Danny Tyree: What’s in a city’s name? A whole lot

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 28, 2024

The venerable comic strip “Gasoline Alley” is wrapping up a storyline in which the dastardly assistant mayor schemed to change the town’s name from Gasoline Alley to the ostensibly more modern Electric Acres (without even offering a compromise such as Hybrid Hollow).
Sentimentality saved the day in the funnies, just as it usually applies the brakes to abrupt municipal name changes in the real world. (“I have no idea which jurist, general or fur trader our town was named for. Neither did my father. Neither did my grandfather. We can’t change! We have a proud tradition to uphold!!!”)
Still, considering the number of streets, bridges, military bases, buildings and sports teams that have undergone radical name changes in recent years, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more cities throwing caution to the wind and charging a name makeover to the ol’ credit card.
Think of it as less hackneyed bloviating about “Our infrastructure and workforce are second to none” and more cities singing, “I feel pretty, oh, so pretty…”
There’s certainly no shortage of experts who would graciously dig up some dirt on the pioneer, statesman or industry for which any given town was originally named.
I have it on good authority that the founder of Northeast Mugwump never once (*gasp*) requested a paper drinking straw.
True, neither paper nor plastic drinking straws had been invented during his lifetime, but we can’t let pesky technicalities stand in the way of cleaning house.
Random renaming projects would be a good start, but maybe we should rip the Band-Aid off and reboot the whole country at once, like the movie industry revamping an intellectual property franchise.
Sure, it might be confusing to mimic Hollywood and have every “Mount” changed to “Plains” and every “Creek” changed to “Ocean”; but as William Shakespeare (the bard of the soon-to-be Funkytown-on-Avon) said, “What’s in a name?
That which we call Lower Podunk by any other name would smell of hog rendering plants, asbestos factories and vape shops.”
I realize there might be whimsical minor eruptions of chaos in the short run, but look at the silver lining: it might keep the Postal Service too preoccupied to raise stamp prices again.
What’s the best way to pick the names?
Committee of local professionals? Artificial intelligence?
Beats me.
I’m leery of letting schoolchildren decide; we might be saddled with an excess of gravitas for years to come. (“I was born in Taylor Springs, but when I was five we moved to Swift City. But I do most of my shopping over the county line in Kelce Corners. My big sister moved to TayTay Town, and if I can’t figure out which TayTay Town, we are never ever getting back together.”)
Of course selling the naming rights to some global corporation is one option, but there would be strings attached. (“Hope you enjoy your new name. But please be advised that we’re moving all the street cleaner, crossing guard and fire department jobs overseas.”)
I would love to write more on this subject, but I promised to lend an ear to a young man who recently relocated near Santa Claus, Indiana.
“Maybe one of my children will live long enough to discover who the town was named for. My money is on Louis Pasteur, inventor of the cotton gin, but then again…”
I think his former high school is hurriedly changing its name.

Copyright 2024 Danny Tyree, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”

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