The Shortening of Town Names

Many people know this but some people don’t; many towns in the US are known in their shortened form. The town I live in is a good example.

Originally and officially, the name of our town was/is Wild Horse Plains. There is a good reason for this. Although our town is in a rather small and narrow river valley, it is a flood plain and grasses have always grown in abundance here. For that reason, there were a lot of wild horses that used to live here. It was also a preferred wintering ground for the horses the Native Americans of this area had.

Wild horses are rarely seen here today, but that isn’t the reason the name was shortened. The reason the name was shortened had to do with a directory. In specific, it had to do with the US postal directory. The USPS decreed that it was too difficult to put “Wild Horse Plains” in their directory of post offices, though that name was given to the town in the early 1800s. So the post office dropped the first two words of the name to make it easier to write. It is now simply known as Plains. That isn’t the actual name of the town and it is far less romantic, but it is the name that is most commonly used. This is true of many other towns in the US, too.

Interestingly, the county seat for this county is Thompson Falls, which isn’t a short name, though it hasn’t been shortened, except by locals. If we travel there, we normally just say that we are going to Thompson. Then again, if the post office wants to, they can also use the abbreviation for that town: T.F. That is exactly what they did in regard to the town I went to school in and which is often just abbreviated to K.F. or K. Falls, Oregon.

  • Question of

    Which name do you prefer; Wild Horse Plains or Plains?

    • Wild Horse Plains
    • Plains
  • Question of

    Do you know of other towns that have shortened names?

    • Yes
    • No


What do you think?


Written by Rex Trulove

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