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What, Was “Putrid Mountain” Already Taken?

When I saw an ad in today’s Wall Street Journal for a mountain resort in North Carolina, the name of the place struck me as — well, terrible. It’s called Bear Wallow Springs (that part’s okay) at Lake Toxaway. It looks like a perfectly lovely place but … Lake Toxaway? Maybe it’s just me, but the only image conjured by that name is of a lake dug on a former TOXic dump whose waste was trucked AWAY to make room for summer vacationers. (You might as well name your baby daughter Temptress.) I am guessing the name is in fact Indian, and I see that the resort has been around quite a while — but the lake was indeed manmade. In Freakonomics, we wrote that names — at least people’s names — don’t affect life outcome. But it would have been fun to run a little experiment with the WSJ ad, to take out the same exact ad but in four different versions, simply change the name of the resort and measure the response to each name. You could have called it Lake Butternut, Lake Featherduster, Lake Portugal — and I am guessing that Lake Toxaway would get the worst response.

On the other hand, maybe I’m wrong entirely. It was the name Toxaway that got me to look up the resort’s website in the first place.