Friday, February 03, 2006

A Town By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

What's in a name? Apparently for a city, the answer is: a lot.

Two cities recently have caught my attention with discussion of changing their names. The first is Washington, Pennsylvania. With Superbowl XL featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks - a team from Washington state - they've gone ahead and temporarily changed their town name to Steeler, Pennsylvania. Just to make sure no one thought they were rooting for the wrong team.

The other city discussing a name change is the town where I grew up: Coon Rapids, Minnesota. For a lot of people the name "Coon Rapids" conjures up two negative images. The first is of some tiny hick western town, devoid of any modern civilization. This certainly isn't the case, as it's one of the largest cities in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. But for those who didn't grow up in or near Coon Rapids, the first impression is usually a weak one. The second negative association is with racism, since the word "coon" has been used as a racial slur. Again, that association isn't an accurate description of the city; they actually got the name from the place where Coon Creek, which was so-named because of a high raccoon population, ran into the Mississippi, creating some light rapids.

The idea of changing the name of Coon Rapids has received a cool reception from most local residents. And back in the 60's when they actually voted on a name-change it was defeated by a 3-to-1 margin. But I for one think they should go ahead and change the name. After all, people outside the town don't have a great impression of Coon Rapids, and a name change could really help. So long as they pick the right name.

And that's where I come in. I've given some real in-depth thought to the perfect name for my old city. And I guarantee you, all of my suggestions are better than the current front runner of "River City." Seriously, who suggested that? That is the most boring name you could come up with. No, if you're going to make a name change, it's got to be exciting. And so here are my suggestions.

First, they could go the Greenland-way. Every school child learns that Iceland is nice, but Greenland is ice. Still, by naming it Greenland the Vikings, (or whoever it was that settled Greenland), were able to con people into thinking it was a wonderful green place to live. Coon Rapids could be equally conniving. As for specific names? Well, "Greenland" is already taken, but I don't think there's an "Awesomeville" or "Cool City" yet. And since the band Lipps, Inc. was actually from Minnesota, I'm sure they wouldn't mind if a Minnesota city took "Funkytown."

Of course, not everyone would be convinced by those great names. So maybe instead the city should follow the advice of The Simpsons. When it was discovered that Springfield was unable to bring in tourists and business, Patty and Selma suggested that the town leach off the popularity of others, by changing their name from Springfield to Seinfeld. Coon Rapids could do same kind of thing, and just keep changing their name to reflect current popular culture. I mean, "Lost, Minnesota" has a certain ring to it. On second thought though, I shudder to think at some of the celebrities out there who might end up with their name on our water towers. "Paris Hilton Heights" would be the absolute worst place a person could ever live.

Then again, maybe it isn't the name itself that counts at all - maybe it's what the city can get out of it. Maybe Coon Rapids should simply sell their name to the highest bidder, and use the funds to improve schools or draw business or lower property taxes. Sure, I probably wouldn't want to live in Taco Bellview or Wal-marton. Unless, of course, the taxes had been rolled back by an energetic smiley-face.

And the city slogans just write themselves:

Always low crime rates.Always.
or how about this one:
Can't you just see it? The Taco Bellview fighting Chihuahuas. Yo quiero Taco Bellview!
Of course, these slogans just highlight the biggest problem with this strategy: the fact that companies change their ad campaigns. Taco Bellview would now have to have some derivation of "think outside the bun", and I just don't know if that would work.

But with the right company, and a commitment to pay a whole crapload of money to the town, I really think this could be the perfect endorsement deal. Coon Rapids, you should really look into it: I can hardly wait to come back for the homecoming game and root on my Keeblerville Elves.
Thought of changin' my name
What's in a name?


Gina said...

I thought the main suggestion was River Rapids, not river city.

Why not just change it to Racoon Rapids, no slang there and they'd only have to add an "Ra" to all the water towers and city buildings.
I personally don't think they should change it at all. I think it is ridiculous if people can't look past a name.

Besides, it would be a huge hassel to change the name of a city. Eveyr single map would have to change, everybody's address would change. It affects a lot of people, not only does it affect the 63,000 people that live there but it affects anyone who sends them mail. You'd have to change your address on everything, all your credit cards, phone bill, drivers license, etc. What a pain.

Gina said...

And the song is Hakuna Matata

the marvelous patric said...

i think they should change the name to Hicksvillington... oh wait.. that's where i live.

emnovak said...

they better not change it. i'd be mad.

i. Hulk said...

Hulk smash puny human city. Call it smushed.

joel. said...

Corporate naming rights on a city? You're so behind the times. I grew up in McGillicuddy City, USA. And that was years ago!

joel. said...

P.S. I definitely need to contact whoever is in charge of that site and sell him or her on a redesign. Ew.