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Author Topic: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area  (Read 2783 times)

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City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« on: January 13, 2019, 10:43:45 AM »

Ambiguous enough that any mention will require the state name (or other region) to avoid being asked "which one".

Note that in most cases, this is extremely local to where you live.

Here, there are a few that are ambiguous, plus two that would be if I moved a few miles.
Concord (MA vs. NH)
Hudson (also MA vs. NH)
Birmingham (AL vs. UK)
Rochester (NH vs. NY; MN is not a contender)
Washington (the state itself vs. the country's capital)
Amherst (MA vs. NH)

Where I live, Salem without a state name refers to Salem, NH, but moving ≈5 miles south or southeast (the number 5 is a guess) would make it ambiguous enough, with the other option being Salem, MA. I frequently go places where Salem, MA is the default meaning.

Newton without a state name refers to Newton, MA, even though Newton, NH is much closer. My guess is that going north into New Hampshire will result in Newton, NH being the default meaning as soon as you cross the state border; to find an area where it is ambiguous, I would have to go into Haverhill, MA (which is adjacent to Newton, NH).

Others that might seem ambiguous where I live, but are not:
* Portland refers to ME, not OR. People will talk about the other Portland, but they'll almost always apply the state name.
* Dover refers to DE, not MA or NH. Crossing the state border probably changes this to NH without any region of ambiguity, but there has to be a region of ambiguity somewhere for MA vs. DE.
* Springfield refers to MA, which makes sense since the three major ones are somewhat similar in population, and the one in Massachusetts is much closer than the other two.
* Franklin refers to MA, not NH.
* Brookline: Same as Newton; the one in New Hampshire is closer, but the one in Massachusetts is always meant.
* Groton: MA, even though CT is larger.
* Kingston: Could be 4-way (NH, MA, NY, Jamaica), but "Kingston" by itself refers to NH here.
* Burlington: MA, not VT.
* Bedford: MA, not NH; probably changes immediately upon crossing the state border.
* Rutland: VT, not MA.
* Greenland: Refers to the dependency of Denmark, despite the one in New Hampshire being within 30 miles.

Haven't encountered Milford enough to know (if it was ambiguous, it would be MA vs. NH). Same with Augusta (ME vs. GA) and Orange (MA vs. CA).
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2019, 11:03:45 AM »

New York (city vs. state with same name). Almost everyone I interact with in my region assumes city is the one meant.

Pretty much everything else (Madison, WI vs. Madison, MN) is too vastly different in size and importance to cause confusion.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2019, 11:09:30 AM by TheHighwayMan394 »
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AlexandriaVA

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2019, 11:07:42 AM »

There are at least three areas that go by the name "Alexandria" in Northern VA:

1) The chartered City of Alexandria, which has a mayor, city council, etc.

2) The "Alexandria section" of Fairfax County, which is east of Annandale (VA-236/Little River Turnpike) and borders the western side of the City of Alexandria.

3) The "Alexandria section of Fairfax County, which is north of Groveton (US-1/Richmond Highway) and borders the southern side of the City of Alexandria.
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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2019, 11:12:17 AM »

Jackson in Amador County is a surprisingly bland and generic name for a California Gold Rush Town. 

Mr. Matté

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2019, 11:12:33 AM »

Washington Township, NJ
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1995hoo

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2019, 11:22:10 AM »

Growing up in Northern Virginia, if you wanted to refer to a certain state on the West Coast, you always said "Washington State." If you just said "Washington," people quite understandably assumed you meant the city just across the Potomac. (Back then people didn't generally say "DC" as is common now, and it was mainly TV and radio newscasters who said "the District." Nowadays the only person I usually hear exclusively saying "Washington" to refer to the city is one of the TV weathermen.) I never found this the least bit odd until I was in law school in North Carolina and referred to "Washington State" and someone assumed I was referring to the university.

Mentioning law school reminds me of Wilmington. If you said "Wilmington" there, many people understandably assumed you meant the one in North Carolina. But Duke had enough out-of-staters that the people from up north would use it to refer to the one in Delaware without distinguishing. It led to some confusion around interviewing season!

Regarding Alexandria, we live in #3 on the list above. It's the USPS that wrongly calls our address "Alexandria." We can use the alternative designation "Kingstowne" in our mailing address, so I often do that. Too many people hear "Alexandria" and assume you live in the City of Alexandria. (My wife lived just inside the city limits before we got married. It took a couple of years to get her to remember we live in Fairfax County, and she even paid her car tax to the City of Alexandria right after moving to my house because she had gotten the bill before moving....and I told her not to pay it. At least getting a refund was easy.)

