Regular readers will note that I have mentioned a pet peeve with place names in a number of posts, and again recently in Iron Butter. Since I am again travelling and newly agitated on the topic, I thought it would be a good safety valve to articulate my rules for place naming once I am in charge. So here are the basic tenets and rules in no particular order :

There will be a global registry of names, and a name can only be used once. Any new country, city, street, province, parish, state, or township would have to apply for their proposed name and get a response of yes or no. We could contract this out to the same folks that handle the Internet domain registry. Using this method, no two places on the planet could have the same name. If someone in Turkey asked directions to main street for example, you could tell them to fly to america and go to Plymouth Massachusetts, or wherever was first to register main street.

You can’t use pre, and post words to simply modify a place. Particularly the word new. New York is about as close to York, as a Deli is to New Delhi (and where is Old Delhi anyway? or Zealand?).

Compass points and directional pre-words must be factual, reserved for places physically adjacent to each other, and can be used only after the main word is used in solo fashion. So for example, East Hampton must be adjacent to and east of Hampton. Upper Snobbing must be North of, or at a higher elevation than Snobbing. Sandy Beach must have actual beach, and must be adjacent to Sandy, etc, etc, etc.

One street name cannot simply turn into another street name. It must keep its name for the entire length. On a related point, a road which is interrupted cannot keep the same name on the other side of the obstruction.

Highway signs must list compass directions as well as place names. Have you ever seen a sign with something like “Route 16 Redding Left, Route 16 Smogsville Right”. Now suppose you want to go east to Vingville, how would you know which way to go on Route 16? GPS units make this much better today, but that is no excuse unless the country gives every citizen and visitor a GPS.

No numbers in street names. If we follow the rules above, some place in Kansas City would have 43296th St. We have plenty of letters and symbols in the world’s alphabets, and the Welsh have proven that there are infinite possibilities just using 7 or 8 letters.

While we are on the subject of numbers, this business of starting numbers again because towns change, or because east railroad st becomes west railroad st, will end.

There will not be versions of place names for other languages. We will all need to learn to pronounce Heilongjiang rather than changing it to Foxtrot so that we can say it more easily. I suggest using the names given by the native peoples of the area. They tended to be descriptive, entertaining, and non-repetitive.

Got more, Please leave a comment with your additions…

10 Replies to “Replacing Place Names”

  1. How about merging roads where a section of road has two (or more) ‘identities’, e.g. multiple personality disorder. In Chalfont, Rt 152 and Rt 202 ‘overlap’ for a period. Shouldn’t that section be renamed Rt 354?

    Also, naming roads after corrupt people should be illegal. If a road is named after a seemingly ‘good’ person who turns bad, add a descriptive adjective to the name to describe the crime. For example, in Tennessee, the highway would be named Carl Koella (MURDERER) Memorial Highway. Maybe that’s a little harsh, maybe not.

  2. I would add abolishing signs for food or gas that is more than 2 miles from the highway. You shouldn’t have to exit to find out that gas is 5 miles away!!

  3. Dear Wayne:

    Have you ever attempted to find an address in Long Island City, where all the streets, roads, avenues, lanes, and alleys have numbers? And each address is something like five digits long? For example, 55-427 7th Road has nothing to do with 55-427 7th Avenue. And you could easily come to the junction of 7th Road, 7th Lane and 5th Street.

    This is why the pistol law is so tough in New York.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  4. Dear Wayne,

    Great point about the merging of roads, but I fear that the math will be challenging for some of us! I also like your adjective idea, and it would fit with the native peoples concept of a descriptive name. Good stuff.

  5. Dear Jack,

    I have a brother who lived in Queens, and that entire borough needs to start from scratch. Have you ever tried to follow Francis Lewis Blvd (franny Lou to natives)? It is a serpentine nightmare with the block numbering scheme you mention. I agree with the st, rd, ave, blvd, thing. Consider it outlawed.

  6. Have you noticed that the GPS gives a street a route number while you are looking for the street's namet?

    Map Quest will do that too.

    And both of them take you "their" way, ostensibly to sell you something featured by the local merchants.

    I likes jut stopping to ask. You meet the nicest people…most of the time.

  7. Dear Bill,

    You are right, I have noticed the GPS issue with street names vs route numbers. Ever try to enter a route number as an address in a GPS ? Maybe we should all just go to Lattitude and Longitude 😉 Thanks for the comment.

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