Why is it Attleboro, but just next door it's North Attleborough?

One confused Redditor took to the internet to ask, posting a screenshot of Google Maps and asking for an explanation.

In true internet fashion, Reddit users delivered with Massachusetts and "ugh" jokes aplenty, along with a respectable number of serious (and possibly wildly inaccurate) answers.

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Most Massachusetts residents know that the "-oro" and "-orough" spellings have long been interchangeable.

Whenever it comes up, we seem to all just collectively shrug.

But since when, and why?

Google maps even varies the spellings within the towns.

For example, it labels the North Attleboro High School and the town's WWI Memorial Park with the simpler "-oro" spelling — despite North Attleborough itself being labeled as "-orough."

Meanwhile South Attleboro also gets the simpler spelling, but it's Attleborough Falls.

A little further east, we have Middleborough, home of the Middleborough High School, Middleboro Police Department, and Middleboro Council on Aging.

Google Maps

But wait...Middleborough Police have the "-ough" spellings on their website, police station and cruisers.

Middleboro Police cruiser
Middleboro Police Department/Facebook

So what's going on?

Journalists know that shorter spellings are typically preferred for limited space in headlines and captions, with many media outlets opting for the sleeker version (despite occasional pushback.)

But they really are interchangeable, with the exact same meaning — a burgh or borough, also spelled boro, is an ancient name for a fortified settlement.

One is just a shortened version of the other.

In the case of Attleboro and North Attleborough, the more common spellings could have just been taken from the municipalities' seals.

Attleboro appears in its simplified version on the city's seal, while "North Attleborough" appears in full on their town's.

Here's what Reddit had to say about the dilemma:

Redditors Try to Explain the Boro/Borough Divide

Newcomers to Massachusetts are probably confused about a lot of things in the Bay State, but what about the casual way we all just collectively shrug over the "proper" spellings of places like Attleboro, Middleborough, or Foxboro?

One Redditor posed the question with a screenshot of Attleboro/North Attleborough on Google Maps. "Can someone please explain this?" MusicNerdDavid asked. Well, MusicNerdDavid, we tried. Here are Reddit's best guesses (and bad jokes).

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