I had the same problem when I upgraded to FTM 2010. I found I many duplicate place names, sometimes complete duplicates and sometime alternate spellings or abbreviations. You do use "Replace with other place name" to fix this problem. I found it difficult to keep track of which names I wanted to replace and which was the one I wanted to keep. I ended up replacing the duplicates without worrying about which one remained. Once I was down to one name I edited the name to so that it had the format and spelling I wanted.
You said that some of the place names had an entry in the description field. I assume you want one standard entry in the description field. If you want something different in the description field you will have to keep multiple place names.
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