What’s in a (Town’s) Name? Nothing.

Nothing,_ArizonaAmerican cities and towns get their names from many sources. It’s clear where cities like Lincoln, Nebraska; Jefferson City, Missouri; Cleveland, Ohio; and Jackson, Mississippi get their names — from the names of American presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Grover Cleveland, and Andrew Jackson.

Other city or town names come from the original inhabitants (people who live there) or the origins of the immigrants or migrants (people who move from one part of a country to another) who moved there, such as New York and New Mexico.  And still other towns are named for their functions or unique geographical features (special features of the land).

But some U.S. cities have truly strange and inexplicable names. Some of these are very small towns and communities.

In the state where I grew up — Arizona — there is a town called Nothing. Established (created) in 1977, this is truly a small town, with only four residents (people living there) now. However, those residents have a very good sense of who they are and what they represent.  One town sign reads (says):

Town of Nothing Arizona. Founded 1977. Elevation (position above sea level) 3269 ft.

The staunch (loyal) citizens of Nothing are full of Hope, Faith, and Belief in the work ethic (the idea that hard work is good and will bring good results). Thru (through) the years, these dedicated (devoted; committed to a purpose) people had faith (belief; confidence) in Nothing, hoped for Nothing, worked at Nothing, for Nothing.

The people of Nothing also have a good sense of humor.  The last sentence include several puns, jokes based on a word or phrase having more than one meaning.

To have faith in nothing” normally means to believe in nothing.  “To have faith in (something)” usually means to have confidence in it and believe that it will do what it says it will do.  For example:
– “Julia doesn’t have faith in her car’s GPS system. She prefers to use a paper map.”
– “Ken has faith in his children’s honesty and know that they wouldn’t tell a lie.”

To hope for nothing” usually means to expect or wish for nothing:
– “Based on her past experience, Mandy knew to hope for nothing from her boss even if she asked for help.”
– “Gil hoped for nothing when he moved to the new town, but has actually made a lot of friends.”

To work at nothing” means to be aimless and not put your time and energy into achieving anything.  For example:
– “After years of working at nothing and living at home with his parents, Don finally went back to school, completed his degree, and got a job.”
– “When Sophie retires, she plans to work at nothing and just enjoy her free time.”

Finally, “for nothing” normally means with no result:
– “I worked on this old car for nothing. I couldn’t get it to work.”
– “Sam cleaned the house for nothing. His family didn’t even notice his hard work.”

Before reading about Nothing, I had never heard of this town. Now, I’m intrigued (interested).  If I ever stop there for a visit, I’ll know to expect Nothing.

Are there towns with unusual names where you live?

~ Lucy

P.S. The title of this post “What’s in a name?” is a line from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet uttered (said) by Juliet:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Juliette means, of course, that a name isn’t important.  If a rose were called by a different name, it would have the same good scent or smell.

Photo Credit:  Nothing, Arizona from Wikipedia


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13 Responses to What’s in a (Town’s) Name? Nothing.

  1. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Dear Jeff and Lucy.
    It is always good to read your stories. They always bring plenty of learning. The story of the name of a city is always interesting, depending on their origins. They could be funny, they could be sad, they could be unknown. Thanks for the lesson.

  2. Dan says:

    Thank you Lucy.

    Out of curiosity I visited Nothing with Google Earth.
    It seems the place is abandoned. Now, there really is nothing there. Only Lizards and Snakes.

    Yes, we too have towns with funny/curious names.

    The first one coming to mind is “Trepalle” wich is ” Three- balls” Needless to say what people joke about its inhabitants..

    I have no problem reavealing my town’s name wich is “Brusimpiano” It seems coming from the Greek “Bruxino” narrow plus Piano. “Narrow flat peninsula”

    It is a very little town by one of the several Lakes in the north part of Italy. A lovely place, very very different from Arizona.


  3. Mario says:

    I’m Italian.
    My grandfather was born in a small town called Paese. Paese is the Italian word for town.
    So in English it’s the same as someone was born (or live) in a town called TOWN.

    By the way, Paese is located near Venice!!!

    Thank you!!!


  4. Lucy says:

    I like the last line:

    What is in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.

    But rose is a better name than any other name.

  5. Lucy says:

    When I choose an English name, I pick “Lucy” because it is similar to “Lucycee”, a very talented academic woman I admire very much.

  6. Lucas (BRAZIL) says:

    In Brazil, member state of Bahia, we have a city called “Tabocas do Brejo Velho” which means “Bamboo sticks of the old swamp”. In the member state of Pernambuco in have a city called “Solidão”, literally “Loneliness”.

  7. emiliano says:

    Dear Lucy,

    it is real and funny to put nothing to a place where there is really nothing as it is clear by the photo but also it seems that the people who put the name have a high level
    of good humor.
    Here there are several small cities or village with funny names but there are also cities with very old names that came from the Arab Language, Latin or even from the
    time of Cartago.

    Madrid is a good example of that, like the majority of the old cities of the country.

    Madrid has the origin of the current name of the city comes from the 2nd century BC. The Roman Empire established a settlement on the banks of the Manzanares river. The name of this first village was “Matrice” (a reference to the river that crossed the settlement). After that came the invasions the Germanic Sueves and Vandals, as well as the Sarmatic Alans during the 5th century AD.

