We need more creativity in the name game

April 03, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND


Oh, beating heart be still, Washington County is looking to name something.

That always goes well, given our long-standing passion for creativity.

Many wild and crazy chances have been taken when we assign names to our public places. Like "Public" Square, for example.

Or "City" Park. Pretty edgy, that one. But how in the name of Jonathan Hager did they ever come up with the name of "Dual" Highway? I don't see a connection. Personally, I think they should call it Don Munson Highway since, if I remember right, he was a driving force behind getting all those nice trees planted in the median.

Geographical features are not safe from our naming frenzies, witness "Big" Pool and "High" Rock. Makes me wonder if there is a Low Rock.


People who named it "Municipal" Stadium were taking a real chance, even going so far as to spell it correctly.

I remember when it was first built, the owners of the Honda dealership in Hagerstown had a newspaper contest to find a good name for the dealership, and we responded. This is how "Hagerstown" Honda was born - since I'm sure a lot of people wonder how that sobriquet could possibly have come about.

We had two U.S. 40s, for some reason. Obviously, this could get confusing, so one had to be renamed. Thus, "Alternate" U.S. 40 was born.

Then there are the Pikes. The pike going to Downsville evolved into the "Downsville" Pike. The pike going to Leitersburg somehow became known as the "Leitersburg" Pike. Adventurous folks called the pike going to Sharpsburg the "Gen. Stonewall Jackson" Pike. Ha, ha, just kidding. It's the "Sharpsburg" Pike.

How Interstate 70 escaped becoming the Hancock Pike is anybody's guess.

Suppose you built two new high schools, one on the south end of town, the other on the north end of town? Whatever would you call them? It's too big a problem for me, but fortunately we had leaders who came through.

Heavens, when we broke through and called it the J. Louis Boublitz District Courthouse it must have caused about 35,000 simultaneous heart attacks.

Outside of that, the only unique name we have is the "Antietam" Creek, which, if form holds, is probably the Indian word for "wet."

So now the board of education is looking for a name for the new elementary school to be built on the Sharpsburg Pike. Instead of doing the right thing and calling it the Sharpsburg Pike Elementary School, the board has five names in mind that could warp time.

They include Antietam Creek, James W.C. Pennington, Chapel Woods, Rockland and Rockland Woods.

Since it's in the Westfields community, I don't know why Westfields Elementary isn't under consideration. They could even come up with a hybrid, and call it James W.C. Fields Elementary.

Although it's the prettiest, I think we better stay away from Chapel Woods. You don't want to stir up that whole separation of church and state issue again.

Remember the Eastern Elementary crosses/stalks of wheat fiasco? Never again.

The James W.C. Pennington angle is interesting. When I saw the name, I just assumed he must have been a former principal. You know how it's a rule or something that every principal who has served in the same position for 100 years or more automatically gets a school named after him.

But it turns out he was an escaped slave who worked as an abolitionist. The school board sees history, and believes it will have meaning for the children. I can see that, because when I was in elementary school, I felt like a slave.

Since the school is halfway between Hagerstown and Sharpsburg, a logical name might be "Halfway." But confound it, the people in charge of naming things in Washington County already beat me to that one.

So much for originality.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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