Friday, April 11, 2008

Austrian names are fun

When it comes to last names, Austria finds itself in the same league as Sri Lanka, Georgia, and Thailand (home to such whoppers as, respectively, Jayasinghe, Shalikashvili, and Chulalongkorn) Witness the quattrosyllabic names of three prominent Austrians- Danspekgruber (a professor of mine at Princeton), Gusenbauer (the current Austrian chancellor) and Schwarzenegger (him you know).
But while Austrian last names are definitely longer on average than the average last name in Germany, the city names here in German are often quite short, with a particular plethora of four letter words. Witness Wien, Graz, Linz (the three largest Austrian cities), but also Ybbs, Wels, Melk, Gurk, Steyr, Lienz, etc.
Still, two Austrian city names stand out above the rest. The first is Fucking which I've known about since 2000 when I read an enlightening article on the town in that distinguished journal of arts and letters, Maxim. While browsing through the above Wikipedia link, I also learned that in neighboring Bavaria, one can find the towns of Kissing and Petting. Better visit those first. And just for the sake of thoroughness, once you're done with your, uh, romantic tour of cities in Bavaria and Austria, be sure to visit the district of Wedding in Berlin.
The other city name that makes me laugh out loud- and I only found out about this one this week when I saw it on the license plate frame on a car- is Rottenegg. Scroll down on the wikipedia link and you'll see it's a part of the town of Walding. Insert your own obvious joke here about the town's air quality...
For more procrastinatory fun with geographic names, click here. I had the great good fortune to pass by Intercourse, Pennsylvania while on my hike, and while doing research for a book project in Wisconsin in 2007 also unexpectedly came across the Bong Recreation Area. Good times.

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