Geography’s Mirthful Mouthful


WARNING:


Attempting to pronounce the longest place-name in the annals of the U. S. Board on Geographic Names, a hill in New Zealand, could be hazardous to your health— Taumatawhakatangihangakoauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanataha. The 83-letter tongue twister is a variant of the official name, a mere 57 letters long, which Maori dictionaries define as “the brow of the hill where Tam-atea who sailed all round the land played his nose flute to his lady love.”


The longest place-name in the U. S. belongs to a lake near Webster, Massachusetts, whose official name, Chaubunagungamaug, pales next to a variant with 49 letters, 17 of them g’s. Chargoggagoggmanchauggauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, a Nipmuck Indian word, means a neutral fishing place near a boundary . But some translate it as “you fish on your side; I fish on my side; nobody fishes in the middle.”



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