Pet Peeve #43: Cities That Share the Same Name

A few years ago, I was at a fancy fundraising event like the one in The Dark Knight Rises, except with less Batman and more me with a wedgie, and a young couple introduced themselves and started talking about their connection to the organization. Then the wife said something like this:

“Oh, you know Manhattan–it’s a small town.”

This confused me on a number of levels, so I just smiled and covertly adjusted my wedgie.

First, I was surprised that this couple had come all the way from New York to St. Louis for this event. Second, they didn’t seem like New Yorkers–I’m still not exactly sure how I perceive New Yorkers, but whatever it is, these folks seemed like they truly were from a small town, not a bustling city. And third, she had actually referred to her Manhattan as “a small town”–was that supposed to be ironic? New Yorkers and their “humor.”

It was only later that I discovered that there is actually a Manhattan, Kansas, and indeed, the couple was from that small city.

Needless to say, my confusion could have been avoided if this city had simply chosen a different name. That only seems fair.

I haven’t thought of that encounter until today when I saw the graphic shown here, as posted by a friend of mine regarding an exchange between her and her sister.

I have to say, I’m going to take the sister’s side here. When you say “Portland,” you think of Oregon, right?

No disrespect to Manhattan or Portland or any of the other cities that share names (there’s even a Portland, Texas), but I feel like when one city eclipses the other so much that people forget the smaller city exists, it should change its name to something new. Is that fair?

Also, one quick personal note: There are a lot of small towns in Missouri that have the names of countries. Among them is Mexico, Missouri. Many years ago, a girlfriend and I decided that if we ever got separated (like, in an apocalypse/martial law situation), we would tell announce loudly to anyone who would listen that we’re going to meet each other in Mexico. And then, when the world was hunting for us (why are they hunting for us? I don’t know. This is one of those just-in-case scenarios) in Mexico, we would meet in Mexico…Missouri. Ha! Unfortunately she and I broke up, and it was for the best. But a very small part of me still fancies the idea that one day the apocalypse will happen, and she and I will find ourselves on the same park bench in small-town Missouri as we watch the world end, hand in hand.

13 thoughts on “Pet Peeve #43: Cities That Share the Same Name”

    • Sure, exactly. (*announces loudly*) We’re switching it to Cuba! Don’t think for a second that we’re sticking with the Mexico plan. Cuba it is.

  1. a) Portland is a geographical name because it is a Land with a Port. Portland, Maine qualifies. Portland, Oregan qualifies. Portland, Texas may qualify. (According to Wikipedia, it is named because it was sold to the Portland (Maine) Harbor & Improvement Company. While it “overlooks the dancing waves of both Nueces and Corpus Christi Bays,” I see nothing that says it was ever actually a port. But I have to believe that someone at some time received goods via the water in Portland, Texas).

    b) If you’re not OK with two cities sharing the same name, the onus oughta lie with the newer city to be creative enough to come up with something original. If name-duplication is so difficult that we need to legislate it (I’m against frivolous government interaction of course), then the community without an original, creative bone amongst it’s zombie-like citizens, oughtn’t get a city. OK, they can have a smoldering hole in the ground, but no buildings. But if prior to the Stegmaier-Blandersville bill, a town had the audacity, the gall, the cahones to name themselves after another existing city, they oughta be the ones to change. If there can only be one Portland, the people of Falmouth Neck, Maine did it in 1786 (see the Wikipedia reference from your pic). Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove bought land in what is/would be Oregon, and wanted to name it in tribute to their home town of Portland, Maine in 1845.

    c) Things have been named in tribute since Ug, son of Ug. In fact, many last names are originally based on the name of a memorable ancestor (or their occupation). I was very nearly the 4th Harold Aloysius in as many generations. I thank my mother for intervening, because I still have to look up how to spell Aloysius every time someone makes it a security question. But it is a tradition to name things after something/someone that was praiseworthy or memorable for positive attributes. There are lots of James, Georges, Patricks, Thomass, etc, but very few Judases and Adolfs running around now-a-days. I thought sure there wouldn’t be another Sodom, but Wikipedia once again proves that there are infidels as nearby as the land of the Maple Leaf (Sodom, Ontario). Luckily, I can’t find any other Gomorrahs.

    • I had planned to make exactly the same case Red made in point B, but instead, I will only lift my glass and shout “huzzah” in agreement as John makes that date-related point.

        • “The word “Manhattan” has been translated as “island of many hills” from the Lenape language.” So, per point 1, any Island with many hills should qualify. Manhattan, IL, KS, NV,IN,MT do not qualify under point 1. But, under point 3 they would, as they are paying tribute to Manhattan, NY.

  2. This has happened to me before too. Once in high school, I was talking with a few of my friends, and someone mentioned something about the University of Miami. One of the girls asked, “Miami, Flordia?” To which I responded with great sarcasm, “No, Miami, Missouri!” One of them with far too much knowledge of local geography was quite happy to point out that there is in fact a Miami, Missouri. Population: 160. I was given endless grief about that for a LONG time!

    Also, there is a town not far from where I grew up called Milan. However, being a rural area, it couldn’t possibly share the pronunciation with those snooty Italians (ma-LAHN). No, it was pronounced MY-len.

    P.S. I guess there is a Miami, Ohio too. I just can’t win.

    • Wikipedia also wants me to know that there is a Miami, Arizona; Miami, California; Miami, Indiana; Miami, Oklahoma and a Miami, Texas.

      If I really want things to get confusing, there is also a Miami, Queensland, Australia; Miami, Manitoba, Cananda; Miami, Iran and Miami, Spain.

      • See, Miami is where I draw the line. I’ve had several people tell me they went to school in Miami, and then when I ask them if they’ve ever had Pollo Tropical, they clarify that it’s Miami, Ohio. How can they possibly think that someone thinks “Ohio” when they say “Miami.” Again, no disrespect, but we’re talking numbers here.

  3. This happens in reverse too. I don’t know of any other city that shares St. Louis as a name. However, whenever I say I’m from St. Louis, they often ask with question, “Missouri?” Perhaps they doubt their own knowledge of US geography, but at least some of them must be resolving any ambiguity.

    • John, you illustrate yet another great point: When multiple cities share the same name, we start to doubt the location of ANY city. This is a huge problem.


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