When it comes to naming things, Washington County keeps it simple

June 26, 2012|By TIM ROWLAND |

Please, oh please, tell me they’re going to hang with “West City” as the real official name for the new elementary school that’s to be located — bet you didn’t see this coming — west of the city.

I mean, after getting all carried away with the Rockland Woods Elementary debacle, we need to get back to Washington County normal. And by that, I am referring to a tradition that extends back to the pioneers, who must have walked around the county saying:

“What do you want to name that big pool over yonder? OK, got it. How about that rock? Yes, no — that rock, the high one. Excellent. Whither yon clear spring? Splendid, splendid, never would have thought of that. And that mountain that layeth to the south. Ah, perfect; that’s why they pay you the big bucks, Meshach.”

“West City” is just about everything you could ask for in a Washington County name. It incorporates a compass point, which is key. So it fits right in with Eastern Elementary, Western Heights, Northern Middle and South High.

And you get the layered effect, when you enter into the equation Northern Boulevard, the Southern Bypass, Eastern Boulevard, etc. Don’t ask me where Yale Drive came from. Dude with the compass must have been sick that day.

We come by it honestly, of course. My favorite highway name of all time has to be “Alternate 40.”

OK, let’s give this some thought. We, Washington County, are in possession of major east/west thoroughfare called Route 40. We outgrow Route 40 and have to build a wider, more modern east/west route.

So what do we call it? Route 40. But wait, there’s a problem. This leaves us with two Route 40s, and that shouldn’t be. You wonder what that conversation went like in the state highway department boardroom.

“This alternate highway west shall be called Route 40.”

“But we already have a Route 40.”

“Then this alternate Route 40 shall be named — Alternate Route 40.”

“I like it, but wouldn’t it be better to call the alternate 40 40, and 40 alternate 40?”

Of course the real genius in the name “West City” lies in the word “city.” Not any specific city, mind you, just a — city. That way if Hagerstown wants to change its name to Ville de Fromage, we don’t have to repaint any signs.

This is straight out of the City Park playbook. Frankly, it is a much-needed upgrade from “Municipal,” as in the old Municipal Electric Light Plant. (The first wild and crazy Hagerstonian to call it the “MELP Plant” must have been suspected of dropping acid.)

But this is nothing compared to Municipal Stadium, which deserves to be bulldozed on the basis of its name alone. I realize, though, that I might be jumping to an unfair conclusion. Maybe 80 years ago, the naming rights were purchased by some guy named Felix P. Municipal.

Even so, stadiums in Washington County are held to a higher standard for purity, because after you consider School Stadium, there is nowhere to go but down.

The Board of Education should keep this mind when fleshing out this West City sobriquet. Please, I’m begging you, don’t sully it up with another word, such as “elementary.” Just “school” would be perfect. Sort of like John Belushi’s sweat shirt in “Animal House” that said “College.”

West. City. School.

A directional indicator coupled with a jurisdictional subdivision followed by an indicative qualifier. None of which subtracts from the complete pablum of the whole, each word less interesting than the one that comes before it. Well played.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at

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