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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) a small town east of Amiens, in the northeast of France

road sign for the French town of Y near Somme

If you’re following HH on Instagram, you’ll have found out this week that there’s a town in northeast France simply called Y:

Y stands around 30 miles east of Amiens in the Somme department of Hauts-de-France in northern France. Its name, incidentally, is pronounced as a short “ee”, not as the French name for the letter Y (“ee-greck”, which literally means “Greek Y”).

Perhaps unsurprisingly Y is the shortest place name in modern France—but it’s not the only single-letter place name in Europe and on a global scale, is one of quite a few similarly frugally-named locations.

There are several places named Å in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, for instance, in whose local languages the word å essentially means “stream” or “waterway”.

On the subject of waterways, there’s a river in Scotland named simply E, and another that flows across Dartmoor in southwest England named the O.

The river D flows into the Pacific Ocean in Lincoln County, Oregon, USA, and there are also two L-shaped lakes each appropriately named “L” in rural Nebraska.

And if you want to finish this tour back where it started, there was once an official “census-designated place” in Alaska also named Y—though unlike Y in France, this Y was pronounced precisely the same way as the letter Y, and takes its name from a Y-shaped intersection on a local highway.

Once the northernmost and most highly populated single-letter town in the world, alas Y, Alaska, has since changed its name to the slightly more robust Sustina North. Who knows Y...

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