Communities

How the Towns of Bland, Dull, and Boring Made Their Lame Names Work for Them

by Mark Hay

December 15, 2014

Last year, three little, oft-maligned towns across the world decided it was time to transcend their stigma and use their unfortunate names as a force for good. United by common pain—and the prospect of a little extra tourism—the municipalities of Bland, Australia; Boring, Oregon; and Dull, Scotland teamed up to create what they call the League of Extraordinary Communities, but which many have dubbed the Trinity of Tedium. Although part of the union is about reclaiming the joke of their names and having a good laugh themselves, it’s also just one of many strange bids by small towns to bring in a few extra dollars. And it appears to be working, which we can only hope means we’ll see more such confederacies soon.

For those unfamiliar with the villages, here’s a quick primer: Bland, full name Bland Shire, is a town of 6,400 in the dead center of Australia’s New South Wales state. Named after William Bland, one of Australia’s first medical practitioners and a convict shipped to the continent after killing a man in a duel in then-Bombay, the town now sports a small gold mine, but not much else. Boring, Oregon, the largest of the trio with 13,000 residents, is named for early settler William H. Boring, a Civil War Union solider. Home to a center for Seeing Eye Dog training, and some of the worst business puns known to man, residents have been known to post signs reading “the most exciting place to live” around town. And little Dull, Scotland, with just 84 residents living along one street in the Tay Valley, is by far the smallest of the group, but among the richest in history, featuring many historic Celtic and Christian sites alongside its rapidly declining modern structures and shrinking population.

Before Bland completed the trio last year, Boring and Dull linked up in 2012 after a Scottish woman on a cycling holiday in America passed a sign for Boring, and decided to tell the local Community Planning Organization about Dull. The result was a Dull & Boring Facebook page for residents to communicate together and some basic plans for cooperation and mutual promotion as a tourist duo. By doing so they followed in the tradition of Toledo, Ohio and Toledo, Spain, who became the world’s first sister cities based on an unlikely kinship in 1931.The union spawned 522 American communities with commercial and touristic ties to diverse and unexpected towns around the world. Last year, Neil Pokoney, mayor of Bland, heard about the partnership between Dull and Boring and decided he’d like to get in on the fun and profit—possibly after two Bland citizens visited Dull in 2013 and decided the union seemed like a great way to both channel and challenge the fun other Australians poked at them.

Dog Bark Park in Cottonwood, Idaho. Photo by Alan Levine

As strange as the Trinity sounds, it’s hardly the weirdest thing a small, out-of-the-way town has ever done to promote itself and draw in a little extra income. Consider the 30-foot, beagle-shaped bed and breakfast that defines Cottonwood, Idaho, the seven-million-foot ball and sisal of twine in Cawker City, Kansas, and the “car-henge,” which is pretty much what it sounds like, in Alliance, Nebraska. A town in Oregon even changed its name, for one year, to half.com, the name of a popular online store, for a cash grant and some free computers. And perhaps earliest and oddest of all, the Welsh town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll decided to capitalize on English fascination with long Welsh names in the 1880s by renaming their town Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrob-wllllantysiliogogogoch, a 57-letter moniker featuring four “l”s in a row, which translates to St. Mary’s Church in the Hollow of White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysillo near the Red Cave. The name still attracts touristic photographers and sells t-shirts (although travel guru Rick Steves claims it’s been outstripped by the 163-letter Thai town of Krungthepmahanakornamornratanakosinmahintarayutthayamahadi-lokphopnopparatrajathaniburiromudomrajaniwesmahasatharnamornphimarnavatarnsathitsak-kattiyavisanukamprasit.)

According to Norman Rice of the Boring Community Planning Organization, the Trinity is working—the town has seen a market increase in visitors and a boost in sales of branded mugs and t-shirts, not to mention the ancillary business of people who come to photograph their signs when they hear about the union. He says the other towns have had similar success, and capitalize on the fame to draw people into their existing attractions, like Dull’s Highland safaris and 7th century Celtic crosses. The communities have also initiated, as of 2013, Dull and Boring Days, which will expand to include Bland soon, featuring ice cream, bagpipes, and American folk singing; Boring hopes to achieve state legislative recognition of the holiday to draw in even more spectators.

Welsh town of Llanfairpwllgw...Llanfarg...oh, forget it.

And possibly the best part of the Trinity—the three towns involved barely need to do anything to promote or expand it. Internet commenters, gaga over the project, have already suggested that Draby, Poland, Monotony Valley, Nevada, Normal, Illinois, and Tedious Creek, Maryland consider joining the party (although no one knows if they’d allow in Bland, Missouri—perhaps that repetition would be just too…dull).

For my money, though, I’d pay to see completely new unions form. Perhaps an Eerie, Indiana-themed alliance between Odd, West Virginia, Peculiar, Missouri, and Strange, Ontario. Or an existential entente between Why, Why Not, and Nowhere Else.  Of all the options, though, we all have to admit that perhaps the best team-up would be what I’ll call for now the Enneagon of Eroticism, the unholy bonding of Blue Ball, Ireland; Brown Willy, Cornwall; Climax, Georgia; Cocks, Cornwall; Dildo, Newfoundland; Fucking, Austria; Intercourse, Pennsylvania; Muff, Ireland and Wank, Germany. That’s not even scratching the surface of dirty town names, but it’s a good title to start off, say, a delightfully depraved world tour. Because, let’s admit it, if people will shell out for the admittedly awesome Trinity of Tedium, what wouldn’t they pay to make this salacious circuit?

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How the Towns of Bland, Dull, and Boring Made Their Lame Names Work for Them