What’s In a Place Name?

Ernest Hemingway wrote in A Farewell to Arms that “only the names of places had dignity.” Has a history of cookie cutter, master-planned development robbed our places of value?

Marylys Harris writes of the anodyne names that populates maps of the Twin Cities metropolitan area: “everything within five miles of the Ridgedale shopping mall is named Ridge Something: Ridge Center, Ridge Village, Ridge Park, Ridge Point — the list goes on and on.” Much of the current nomenclatural blandness stands in contrast to a time when naming inspired more creativity: “both our cities launched with much more originality. Once upon a time, St. Paul was Pig's Eye…Minneapolis is a mash-up of the Dakota word ‘minnehaha’ for waterfall and polis, the Greek word for city.”

The problem with naming every place after a synonym for vanilla? Harris explains: “In survey after survey, it turns out that places people love prosper more. And, while a city's beauty, climate and cultural offerings count for a lot, names can help bolster an identity.” She also recommends mining the historic and cultural context of places for more lovable names.

Full Story: Identity crisis: Names of places in Twin Cities lack creativity


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