Exclamation marks

We recently visited Westward Ho! chiefly because it is the only town in the United Kingdom to have an exclamation mark as part of its name. It was named after the book by Charles Kingsley which was set in the nearby Devon town of Bideford. It was a strange story, a hotel in the area was called Westward Ho! and nearby properties adopted it as their address and so a village area up with the extraordinary name. This happened in about 1855 and I’m surprised some enterprising place hasn’t adopted the exclamation mark to try and increased visitors – we are a good example of how it might do that, as the punctuation mark was really the only reason we went there!

There was an American town in Cincinnati which adopted an exclamation mark in the 1980’s, I think it was Hamilton! but it was just a publicity stunt and although that maybe its formal name, I don’t think it stuck in regular use.

There is the amazingly named Canadian town of  Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, in Quebec. The Ha! Ha! part refers to the word ha-ha, which is a ditch usually with a wall on one side to keep animals in or out of an area. I once bought a book called The Ha-Ha because of the strange name. It was written by Jennifer Dawson, set in a hospital for people with mental health issues and was acclaimed for its insights into the system for their care. I have also discovered that there was another book with the same name by Dave King, about an elective mute.

If you’re in north Devon, then why not visit Westward Ho! It is a unique place in England!


  1. icelandpenny

    I tip my hat to you, because I was going to tell you about St-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha!… and you already knew. I can at least add that I have been there. Alas, the name is the most amusing thing about it.


    1. Lois

      I have to be honest Penny, I wasn’t that impressed by Westwood Ho! either! it was a miserably cold day so we didn’t stay long; it was by the sea though so I think it would look better in the sunshine!


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