I suspect it comes from the Humble Oil Company. (Those of use of a certain age [old] will remember Humble before it became Exxon.) The residents pronounce the name ‘Umble. I suppose the kids go to ‘Umble ‘Igh School.

      by Bill Crider on January 9th, 2008 at 9:57 am

    16. And I forgot to mention my favorite sign, seen outside a convenience store: “GAS, BEER, AMMO.” All the necessities of life in one place.

      by Bill Crider on January 9th, 2008 at 9:58 am

    17. Wow, I didn’t proof read that very well, did I? Also, Sara, speaking of descriptive names for your original home base, there’s a group of amazing musicians, the Flatlanders. (Names of bands…now that’s a treasure trove of the good, the bad, and the ugly - to borrow a great movie title!)

      by Kate Hathway on January 9th, 2008 at 10:10 am

    18. There’s a town south of Kansas City where I lived for a while called Peculiar.

      On Grand Caymen is the City of Hell. The Carnival Cruise Line sponsored tour is called “To Hell and Back.” Another one is called, “Go To Hell.”

      I have a lot of pictures of hilarious signs from traveling in China. The language doesn’t translate well into English. One onf my favorites was a sign over a urinal in a restaurant. It said “STEP FORWARD FOR CIVILIZATION.”
      I guess too many Chinese men stand too far away.

      by Will Bereswill on January 9th, 2008 at 10:16 am

    19. I’m sure you’ll find a great title for your next novel, Sara. No matter what you come up with it could be worse. You’re not writing some Steven Segall action film, for example (Above The Law, Under Siege, Around The Corner, Over The Hill).

      There’s a half block long strip mall on Sunset in Hollywood with a sign that says simply, “Uzbekistan”. Either the Uzbeks are smaller than I thought, or there are a lot fewer of them.

      Roadsigns near schools that read “Slow Children”. I mean, sure, they might not be too bright but do you have to point it out to everyone?

      I still want to see a place that offers legal advice, weaponry and banking services all in the same location. Lawyers, Guns and Money.


      “Hit a worker, Pay $10,000.”

      If I can pay in installments I’m definitely interested.

      by Stephen Blackmoore on January 9th, 2008 at 11:18 am

    20. Down near Little Rock is a place that used to be a town but is no longer. It’s called Toad Suck. And last night while watching the NBC station out of Paducah, KY they were warning of a possible tornado closing in on a place called Possum Trot. I was glad I didn’t live there and not just because of the possible tornado. *g*

      by Tori Lennox on January 9th, 2008 at 11:50 am

    21. ‘Must say I’m intrigued by Manly. I’ll have to put that one on my list of places to see before I die.”

      C’mon down. It’s right outside of my hometown of Southern Pines. But there’s really not that much to it. A few houses and an old boarded up store, right before you get to the horse country.

      “I’m not even going to ask about the sign, J.D. Probably better if you keep us all in suspense.”

      Another hint: He also sells young hens.

      by J.D. Rhoades on January 9th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    22. Oh, we have Tightwad, Paris, Florida, California, Peculiar, Pilot Knob, Deep Water,

      by Tricia S. on January 9th, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    23. Pennsylvania also has Paradise.

      It’s right next to Intercourse.

      by Bob Rudolph on January 10th, 2008 at 12:00 am

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