How to Name Your Child

Spruce Knob

West Virginia

May 2014

If you are expecting a child, I’m here to help you name it.  These days, parents seem to have no qualms about naming their children…  pretty much anything.  Why not?  I’ll supply you with nine names from the area we cover on this Highpointing trip, Spruce Knob and environs.  See if any appeal to you for your child.

1, 2, 3

First, we are in the Monongahela National Forest, named after a river, the Monongahela River.  Very few names have had so many derivations, 27 of them, in fact, including…


do not give your child this name, it’s just a bad idea




…to name just three versions you don’t want to use

What could these Scrabble impossibilities mean?  Translation yields, “Breaking off and falling down in places,” or “land of many landslides,” or “Would you please pass the arugula?”



Crossing the state line into West Virginia, north to south, you enter Monongalia County, named after the Monongahela River.  Notice the difference?  The story goes that in the late 19th century, geographical boundaries were being reviewed.  Some lame-ass paper shuffler goofed up and instead of writing Monongahela, he wrote Monongalia.  And for some continuing lame-ass reason, the name stuck, and stays stuck.



This is a good one.  The Cheat River is a popular recreational river with rafting, kayaking and fishing among many other attractions.  The Cheat was named for…

.  a French explorer, or possibly a Native American named Cheat or Chaet

.  lots of cheat grass (drooping brome) along the banks of the river

.  a dishonest cowboy gambler whose name is forgotten

.  deep pools of collected water that men drowned in, cheating them of their lives.

This last one?  I’m just not buying it, but it’s the most popular story of the bunch.


Gaul or Gauley

Western Europe was once called “Gaul.”  France itself was once called “Gaul.”  (The Prime Minister of France in the mid-20th century was named “de Gaulle.”)  In the 18th century, French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, claimed the land area in America ranging from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.  Greedy bastard.  Anyway, because of this overreaching French presence in the region, a river the natives called “To-ke-bel-lo-ke” or “falling creek” was renamed “Gauley” by the French.  Currently the Gauley is another popular whitewater sport venue.



Potomac is currently the name of a river, a town, a park, an airfield, a village, a college, an asteroid, a bakery, a publisher, a curling club, navy ships, a Native American tribe, currency, a street in Pittsburgh and a horse disease.  As a Native American name, it means “place of burning pine”, or “they are coming by water” or “I’m sorry but we just ran out of arugula.”  You could name your child Potomac.


Marlin’s Bottom

Possibly the world’s first bromance.  In 1749, Jacob Marlin and Stephen Sewell built a cabin at the mouth of Knapps Creek, right near where we are hiking.  The two men are credited with becoming the first white settlers west of the Allegheny Mountains, even though they were in the Allegheny Mountains.  Not long after, irreconcilable religious differences sprouted up between the two.  Trying to avoid future argument and preserve his friendship with Marlin, Sewell moved out and took up residence in a nearby hollow sycamore tree, according to the history.  This area was called “Marlin’s Bottom.”  I will decline comment or even speculation about what it means to live in a tree hollow, or how to do it, or where Marlin’s bottom may have been while Sewell was in the tree.

Eventually finding a tree to be, at best, uncomfortable housing (and kind of, oh I don’t know, eccentric?) Sewell moved over to the eastern side of the mountain and built a cabin for himself there.  Then the Natives killed him.

The name “Marlin’s Bottom” was later changed to Marlinton.



On our way home, our route in West Virginia takes us past a town known as “Monongh.”  Was someone, perhaps that same lame-ass paper shuffler, too lazy to finish the name?

There you go.  More than seven suggestions for the name of your upcoming child.

You’re welcome.


Oh wait.  Here’s a bonus name.  The final trail to Spruce Knob, the high point of West Virginia, is called Huckleberry Trail.  Even though there is a famous blue dog named Huckleberry, do not use this name for your kid.  Trust me on this.  I grew up with a dog named Dingleberry and a name like that will present a whole different set of issues.

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