Today’s Zippy, with some western Massachusetts silliness, notably the possibly risible name of Belchertown MA:


Note the “burping contest in Belchertown”, which plays on the name Belcher in Belchertown, treating it as if it were an agentive in –er based on eructational belch ‘burp’.

Bits of background.

The geographical setting. Western Massachusetts, very pretty country, and packed with higher education. The map:


On the Five College Consortium, from Wikipedia:

The Five College Consortium, incorporated and established in 1965, comprises four liberal arts colleges and one university in the Connecticut River Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, totaling approximately 28,000 students. They are geographically close to one another and are linked by buses which run between the campuses.

The consortium is composed of Amherst College [in Amherst], Hampshire College [in Amherst], Mount Holyoke College [in South Hadley], Smith College [in Northampton], and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

(I know the area from a summer teaching at UMass Amherst.)

The complex body of water on the map is the (beautiful) Quabbin Reservoir. From Wikipedia:

The Quabbin Reservoir is the largest inland body of water in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and was built between 1930 and 1939. Today along with the Wachusett Reservoir, it is the primary water supply for Boston, some 65 miles (105 km) to the east, as well as 40 other communities in Greater Boston.

The bowling/laundry vortex. Ware MA does indeed have a strip mall with a bowling alley and laundromat next to one another. The bowling alley — Roll-A-Way Bowling Lanes, 140 West St., Ware:


I haven’t been able to find a photo of the laundromat next door, but it’s the Ware Coin Laundry; 140 West St., Ware.

Belchertown. From Wikipedia:

Belchertown (previously known as Cold Spring and Belcher’s Town) is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 14,649 at the 2010 census.

In 1716, the equivalent lands [Equivalent Lands] were sold by Connecticut Colony to residents who reside in present day Connecticut and Massachusetts. Some of these lands were granted to Jonathan Belcher, the future Royal Governor of Massachusetts.

Belchertown was first settled in 1731 and was officially incorporated in 1761 as Cold Spring, later the name was changed to Belcher’s Town, and then Belchertown.

… The University of Massachusetts in neighboring Amherst employs more Belchertown residents than any other enterprise or institution.

This takes us back to Jonathan Belcher. Again from Wikipedia:

Jonathan Belcher (8 January 1681/2 – 31 August 1757) was a merchant, businessman, and politician from the Province of Massachusetts Bay during the American colonial period. Belcher served simultaneously for over a decade as colonial governor of the British colonies of New Hampshire (1729–1741) and Massachusetts (1730–1741) and later for ten years as governor of New Jersey (1747–1757).

And the back to the surname Belcher, which is not at all belch + –er, as Zippy fancies, but bel + cher. From the Surname Database:

This most interesting surname is of Old French origin, and originated as a nickname for someone of a cheerful, pleasant demeanour or disposition, or for someone considered to be good looking, derived from the Old French elements “beu, bel”, fair, lovely and “chere”, face, countenance.

But the true etymology doesn’t get us a crude joke about burping contests.

3 Responses to “Belchertown”

  1. thnidu Says:

    I got a picture of the laundromat from Google Earth by searching for the address, then getting a street view. It’s rather far into the parking lot, so the view from the street is fuzzy, but it’s clearly the same, LAUN•DER•AMA.

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