In case you’re not familiar with Asbestos, it is a toxic mineral that is now known to cause lung cancer – but it is also the name of a small French-Canadian town in Quebec. As you can imagine, this has caused some trouble for the poor place.
The carcinogenic was at one point thought to be a miracle substance and was mined in the town for centuries. The product that came out of the Jeffrey Mine was used in textiles, building materials (so they wouldn’t burn) and as an insulator in ships, tanks and aircraft. It was even used to build fireproof uniforms. And get this – during World War I, Kaiser Wilhem took shelter in an asbestos hut! Miracle material, right? Well, if only it weren’t for the cancer.
Now that Asbestos has shown its true colors, the town that used to benefit financially from the mineral is suffering for the negative associations with the name. Investors are refusing to do business with the town because they are afraid of its supposed toxicity. This is why its 6,800 inhabitants will take their pick from L’Azur-des-Cantons, Jeffrey-sur-le-Lac, Larochelle, Phénix, Trois-Lacs and Val-des-Sources as the new name of the community.
The situation is similar to what happened back in 2012 to the UK town of Staines. To disassociate themselves from the bad light in which they’d been painted by the movie Ali G Indahouse, they changed their name to Staines-upon-Thames. It turned out to be a smart move; in the two years following the name change, the town saw the largest increase in new businesses per 10,000 population.
Interestingly, the opposite has happened as well. Take, for instance, the Norwegian village called Hell. The place has been a huge tourist attraction purely for its name! I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a picture next to a railway station sign reading “Hell”? (Queue “Highway to Hell”).
And, of course, we can’t forget about the town of Dildo in Newfoundland. Need I say more? Contrary to what you might think, the name originally comes from oar pivots in rowing boats, but of course that’s not what comes to mind anymore. Ahem, yes.
Some Dildo residents wanted to change its name at one point but the majority of its citizens voted against it. You’d think it would’ve hurt their reputation and commercial value. It, in fact, has had quite the opposite effect. 40% of the inhabitants’ income now solely depends on the tourists who have heard about the name of the town – they don’t have to spend a cent on marketing!
Considering the fact that Asbestos has already suffered financial loss due to its name, I’d venture to guess the name change will prove fruitful for them. But who knows? We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, check out this crazy tornado that destroyed a Canadian farm and killed two people. *Cough* there’s a video *cough*.