(Opinion): Why are CT towns named after death and butlers?

Mike Reiss is the author of "Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons."

Mike Reiss is the author of “Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons.”

Contributed photo

I grew up in Bristol, home of ESPN and ... well, that’s about it. Still, anyone I mention it to says the same thing: “Bristol, eh? I drove through there once.”

Everyone passes through, no one stops. But at least they’ve heard of it. Anytime I meet someone from Connecticut, they’re from some town I’ve never heard of, such as Pumpkin Corners or Old New East-West. We’re not that big a state — there’s only two smaller — so we should be able to keep track of all our towns. There’s 169 of them, and they fall into five basic categories.

First, about half of Connecticut towns sound like the names of English butlers: Simsbury, Milford, Sterling and the beloved family valet, Old Saybrook. You could fill six seasons of “Downton Abbey” with servants such as Wilton, Weston, Wolcott and Wallingford. And those are just the W’s!

At the other end of the spectrum are the casual Connecticut towns, the ones that go by their first names: Milton, Morris, Sherman, Vernon, Seymour, Warren and Sharon. This reminds me of every college party I ever went to — six guys and one woman.

Then there are the cities named for foreign places with which they have absolutely nothing in common: Lebanon, Berlin, Lisbon and, God help me, Bethlehem. There’s even a Brooklyn — one with just 8,000 people.

There’s a pair of Connecticut towns that frankly scare me: Killingly and Killingworth. What the heck did they do to earn these names?

Rounding out the list are the cities seemingly named using random Scrabble tiles: Bozrah and Pomfret.

Connecticut is a funny place, and I mean that in the literal sense. We’ve produced more writers for “The Simpsons” than any other state. Currently, it’s roughly a third of “The Simpsons” staff. When I ask people why they think that is, they all have the same answer: “Who cares?”

Well, I care, deeply. And you know who else does? Seth MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy.” When we met, one of the first things he told me was, “I’m from Kent, Connecticut.”

“Never heard of it,” I admitted. “And I’m from Bristol.”

“Bristol, eh?” Seth replied. “I drove through there once.”

Mike Reiss is the author of “Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons.”

This essay has been updated to correct the name of Killington to Killingworth.