Before you get all snarky with us, yes, of course Gowanus (the neighborhood) takes its name from the smelly and putrid Gowanus (the canal).
But where did the canal get its name? There’s a fascinating article on MentalFloss.com that details not only how the Gowanus moniker came to be, but how dozens of other Brooklyn neighborhoods came to be named as well. Carroll Gardens comes from Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who led a failed assault on a British encampment near the Gowanus Canal in 1776 and lost about 300 of his 400 troops. Bay Ridge was just a re-branding marketing ploy (sound familiar?) after the neighborhood’s previous name — Yellow Hook, named for the yellow sand near the water — fell out of favor in the 1850s because of an outbreak of yellow fever. As for Gowanus, well: