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World Laughter Day: Funniest Place Names

8 May 2018

Occurring each year on the first Sunday of May, World Laughter Day is a worldwide celebration of all things hilarious. The jovial day's origins can be traced to Mumbai, India, where the first celebration of its kind was arranged in 1998 by Dr Madan Kataria, founder of the 'laughter yoga' movement - the practice of gathering in a group and, quite simply, laughing together. Created as a day where the 'healing benefits' of laughter can be celebrated worldwide, there are now thousands of groups around the world who meet to celebrate a movement that "is a positive manifestation for World Peace and builds up a global consciousness of brotherhood and friendship through laughter."

World Laughter Day has got us thinking about laughter and travel - more specifically, funny place names. From the ridiculous and silly to the seemingly obscene, destinations with slightly more unusual names can make for some hilarious travel opportunities. Here are some of our favourites…

Boring, Oregon, USA

Nestled in the foothills of the Cascade mountain range, just twelve miles from downtown Portland, lies the small town of Boring. Named after William Harrison Boring, a soldier and early resident of the community who began farming on the land in 1874, Boring is now home to almost 8,000 residents who embrace their unique town name. Local businesses use the epithet as a witty marketing strategy, with the town's own website playfully declaring Boring as "the most exciting place to live." Add to that the fact that Boring is twinned with the town of Dull, Scotland (which itself paired with Bland, Australia in 2017), and one can't help but chuckle at the would-be unfortunate naming.

And Boring itself? Well, the town is located on a former lava field and benefits from some spectacular surrounding landscapes, including beautiful hiking trails, picturesque creeks and dramatic views of the majestic snow-capped Mount Hood. The town has also inspired several television shows, including a 2018 Netflix Original series. We think the town of Boring is anything but!

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales, UK

This unassuming, peaceful town on the Island of Anglesey, just off the northwest coast of North Wales, is famous for having the longest place name in the United Kingdom, and one of the longest in the world. The long form of the name - an incredible 58 characters long - actually came about as a result of trains! In the mid-1800's after a railway was built between Chester and Holyhead, locals were trying to push the town as a tourist destination and believed that displaying the unusually long name at the station would encourage passengers to alight. To this day the name continues to both baffle and amuse those who hear it - in fact, a YouTube video of weatherman Liam Dutton's flawless pronunciation of the name during a weather report has amassed an incredible 17 million views since its upload in 2015!

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is roughly translated as "St Mary's Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave". Thankfully, the town name does have some other, slighter shorter variations; Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Llanfairpwll and Llanfair PG.

Unbelievably, and despite the townsfolk's gallant efforts, there are places with even longer names. The Guinness Book of World Records bestows the honour of the longest place name in the world to Tetaumatawhakatangihangakoauaotamateaurehaeaturipukapihimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuaakitanarahu in New Zealand, which has an astonishing 92 letters and translates as "the summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one"!

Hell, Michigan, USA

Did you know that you can, quite literally, go to Hell? It's in Michigan, USA! Like Boring, the residents of Hell take full advantage of their rather sinister name; their website, complete with ominous flame graphics, advertises weddings ("after all, a marriage that starts in Hell has no place to go but up!"), the town's local 'Hell Hole Diner', and a whole array of Hell-themed memorabilia, from t-shirts to shot glasses. For $100, Hell enthusiasts can even apply to become Mayor of Hell for a day, although the title is ceremonial only and all Mayors are impeached by the end of the day - one Mayor, who hit headlines last year when he satirically announced the banning of heterosexuality in the town, was impeached after only three hours!

It is not clear how exactly Hell was named. One popular theory attributes the naming to a pair of early German travellers, whose comments that the town was "so schön hell" (so beautifully bright) was overheard by locals, and the name stuck. Another theory suggests that George Reeves, an original settler of the town in 1838, was asked what he would like the town to be named; his apathetic response was "I don't care, you can name it Hell for all I care" and the town became officially known as Hell in 1841.

Amusingly, there's also a Hell in Norway which we can confirm does, in fact, freeze over!

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