Friday, April 23, 2010

Rude Toponymy, Two

This got started when I was perusing a summary of wills filed in Buncombe County, North Carolina in 1899. Sound-minded Hannah J. Burnett mentions a body of water previously unknown to me:

BOOK D: Page 272
In the name of God, Amen. I, Hannah J. Burnett being of sound mind and knowing the uncertainty of life do make this my last will and testament ... to my beloved nephew, J. D. Burnett ... my sister, L. C. Burnett ... joining the land of M. L. Reed on the waters of what is known as "Shit Britches Creek".
Signed Hannah Burnett
Attested : J. A. Sowells and M .L. Reed.
Severally sworn and subscribed this 22 day of April 1899, before me.
Marcus Erwin, CSC.

Shit Britches Creek?

Why’d they name it that?

I’ve not learned much about Shit Britches Creek. I did discover that California had its own Shit Britches Creek, which enjoyed more prominence and longevity than the North Carolina edition of same.

M. L. Reed, who was mentioned in the will, might be a useful clue for anyone striving to get to the bottom of the story.

Marcus Lafayette Reed (1853-1938) was a leading Buncombian in his day. He served in the General Assembly and chaired the Buncombe County commission. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out where his land and thus - Shit Britches Creek - was located.

My guess?

Somewhere in the Swannanoa Valley between Asheville and Black Mountain.

Though it no longer names a creek in Western North Carolina, “shit britches” continues to serve a purpose in contemporary parlance. From The Urban Dictionary, here’s one definition:

Baggy pants worn by young men that hang low on the hips and have a crotch down to the knees.

That’s about the extent of what I could dig up on “shit britches, 1899-2010.”

I did find a scholarly reference to other, even ruder, place names in the early American South. On page 654 of Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, David Hackett Fischer cites Richard Beeman’s The Evolution of the Southern Backcountry for this tidbit of knowledge:

“In Lunenberg County, Virginia, two small streams were named Tickle Cunt Branch and Fucking Creek.”

What were they thinking in old Lunenberg County?

We’ll assume those names have passed into oblivion.

Despite that, a plethora of peculiar place-names persists. Here’s one list I found for North Carolina. (I grew up near Big Lick and Frog Pond, both fabulous wide spots in the road, so I know these are for real.) Should you plan and complete a trip involving visits to each place on this list, you would know the Tar Heel state as few people ever have:

Bat Cave
Big Lick
Blowing Rock
Frog Level
Frog Pond
Gum Neck
Kill Devil Hills
Meat Camp
Lizard Lick
Tick Bite

[ Source: ]

1 comment:

Gary Carden said...

Then there is Needmore on the way to Glenville and Dead Pecker Ridge up in Little Canada.