    When Romans didn´t be here, in Hispania, any more , these new invassions also took the control of “Matrice”. In the 7th century, the Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula saw the name changed to “Mayrit”, from the Arabic term ???? “Mayra” (referencing water as a “trees” or “giver of life”) and the Ibero-Roman suffix “it” that means “place”.
    The modern “Madrid” evolved from the Mozarabic “Matrit”, which is still in the Madrilenian gentilic.

    It is said that on those time a squirrel could crossed all the Península of Hispania without falling down of a three, jumping from one to another was enough.
    Now some places are like desserts…..Why?. So many wars along centuries isolated the land.

    Thanks a lot Dear Teacher.

  8. Dan says:

    Hi Lucy.

    May I ask if you happen to like Metallica?

    I am asking that because this town’s name “Nothing” made me think of the Metallica’s song “Nothing else matters”

    Looking at the lyrics there is this part that, to me has something to do with the blog. Here it is:

    Trust I seek and I find in you
    Every day for us something new
    Open mind for a different view
    and nothing else matters.

    Thank you Lucy

  9. HILARIO says:

    GOOD OAK SITE.- Some Americans are not very aware about some of their inheritances in terms of language, especially about those names of places having so sound and so strong Spanish meaning. Starting with eclesiastic saints and religious names like San Diego or San Francisco or Los Angeles. There’re many of them and there’re also of course, other Europeans languages like French and German which have left a similar trace. But the Spanish toponyms are more frequent in the South-west and surrounding States. For instance, the name of the state of Colorado, the word describes a land of reddish soils, as soils and landscapes are in fact in the Red State. This is because in old Spanish the Colorado color is, in fact, the name of the red color. The state of Nevada, is another case. The word Nevada itself, directly translates as the mantle of snow covering after a big snow storm. A storm of which probably like the one witnessed by the Spanish military and missioners, when first arrived in the land during the winter. The Imperial army of Spain at the time was composed of Spaniards who spoke several Iberian languages, some of them similars but different from common Castilian. The chiefs of the expeditions would they tend on recruiting in people sharing common birthplace in native provinces and speaking mother tongue Basque, in order to better communication and understanding. The Basque language that was spoken in North Spain and was the predominant language among the militaries and missioners of one particular expedition headed toward what today is the state of Arizona. The naming preferences used to be of religion evocation most of them, but some Basque missioners gave to the new found land, with plenty of healthy oaks, the appropriate name of Goodoak. The Basque word, “Haritz” translates to English as oak but it is pronounced just “ariz”, and the adjetive “Ona” means good. In Basque language, the adjetive precedes always the substantive. Oak trees and beech trees are very respectable trees in Euskalerria, the homeland of the Basques, as being good wood in carpenter works, as also is good the wood from the oaks in Arizona. The oaks from Arizona are very much used by Californian winemakers in the wine producing area of Napa Valley for making wooden casks used in aging wine.

  10. Peter says:

    Hi Lucy,
    U lost me right past the title
    What is your point?
    The post is a bit too vague
    It doesn’t go anywhere
    I mean , I didn’t get it
    What point are you trying to bring home ?
    Sorry , I m baffled
    I understand the town you have gone on and on about it has a population of 4 which is a tad weird.
    I mean, isn’t there any guild line , instructors , chart , index or whatnot indicating that by laws , a gathering of people in one area will be recognized as a town if the population of people residing said area is more than a certain number ? if so ,I m certain it couldn’t be 4 or 5 people.
    How on earth has the government entitled a population of 4 people ,who even barley form a family ,as a town.
    There must be rules or sth regulating such things , right?
    Sorry for the scathing comment . I don’t mean to be disrespectful or sth , u know me ,I m not diplomat or tactful at all. I m a simpleton 🙂
    I simply just don’t get it.
    Again, What is the point of the post ?
    In Canada ,of all cities ,almost all of them have bizzar names.
    It is a norm here
    But ,so what ? Who gives a rat a.s about the whole thing ?

    I just don’t get it


  11. emiliano says:

    Hilario, thanks very much.

    I knew there was a lot of Basque people in Oregon but what you said above it is quite interesting for me.
    Now I am searching through the web to be better informed.

    I like very much all what you said despite some times I do not agree with your points of view but it doesn´t
    matter and it is natural, not all need to have the same opinión about everthing I think also discrepancies are
    good to be a free open mind.

    I am reading jus now some other information about your subject to extend this new knowledge, thanks


  12. emiliano says:

    Dear Lucy,

    In Spanish all words that start with the letters:

    even the Words that start with JA…..

    comes from Arab language.
    Having in mind Arabs were here more tan seven hundred years it is logical that lot of
    Spanish – Castellano language was full of Arab words.

    Name of cities:

    Alhama de Aragon
    Alcala de Henares
    Alameda del Valle…..and so forth

    name of rivers and cities

    Guadarrama,,,,,the mountains close to Madrid

    other names with JA….

    Jara de los Montes
    Jaraíz de la Vera
    Jarama….river close to Madrid

    and thousands of names like……
    Almohada, almohadón, alfeizar, jarana, alcazaba, guapo, guapetona, guarda….etc.

    But we have names from Lating, French, Greek and so forth…..and from English too.

    Thanks Lucy.

    Emiliano “gatufo”

  13. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for this wonderful yellow rose you sent to us.

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