Unique Minnesota City Names

My wife Vickie and I have traveled full time in our RV for a many months now and we have passed through many cities and towns with unique and interesting names.  That is a ‘Minnesota nice’ way to say weird and crazy.  But to be fair, I thought I needed to point out Minnesota’s own batch of goofy names.

I will start with some of the places that I have lived, like White Bear Lake (lived for 13 years).   I have never seen a real white bear here or even heard of one that existed in the wild in the whole state of Minnesota. This fact doesn’t stop ½ the population of this suburb from having cement white bears somewhere in their yard. Yup, me included.   It’s possible that there may have been a white bear there during one of the ice ages and the area was originally named by Paleolithic man.

Another name that doesn’t fit is Stillwater (lived for 7 years).  It’s on a river!  This water is constantly moving.  This city obviously wasn’t named in the springtime.

And then of course there is Embarrass (My family owns 100 acres of land) in northern Minnesota.  A shack and the land has been in our family since 1941.  I believe the original name was supposed to be Excellent.  My theory is the head cartographer in ‘the cities’ (that’s Minneapolis/St. Paul for non-Minnesotans) purposely changed the name to Embarrass.  He was formerly from International Falls but moved to Edina (a cities suburb and home of the ‘cake eaters’) because he was too whimpy to handle cold weather.  Anyway, as everybody knows it colder in Embarrass than International Falls (the IceBox of the lower 48…whatever….).  It’s probably a good thing the name was changed because people would have flocked from all over to live ‘up north’ in Excellent.  Now it’s just one of the best kept secrets in the lower 48.  By the way I-Falls, nobody calls anything an “icebox” anymore, it’s a freezer, dontcha know.

My Cousin Geno at The Shack in Embarrass, MN

I was at the shack one January weekend when it got down to minus 62 degrees Fahrenheit (note: this is not that over inflated ‘wind chill’ measurement.  It is actual temperature.  Uff-da, dat’s cold!).  I believe that temperature is somewhere close to absolute zero, but I am not sure.  For Embarrass folks, cold is a badge of honor.

Here is a link to YouTube where they debate the real cold spot.  But you now really know the answer.


P.S. Our shack is actually between Embarrass and Tower and slightly colder than both.  Just sayin……..

My brother in law Rod lives near Kiester in southern Minnesota.  The 1st settlers there must have been assholes but people were being “Minnesota nice” by naming it Kiester.  The good news is they got nicer over time but never actually changed the name.   Forest Gump would have named it ‘Buttocks’.  They could have renamed it ‘Behind’ but then people would have thought everyone there was ‘slow’ and it’s much better to be an asshole than be stupid.  I guess Kiester is still better than bum, arse, rear, bottom, buns, rump or many other possibilities.

Then of course we have the inappropriate town names like ‘Climax’.  I can’t help but giggle when I say it.  I tell my wife that we should go there, but she says to me, ”Why should we go there after all these years?”.  I don’t know what she means by that, but it can’t be good.  And then there is ‘Fertile’ which I am not sure refers to the women of the town or the land, but either way it sounds like a nice place.  Another place close by in the northern part of the state is ‘Remer’.  I recall seeing an article from a small town gazette describing a car accident titled “Remer man and Fertile woman collide in Climax”.

We have other just plain strange names like ‘Ortonville’ which I am sure is close to where ‘Horton heard a Who’.  There is actually a town in Minnesota named Key West……really Key West?  I bet you would be disappointed if you plugged Key West into you GPS in January and ended up there. How about Geneva?  It isn’t where the convention was, but it is where we had some pretty good venison sausage made.

There is a town in Minnesota named ‘Minnesota Lake’.   Of course it is next to the lake ‘Minnesota Lake’.  How original.  There are over 10,000 lakes in Minnesota.   It’s kind of like Ioweejans (you know… people from Iowa) naming a city ‘Cornfield, Iowa’.  Minnesota Lake is in the southern part of the state where there aren’t really all that many lakes (Minnesotanly speaking).  I think they are just trying to ‘fit in’.

One of my favorite towns is Beaver Bay is on the north shore.  It is included in this post because I just like saying ‘beaver’, childish yes, but sort of funny.  It reminds me of a scene from “The Naked Gun when Leslie Nielsen says “Nice Beaver” to Priscilla Presley and she hands him a stuffed beaver.

Some other names to include on the list, Crookston (don’t ever buy a used car from someone here),   Sleepy eye (named from Oly’s droopy eyelid he got from a fight with Sven), Redwood Falls (Did we have redwoods in Minnesota?), Abercrombie (but no ‘Fitch’), and Holmes City which is about an hour and a half from Watson.

Then we have a few cool names.  The ones that are just fun to say like Wayzata, Chanhassen, or Minneapolis.

I hope nobody in these towns takes offence (except International Falls), but in my defense I have lived virtually my entire life in Minnesota, so I thought I could make fun of that part of me.  It’s like when Jesse (if you’re from Minnesota you don’t need to ask “Jesse who?”) commented that St. Paul’s (Lived for 8 years) confusing streets were designed by drunken Irishmen.  I wasn’t offended, I just thought it was funny.


Sean Finnegan

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