UAM News

UAM Library Director Publishes Book on Arkansas Place Names

MONTICELLO, Ark. — Dan Boice, director of Library at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, is the author of a new book on Arkansas place names, “Naming Arkansas: Curious Place Names from Greasy Corner to Sock City,” published by the History Press imprint at Arcadia Publishing.

Arranged by such topics as railroad names, natural features, religious factors, famous people and “names that are just interesting,” the book is the product of Boice’s fascination with Arkansas history and place names.

Having lived and worked in Michigan, South Carolina and Iowa, Boice has been intrigued by place names and is very much aware that how those names are spelled isn’t necessarily connected to how they are pronounced. He says, “I’ve learned over time that when I’m in a new place, it’s always best to ask the residents how they say their town name. Early in my profession, when I was on the phone with a library patron, I mispronounced the name of the South Carolina city of Beaufort. The patron said very kindly, ‘You’re not from around here, are you?’ That was a good lesson, and since then, I’ve sought out the correct pronunciations of names. And this led to learning about the history of these places, which can often reflect on the people who settled there, the geography of the area or some really fascinating legends.”

Boice notes that Arkansas has some place names that are justly famous, such as Toad Suck and Oil Trough, but that there are many other places with names just as delightful—or just as hard to pronounce. “I cannot adequately express my appreciation to the many kind people who have had to put up with my asking about their towns and counties,” Boice says. One of the library student assistants, for example, has spent time patiently trying to correct Boice’s pronunciation of Bayou Meto. And Boice notes that lifelong Arkansans occasionally disagree about pronunciations and histories. “My colleagues and friends in Desha County seem to never agree between duh-SHAY and DEE-shay. And even residents of Monticello can say that final ‘o’ as an ‘ah,’ but everyone agrees that it is pronounced with a sello at the end, and not like Thomas Jefferson’s home of Mont-i-CHEH-lo.”

Boice is clear that he is no expert on either the histories or the pronunciations. “I’ve tried to write down what I’ve been told or what I’ve found in published histories, and my greatest hope is that readers will send me corrections. Whether the publisher will consider a revised edition of the book, I do not know, but I will try to correct my mistakes and get out the word, so to speak, as best I can,” he says.

One of those ways is on the radio. Since late January, Little Rock Public Radio (KUAR) has been playing one-minute spots in which Boice describes and discusses the histories of Arkansas place names. Airing during the “Morning Edition” newscasts and at other times throughout the day, the stories relate facts about various places around Arkansas and what the names might say about the people who have lived there. Boice has recorded nearly forty of these short segments and is happily looking forward to including corrections from listeners and readers.

As for favorites, Boice is not giving away his secrets. “Besides, every time I meet someone with another story about their town, it becomes a new favorite. I hope that readers and listeners will enjoy these stories as much as I have enjoyed gathering them.”

“Naming Arkansas: Curious Place Names from Greasy Corner to Sock City” is available for purchase on the Arcadia Publishing website, here. To listen to Boice’s “Naming Arkansas” radio segment on Little Rock Public Radio, visit KUAR’s website, here.

UAM News is everything from the University of Arkansas At Monticello.

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