Empire of M

What's in a name?

One of William Shakespeare's most famous quotes comes from Romeo and Juliet - "What's in a name? That which we call a rose would, if by any other name, smell as sweet."

True. Very true. But let's be honest - if the common name for a rose was, I don't know, dung, fewer people would be inclined to smell it.

So, in truth, a name can mean a great deal. I mean, if you're looking to move are you going to seriously consider Satan's Kingdom, Vt, or Hurt, Va, over a town like Paradise, Utah.

For that matter, Lost City, WV, sounds hard to find, Why, Ariz. is just setting yourself up for confusion and Hell, Mich.? Well, their city motto is "Come to Hell" - an devilish cackle afterward is optional, I suppose.

So really, there is a lot to naming a place. I know that when I found out my new town was going to be Sunnyside, I thought that sounded like an amazing town - and don't get me wrong, I do believe this is an amazing town.

But a little living in the community brought to light Sunnyside's original name - Mayhew. I really don't have anything against Mayhew, but it certainly doesn't inspire awe or interest.

But Sunnyside is not the only Yakima Valley town that that experienced a name change. Mabton was originally Mabletown and even Yakima County's earliest name was Ferguson County.

A little research reveals that Ferguson County was established in 1863, named after James Leo Ferguson, a representative of Skamania County.

When you compare Ferguson County and Yakima County, the former certainly sounds more traditional. After all, it really is amazing how often people can mispronounce Yakima.

But for me, I prefer the latter. The name Yakima acknowledges the Yakama nation, a people relevant to our history, our present and our future. Ferguson, on the other hand, would have meant little to us, as its name sake was not even a resident of the county. The name would have been more of an insult to the people living here than anything else.

Thank goodness the county was renamed in 1865 to its present one.

That just makes me think of all the cities and places that once were, such as New Amsterdam (New York) and Trimountaine (an early name for the town that grew up to be Boston).

Then there are the names that people just really lucked out on - like America. It is generally believed that America gets its name from the feminine form of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.

However, people seemed to prefer naming places using the last name of people they'd like to honor, but not in this case. Can you imagine living in the United States of Vespucci?

Or would it would be Vespuccia?

But my favorite names are the ones that are deceptive, like Greenland.

Logic tells us that Iceland is the last place you'd want to live. Sounds cold and unforgiving. Greenland, however, that name speaks of lush nature and healthy agriculture - not a country with 2/3 of it covered in permanent ice and not a single acre of it tillable.

So when it comes down to it, there is a great deal in a name, from honoring people, places and events, to luring in residents and deceiving young and old alike. A name says and does a lot.


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