In the category of "idiot," back around 1990 I knew someone who needed to go to Toronto. For some reason, though, he went to book a plane ticket to "Ontario," I think because the name of the organization whose meeting he was to attend included "Ontario" because it was a province-wide outfit, and he was surprised to end up in California. I kind of question that whole stunt because I can't fathom how someone heading to Toronto would ask for a plane ticket to "Ontario" (bear in mind this was 1990, so no online booking or the like).
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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2019, 11:24:34 AM »

Washington, VA, which is often called Little Washington and is always referred to as “Washington VA” on distance signs since it’s not terribly far from DC.

Also Richmond County, VA is less than an hour away from the city of the same name.
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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2019, 12:55:31 PM »

Washington (DC vs state) is almost universally ambiguous. The same is true to a lesser extent with New York (city vs state), although internationally most of the times it's the city. Maybe I should add Georgia (state vs country).

Down to local level, the only potential confusion in my area is Cuarte. Cuarte de Huerva is a town and suburb of Zaragoza, while "plain" Cuarte is a village and rural neighborhood of Huesca (city, also the namesake of the province). There are a few others, such as Rivas (Vaciamadrid near, you guessed it, Madrid vs the "plain" Rivas in Zaragoza province), but they are apart enough so they aren't usually confused. Of note is that in Spain most provinces are named after their seat, but saying just such a name almost always refers to the seat, not the province.
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GaryV

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2019, 02:37:07 PM »

There's a township in the Detroit suburbs that carries the same name as a small locale somewhere else in the state.  Clinton is a small village along US-12 in Lenawee County, but Clinton Twp is a large suburb in Macomb County - most people in the metro area are referring to the township whether they say "township" or not.  There may be other instances as well, around Detroit or one of the other metropolitan areas in the state.

But no one mistakes the city of Troy (a large Detroit suburb) for the one in NY, which I believe it was named after.

London ON and London England are sometimes ambiguous, but generally which one is being talked about can be determined from the context.
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2019, 02:42:21 PM »

Wisconsin has the problem of:

Menomonie - western WI college town
Menomonee Falls - Milwaukee suburb
Menominee, MI - shares a border/metro area with WI
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hbelkins

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2019, 04:58:24 PM »

Washington, VA, which is often called Little Washington and is always referred to as “Washington VA” on distance signs since it’s not terribly far from DC.

And you also have Washington, PA, because I-70 serves both it and the nation's capital (via I-270, of course.)

Around here, the city of Jackson and Jackson County have one county in between them, and are both served by KY 30, but there's always some confusion.
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Eth

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2019, 05:33:07 PM »

There are only two I can think of around here, and even they tend to have something of a "default" meaning:

"Dallas" usually refers to the large city in Texas rather than the city of 12,000 about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta unless you specify.

"Forsyth" typically refers to the county 30 miles north up GA 400, not the city 55 miles south down I-75.
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jp the roadgeek

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2019, 06:06:43 PM »

Penn Township, PA.

Other common Southern New England/eastern NY ones:

Scituate: MA vs RI
Avon: CT vs MA
Natick: MA (almost always) vs RI
Coventry: CT vs RI
Manchester: NH vs CT vs VT vs MA (“by the sea” usually added in MA)
Portsmouth: NH vs RI
Portland (at least in my parts): CT vs ME vs OR
Brewster: MA vs NY
Plymouth: MA vs NH vs CT
Burlington: VT vs MA vs CT
Bristol: CT vs RI
Tolland: CT vs MA
Middlebury: CT vs VT
Woodbury: CT vs Orange County NY vs Suffolk County NY
Middletown: CT vs RI vs NY

I’d add NY for Hudson. 
« Last Edit: January 16, 2019, 10:52:04 AM by jp the roadgeek »
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US 89

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2019, 06:09:01 PM »

"Forsyth" typically refers to the county 30 miles north up GA 400, not the city 55 miles south down I-75.

There's also a Forsyth Street in Atlanta, to make that more confusing. (off-topic, but except for a few annexations, the city limits of Forsyth appear to be a circle with a 1-mile radius.)

Anyway, that's one thing I've noticed about Georgia compared to other places I've been: many people seem to identify with their county just as much as their city, if not more. One isn't from Peachtree City, but rather from Fayette County.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2019, 06:11:28 PM by US 89 »
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kevinb1994

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2019, 06:19:04 PM »

Jax aka Jacksonville, FL and Jacksonville, NC. Not to mention that there’s also a Jacksonville in Alabama and not one but TWO in Georgia. Also both Arkansas and Texas have one each.
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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #15 on: January 13, 2019, 06:54:09 PM »

Cedar Falls vs Cedar Rapids. I confused those quite often when I first moved to Iowa.
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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2019, 07:02:10 PM »

New York (city vs. state with same name). Almost everyone I interact with in my region assumes city is the one meant.

Yep, not just your region. Pretty much everywhere. I've even been asked "what borough?". It is fairly frustrating to say the least.

Nope, not the city. The other New York, you know, the state? The New York that actually has decent, down to earth people, no traffic, chicken wings, and some great non-superficial natural beauty? Yep, that's where I'm from!
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kevinb1994

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2019, 07:02:55 PM »

Cedar Falls vs Cedar Rapids. I confused those quite often when I first moved to Iowa.

I’m not from there and have never been there nor moved there, but yeah, that IS quite confusing.
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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2019, 07:18:14 PM »

Rochester (NH vs. NY; MN is not a contender)

In my case, it is definitely Rochester NY vs. Rochester MN, with Rochester NH not even being a contender.

Similar to the story 1995hoo told, a friend of mine was in our Rochester, NY airport (ROC) once and encountered some elderly travelers looking a little befuddled; they proceeded to ask her for directions to the Mayo Clinic (1000 miles away in Rochester, MN!)  :wow:  :-D

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* Kingston: Could be 4-way (NH, MA, NY, Jamaica), but "Kingston" by itself refers to NH here.

Don't forget Kingston, ON (which is actually the assumed Kingston in my case since I have friends/family there!).
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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #19 on: January 13, 2019, 08:15:39 PM »

Kansas City MO/KS.  Trying to tell non-locals which one is which is incredibly difficult at times.

I spend a decent amount of time in the St. Louis area, where there is an O'Fallon in Missouri and Illinois, although they're not right next to each other.
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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #20 on: January 13, 2019, 08:21:29 PM »

Kansas City MO/KS.  Trying to tell non-locals which one is which is incredibly difficult at times.

I spend a decent amount of time in the St. Louis area, where there is an O'Fallon in Missouri and Illinois, although they're not right next to each other.

Jimmy Fallon approves.
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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #21 on: January 13, 2019, 08:49:49 PM »

Jax aka Jacksonville, FL and Jacksonville, NC. Not to mention that there’s also a Jacksonville in Alabama and not one but TWO in Georgia. Also both Arkansas and Texas have one each.

There are actually quite a few "Jacksonville" place names:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacksonville_(disambiguation)

Usually, when I hear a conversation mentioning "Jacksonville", most automatically assume FL.  I think the exception is when you may be near one of the other ones, the local version is likely assumed.

TX has many place names that might make someone think of a like place elsewhere:  Athens, Atlanta, Carthage, Italy, Moscow, Paris, Rhome, Venus, those are just a few.

There are even cases within TX, regarding county seats being the same name as (but not necessarily the county seat of) a county.  Crockett, Henderson, Rusk, Sherman, and Tyler are just some that aren't in a same-named county.  Most cities or counties in TX listed on Wikipedia in these instances have the customary italicized message at the top: "...not to be confused with...." .
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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #22 on: January 13, 2019, 08:53:45 PM »

Vancouver, WA and Vancouver, BC

Both being on the same freeway corridor and Amtrak line makes for their own confusion. During the 2010 Olympics, some international tourists actually booked hotels in Vancouver, WA, which was obviously not the Olympic host city.

The worst thing is that the smaller (WA) Vancouver is much older. There's been proposals to rename it to Fort Vancouver, but locals are too stubborn and point to their longer time with the name.

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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #23 on: January 13, 2019, 09:02:36 PM »

New York (city vs. state with same name). Almost everyone I interact with in my region assumes city is the one meant.

Yep, not just your region. Pretty much everywhere. I've even been asked "what borough?". It is fairly frustrating to say the least.

Nope, not the city. The other New York, you know, the state? The New York that actually has decent, down to earth people, no traffic, chicken wings, and some great non-superficial natural beauty? Yep, that's where I'm from!

Heh. My parents sometimes get asked which borough they’re from, but I can recall a couple of times when my father was asked “where in Brooklyn are you from?” (he was totally unsurprised and replied, “Foster Avenue”). If you talked to either of them now you probably wouldn’t guess they’re from Brooklyn, but it used to be a lot more obvious. 
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Re: City/town names that are ambiguous in your area
« Reply #24 on: January 13, 2019, 11:19:19 PM »

Another example of name-stealing:

"Lakewood", a fairly generic suburban name, can refer to two areas within the Seattle metro area: a city of 58,000 incorporated in 1996 near Tacoma, or a small unincoprorated area that was created in the 1920s and annexed into other cities in the 1990s/2000s. The latter lost its post office and is now named "North Lakewood" because USPS couldn't sort out the letters without ZIP codes properly.

There were other historic conflicts over names here (like Snoqualmie / Fall City) that were resolved by railroads when it came time to name stations.

 


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